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Know Your Wine like a Sassy Sommelier

You made reservations at a fancy restaurant for your best friend’s birthday dinner. The waiter seats your party of refined friends at the table and he hands you the wine list. You freeze. All the names, years, and prices… How do you decipher which wine would best fit this occasion? And how do you even pronounce these things??

This is the perfect opportunity to learn the wine basics (in a safe, non-judgmental environment, of course). Even better, our friends over at the Barnard Bartending Agency (a.k.a. our local experts) have provided us with some great tips to choosing a wine for any event! You’ll be a sassy sommelier (that is, a fancy French wine expert) in no time!

White wines go with lighter foods, such as salmon and other fish, pasta with white sauces (ex: alfredo), and chicken. It’s always chilled (along with rosé).

Red wines go with heavier foods. These include red meat, and red tomato-based sauces. This is because red is full-bodied and thicker and complements well with these foods. Red wines are typically served at room temperature. However, sticking it in the fridge for 5 minutes or so is actually the most authentic way to serve red wine. This is because back in the days of yore, there was no central heating available homes and so the average temperature indoors was much lower than it is now. So, any wine consumed was done at around 50 degrees as opposed to 60 or 70 degrees (as heating is usually crazy in NYC).

Different grape varieties produce different kinds of wine, which ranges from Dry (not so sweet) to Sweet (self-explanatory). Red Wines like Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon are dryer while Shiraz, Merlot and Pinot Noir are in the middle of the spectrum, and port wines are very sweet. As far as white wines are concerned, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are dryer where Champagne and Rose are in the middle of the spectrum and Reisling and White Zinfandel are sweet. Sweet foods should always be paired with sweet wines—a dryer wine will make sweet food taste sour.

As a rule of thumb, the older the bottle, the better the wine but sometimes this isn’t always the case. I can remember a liquor store run with my mom where we grabbed the cheapest white because we needed something cold on a hot day, and it was one of our best selections. However, less expensive wine makes a great base for Sangria!

“Personally for red, I prefer a nice Cab Sauv, and Chardonnay is my white go-to. I don’t have a particular brand that I enjoy, said Hadden Martinez, the Assistant Manager of Barnard Bartending. “But better alternatives to Franzia include Yellow Tail and Cupcake Vineyards. My parents always buy wine based on the label artwork and that’s actually worked out pretty well for them (though sometimes it’s a huge bust). Some like Tisbhi, which is full-bodied and dryer. Of that brand, we recommend the Cab Sauv, she said.”

See? That wasn’t so painful! Don’t forget to credit HC Barnard and the Barnard Bartending Agency when you bust out your fancy wine knowledge. Your parents will be impressed and your friends will just drink what you tell them to. 

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