Wine 101

Wine facts, Savvy Sommelier tips & trivia

Matching wine with food
Tasting, drinking and storing wine
Ordering wine
Giving wine

Matching wine with food

White or red? Forget the old rule of thumb that you match to your meat. Fish, chicken and meat is the canvas—what matters is flavour. Make your choice on the spices, marinade or sauce—choose the wine that will make your meal sing.

Stay close to your roots. Or, rather, stay close to your wine’s roots. Wines are always best matched with foods from the regions where they’re made. Uncork a bottle of wine from Italy with a meal of Italian cuisine.

Matching wine with egg dishes is always a sommelier’s challenge! Be gentle—match a quiche or soufflé with a light-bodied Pinot Gris or unoaked Chardonnay to avoid overpowering the delicate flavours.

Think dry and crisp when matching to salads. The acidity of the vinegar in the dressing can play havoc with the wine, making it taste more acidic or ‘tinny’. Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc or sparkling wine are always safe bets.

All mussels are not alike. Steamed mussels in a tomato-based sauce match brilliantly with red Italian wines such as a Valpolicella or Chianti. Mussels in white wine sauces go best with the wines they’ve been cooked in: usually Pinot Grigio or Semillion.

If you’re serving a rich soup—say a creamy seafood chowder—go with a medium-bodied Chardonnay barrel-aged in oak.

Make the flavours of fresh oysters pop with chilled Champagne, Chablis or Chenin Blanc.

For those traditional holiday turkey dinners, a buttery Chardonnay or an earthy Pinot Noir will perfectly complement savoury stuffing, rich gravy and tart cranberry sauce.

Spice it up. If you’re tucking into an Asian dish or Mexican dinner, pop the cork on a bottle of Gewurztraminer – a classic pairing.

Not too heavy, not too light—for red or white meat Pinot Noir’s often just right.

Asparagus, spinach, goat cheese, or fish with butter lemon sauce—pair any of these with a dry, crisp, zingy Sauvignon Blanc.

Sure, you can enjoy the light floral and apricot aroma of a chilled white wine Viognier (pronounced vee-oh-NYAH) on its own—but why not go for a fuller savoury experience, matching a glass with roast chicken, light cheeses or grilled fish.

Appetizers, salads, tapas foods and lighter lunches all go perfectly with the violet, cranberry and strawberry aromas of Rosé wines.

What does a glass of Aglianico (pronounced ah-LYAH-nee-koh) red wine go best with? It’s partly a question of age. A younger Aglianico has the acidity to suit pasta and other dishes with tomato-meat sauces; an aged bottle, however, goes best with heartier dishes such as stuffed beef tenderloin and veal marsala.

Spice, smoke and plum go superbly with lamb, spareribs, barbecued beef and vegetables—and you will find all three flavours swirling about in a glass of medium to full bodied Chilean Carmenère (pronounced car-men-EHR).

Tasting, drinking and storing wine

Some people are skeptical, but we guarantee it’s true: the shape of your glassware does make a difference to the way you experience a glass of wine. From big bowls for reds to flutes for sparklings, each glass pours the wine over your palate in a way that enlivens its flavours. Don’t take our word for it: test it yourself!

Let your guests exercise their free will! If you’re serving a meal that could go with red or white, let your guests choose for themselves through a mini wine-tasting session.

Enjoying wine is not just about the drinking of it. Look at the way it catches the light; breathe in the multitude of aromas in each glass. Savour the flavours on your palate. Engage all of your senses—they’ll appreciate it!

We can’t say it often enough: always start with sparkling. It sets the mood, cleanses the palate and gets people eager to discover what’s coming next.

Looking to build your cellar? Remember wines in darker glass bottles are intended to keep longer—the coloured glass refracts the light to protect the contents.

Mark your calendar—and stick to the schedule: Beaujolais Nouveau is released every year on the third Thursday of November. It should be consumed before Christmas if you want to enjoy the wine’s full vibrancy and flavour.

Ordering wine

Ordering half bottles or by the glass gives you the freedom to sample a greater variety of wines when you’re out for dinner. Explore the wine list at your favourite restaurant.

Don’t give up if your local liquor store doesn’t have what you’re looking for. You can have wine delivered to your home—direct from the winemaker, through a wine club or (and of course we strongly recommend) as part of a Savvy Wicked Wines subscription.

Wineries often ship in volume—six or 12 bottles to a case. So why not order your favourite and share it around: with colleagues, friends or neighbours?

Giving wine

Hey, we love flowers, but the fragrant bouquet of a brilliant wine can be every bit as special a gift. Celebrate the next special occasion on your calendar with the gift of a great bottle.

Giving wine as a gift? Don’t worry about a card—write a personal message directly on the bottle with a metallic glass marker. It’s the height of personalization.