5 Unusual Chianti Food Pairings – This Italian Wine isn’t Just For Pizza

When you hear about Chianti food pairings, it has the reputation of a standard Italian red wine that you drink casually with a meal at your favorite pizza parlor. As a medium-bodied red wine often popping with lip-smacking red fruits on your taste buds, it naturally does go great with nearly any type of Italian cuisine including ravioli, lasagne, various other pastas, smoked salmon, and of course pizza. But those aren’t the only foods that Chianti pairs well with. It’s such an easy to drink wine that it matches up excellently with a wide variety of foods.

First of all, what is Chianti exactly? One confusing aspect of many Italian and French wines for wine beginners is that they are named for the region of production, not the grape variety. In this case, Chianti is a wine-growing region located in the central area of Tuscany, Italy. By law, for any wine to be labelled “Chianti” it must not only be grown in the region but also must consist of at least 80% Sangiovese grapes.

Sangiovese is a grape with a long history. It is thought to have been cultivated during the days of the Roman Empire, and has been documented as far back as the sixteenth century. Wines made with Sangiovese tend to have medium tannins and high acidity, with a flavor profile dominated by red fruits such as cherries. Chianti and other Sangiovese-based wines are usually fruity, tart and zesty. It’s not an acquired taste for stuffy old men sipping leather-scented Bordeaux and nibbling moldy cheese. Rather, Chianti hits your tongue with an explosion of flavor from the first taste, goes down smooth, and before you know it you’ll be on your third glass.




I encourage you to not be so strict in wine-food pairing. Wine is meant to be enjoyed, and you should feel free to drink your favorite wines together with your favorite dishes, whatever they may be. If it tastes good to you nobody can say you’re wrong. That said, here are five unconventional food pairings for Chianti and other Sangiovese wines that I think you’ll enjoy.

1. Thai Food

pad-thai-shrimps

I’m a huge fan of Thai food, having spent a lot of time in Thailand. For the record I can tell you that most of the Thai food served at Thai restaurants overseas is nowhere near as good as the genuine article they serve up in Thailand, but nevertheless, Thai cuisine has carved out a spot as one of the most famous and recognized national cuisines globally.

Thai food is famous for liberal use of hot chili peppers. It’s a toss up between Thai and South Indian for the spiciest national cooking style. So right off the bat you’re going to want a beverage that will go down easy and quench your thirst. Chianti has a low to moderate alcohol level, usually around 12% by volume. This is important when eating really spicy food because you’ll tend to drink a little more, and Chianti lets you do that without getting overly tipsy.

Thai food is not only spicy though. Properly cooked Thai dishes have a very nice balance of spicy, sour, sweet, and salty flavors. Chianti’s fruity pop adds into this mix of tastes quite well. Try it with stir-fried pork and basil, red curry, and Pad Thai.

2. Mexican Food

mexican-food-steak-avocado-burrito

Mexican food has an overall flavor profile sitting somewhere in the middle of Italian and Thai cuisines. On the one hand, Mexican dishes contain lots of tomato, cheese, and starches just like Italian food. On the other hand, Mexicans also love their chili peppers to give food a little fire on your tongue, much like Thai cuisine.

Pop open a bottle of Chianti Classico next time you serve up sizzling grilled chicken fajitas, enchiladas, or belly-buster bean burritos.

3. Chocolate and Cherries

cherries_in_bowl

Here’s a pro-tip for a quiet, romantic, late-night get-together with your sweetheart. Wine goes great with various snack foods, and it doesn’t have to be stinky European cheeses either. I enjoy drinking a bottle of red wine late in the evening along with some sort of fruit and a few chocolates.

Cherries work particularly well with Chianti because it’s a flavor that comes out in the wine itself. So the two match up like heaven. Add some chocolate for a little extra sweetness on the tongue to balance the tangy acidity of the Sangiovese grapes. Dark or milk chocolate is up to your preference. My favorites are the moderately dark chocolates with around 70% cocoa.

4. North Indian Food

north_indian_food_buffet

North Indian food is the style that is served most often in Indian restaurants overseas. Like some of the other cooking styles I’ve mentioned above, North Indian dishes use lots of spicy chilies and tomato-based sauces. So naturally, Chianti wine would be a good match.

Particularly good are any dishes made with paneer, which is a type of Indian cheese. It’s usually cut into cubes and mixed into a vegetarian curry in place of meat. I’d suggest a paneer masala curry if you’re new to it. Another great North Indian dish to go with Chianti wine is dal makhani, a rich bean-based curry that is cooked using lots of cream.

5. Sushi

salmon_sushi_wine_pairing

Yes, you can enjoy red wine with your sushi. There is no law that says you must only drink sake. Contemporary sushi matches up well because of the increased variety of flavors when ingredients like cream cheese are included. Fruity red wine also hits the spot right after setting your brain on fire from too much wasabi.

Three types of sushi that will go great with Chianti are tamago-sushi (sweet egg on a bed of rice), California rolls (with that creamy avocado goodness), and salmon sashimi (a little slice of heaven).




Last Bit of Chianti Advice

Remember to serve your Chianti wine at the proper temperature. Right around 59 degrees F (or 15 C) is ideal. Pick out a good value wine cooler to keep in your kitchen so you’ve always got your wines stored at the optimal coolness. It’s a subtle difference between a too-warm bottle of Chianti and one that is cooled down slightly, but it’s one that you’ll come to appreciate.

Guide to Wine Serving Temperature

Why is wine serving temperature important to get right? Over the ages, wine connoisseurs have discovered that different kinds of wine are better enjoyed at different temperatures. Just like with any other food fare, this makes complete sense. For example, you wouldn’t want to eat a cold hamburger or drink a hot beer, and the same principal holds true here as well. In fact, the temperature of the wine can have just as much effect on the taste as almost anything else, sometimes in a remarkable way.

Even though you’ll sometimes hear differing opinions on the subject, there are still some great rules of thumb when it comes to serving temperature for your favorite wine. In almost every case, you also don’t need to use your regular refrigerator to chill your wine unless you need some extra-special chilling. Instead, a wine cellar-cooler can do the trick nicely. And along with this guide, you’ll know exactly what temperature to serve your wine at. This will lead to a better and more enjoyable experience for all.




Full Bodied Red Wines – 62-64°F (17-18°C)

Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Shiraz

Cabernet Sauvignon
As a full-bodied red, Cabernet Sauvignon should be served at about 62 degrees Fahrenheit. This helps enhance and complement its full body, but there’s a bit more to it than just that. While you may hear that serving it at room temperature is the way to go, a slight chill is perfect for this one’s acidity.

Medium Bodied Red Wines – 57-61°F (14-16°C)

Burgundy, Sangiovese, Chianti, Zinfandel, Merlot, Pinot Noir

Merlot
The ever well-known Merlot is best served at around 57 degrees Fahrenheit and you can even dabble in a little higher, say around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature not only compliments that body of this one, but is best for bringing out the deep cherry flavors that make it popular.

pouring_red_wine_served_cool_temperature

Light Bodied Red Wines – 50-54°F (10-12°C)

Beaujolais, Bardolino

Bardolino
This light, fruity Italian red wine benefits from a slightly cooler temperature than most reds. The acidity becomes more prominent, while the alcohol taste is slightly diminished.

Full Bodied White Wines – 50-54°F (10-12°C)

Oaked Chardonnay, White Burgundy

White Burgundy
With its rich, complex flavor White Burgundy is best served at a warmer temperature than standard white wines. You can go as high as 54 degrees F, putting it at the same temperature range as light bodied reds.

Medium Bodied White Wines – 48-52°F (9-11°C)

Chardonnay, Chablis, Semillon

Chardonnay
For this tasty white wine, a cooler setting is needed. Go for temperatures around 48 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit to capture everything about this bottle. Whether it has an oak-forward taste or more citrus notes, the dryness is well appreciated in this cooler temperature zone.

Full Bodied Dessert Wines – 46-54°F (8-12°C)

Oloroso Sherry, Madeira

Madeira
This is one of those sweet red wines that pairs best with desserts. For a young Madeira, a good serving temperature to aim for is 54 degrees F. In the case of a more mature bottle, the complex flavors could benefit from letting it warm up slightly higher even.

Light Bodied White Wines – 43-46°F (6-8°C)

Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio

Riesling
Like many other dessert-style wines, Riesling should be chilled to about 46 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is right for enhancing the flowery notes, but also the higher acidity of the wine. This is also the right temperature area to add that degree of balance between the acidity and the sugar that make this wine famous.

Pinot Grigio
This popular white is also best served around the mid-40 degree Fahrenheit range. Aim for a steady 45 degrees Fahrenheit to really draw out its crispness, but also its clean apple notes that give it its distinct flavor. You’ll also find that a better focus on the crispness of Pinot Grigio is present in this temperature range.

Sauvignon Blanc
As a light white wine that also has many citrus notes, Sauvignon Blanc should also be chilled to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Like with our Pinot Grigio, this temperature is better at drawing out the more citrus aspects of this wine without sacrificing any of the dryness that defines it.

sparkling_wine_served_chilled

White Sparkling Wines – 43-46°F (6-8°C)

Champagne
This choice is probably the one that gets the most questions. How cold is too cold when it comes to champagne? A nice, chill 43 degrees Fahrenheit is best for really showing off the qualities of the drink in its fullness. Even though there are many varieties of champagne, this lower temperature really highlights the effervescence of any bottle.

Light Bodied Dessert Wines – 43-50°F (6-10°C)

Trockenbeerenauslese, Sauternes

Sauternes
This sweet white wine from the Bordeaux region can best be enjoyed at a serving temperature of 45 degrees F. It should be chilled, but don’t serve it directly from the refrigerator. Instead, allow about 15 minutes for it to breathe after uncorking the bottle. This gives the complex flavors time to develop.

The easiest way to serve wine at the proper temperature is to keep it stored in a dedicated wine refrigerator. While you could try popping a bottle in your regular food fridge for 20-60 minutes to try to cool it down, this isn’t really the best method. It’s always going to be a guessing game as to whether you’ve cooled your wine down to the right temp. The best wine fridge models, on the other hand, all have digital temperature settings to get the temperature precise.

If you mainly stick to one favorite type of wine, then a single zone wine cooler will be sufficient. But if you’d like to store both red and white wine at their respective serving temperatures, then you should consider a dual zone cooler with individual digitally controlled cooling areas.

As a final note, don’t be afraid to step a degree or two outside some of these temperature ranges. While the general rules hold fairly constant, every year and vintage can differ slightly. At the end of the day, trusting your palette is what makes wine drinking one of the best experiences in the world.




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Wine Tasting for Dummies – How to Understand Wine Reviews

When you’re new to wine tasting, it can sometimes feel like you’re entering a whole other world. Varietals, vintage years, viticulture. There are so many terms to learn, and that’s just a few starting with “V”! The list goes on and on and can often seem never-ending. Wine reviews also appear like they’re packed full of jargon and complex analysis. Even when you have the wine they’re reviewing already poured in front of you, it’s easy to get lost in it all. How do you manage to keep up?

Never fear, because we’re going to walk through wine tasting step-by-step. We’ll learn about understanding wine terms like those above.

Armed with this guide, you’ll be able to talk at length about what you love best (and least) of all the wines you taste.

Not only that, you’ll be able to read those wine reviews with ease.

Next time you have your favorite varietal (a wine created from one type of grape), you’ll know if it’s a vintage year (grapes mostly grown and harvested in a specific year) and the viticulture (the science of growing grapes for wine) that made it happen.




Putting Your Next Wine Tasting into Perspective

While you’ll see many reviews that have new terms and ways of looking at wine, you’ll want to keep things in perspective. Wine tasting is absolutely about a personal journey.

What this means is that every person has different perspectives and experiences. Although there’s plenty of overlap, it’s not about knowing it all. Instead, it’s about sharing the knowledge and growing in your understanding of wine.

At the same time, never be afraid to go out on a limb and try something new or look at things from a different angle. If you’re tasting something particular in a wine, speak up and let others know. You’ll find that being open minded like this leads to everyone having a better experience.

Determining a Wine’s Appearance

dark-grapes-wine-glass-bottleLet’s starting at one of the easiest places when it comes to wine: how it looks. You probably know that there’s red and white wines, but appearance goes a bit further. Even though this aspect of tasting is often overlook, it remains an important one.

After you’ve ensured that you have a crystal clear glass and proper light, pour your favorite wine and note a few things about it. For example, you’ll see wine reviews talk about the depth of the color. What is the opacity or clarity of the color?

While some tasters often won’t include color strictly in appearance, it’s perfectly fine to ask what the exact color of the wine is. You’ll also want to watch the wine’s legs, or in other terms, the way it clings to the glass when swirling it. It’s also possible to determine the wine’s age, as reds will steer more brown with years and whites will become darker in appearance.

Taking on a Wine’s Aroma

The first big term to learn when enjoying the aroma of your wine is “on the nose.” Put simply, it’s how the wine affects your sense of smell alone, separate from the tongue. Another important term is bouquet. Both of these are meant to capture the entire experience of the aroma.

Before you sip, enjoy how the wine’s aroma interacts with your senses. If necessary, let the wine breathe, which is the process of leaving the wine exposed to the open air. Many additional terms are meant to describe the complexity of the aroma. For example, a dense aroma is one that possess concentrated smells, while a subtle aroma might be more muted.

Going Beyond Mere Taste

As we move on to actually tasting your wine, there are a few more essential terms to know. While you’ll hear intuitive flavor words like cherry, currant, or tobacco, there’s more than just flavor to note when the wine is in your mouth.

Probably the three biggest are the body, the mouthfeel, and whether or not a wine is long in the finish.

We’ll start with the body. For every wine, there is an impression of how full the wine is. You can think of this one exactly like you do weight, ranging from heavy, full-bodied wines to less full, lighter bodied wines.

On mouthfeel, you’ll find that it’s all about how the texture of the wine manifests on your palette. Is it soft or fat? Or perhaps it’s chewy or meaty?

Often, these sensation are influenced by either the acidity of the wine or the wine’s tannins, which are a puckering agent that comes mostly from the skin and seeds.

Finally, the length of a wine’s finish is an important way of measuring its quality. Terms like short, medium, or long are often used, but the main point is that the final finishing tastes linger in a healthy, delicious way.

For your wine tasting experience, this guide is just the start. But now, you’ll be able to understand those wine reviews that you love to read. Best of all, you’ll also have a more enhanced experience when you enjoy that next bottle of red or white.

How to Choose the Right Wine Glasses

Do you know How to choose the right wine glasses? Studies show that wine glasses do indeed affect the taste of your wine. If all you want is to get tipsy, then the type of wine glass you use might not be of great concern. However, if you want to enjoy the wine’s aroma and taste, you will have to choose your wine glasses carefully.

Different Glass Shapes for Different Wines

The base, stem, and of course the bowl, will affect the aroma and taste of the wine as you swirl and sip it.

Red Wines

merlot_bordeaux_wine_glassRed wine needs more exposure for it to release its full aroma. You will, therefore, find wines such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon being taken in glasses with bigger bowls. If you are drinking a lighter style of red wines such as Pinot Noir and Tempranillo, drink them from a pear shaped glasses.

White Wines

chardonnay_white_wine_glassWhite crispy wines are best if taken in glasses that are smaller and narrower. Such wines include Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. That is because they do not require much air to release their aroma. However, if they are aged, then chemical compounds change and they may need wine glasses similar to those used for red wine.

Champagne

If you want to enjoy your champagne, experts recommend that you either use Chardonnay glasses or Pinot Noir glasses. The choice depends on the prominent variety in the champagne. However, you should feel free to take it in whatever will give you the most pleasure. That is what drinking champagne is all about.




Wine Glass Size

You may admire those small, chunky wine glasses, but they are not ideal for drinking wine. For one, you cannot swirl your wine freely, unless you want to wear it as well. The other thing is that a good wine glass is one whose bowl takes at least a third of the bottle. If it can take half, that is even better.

Stem

stemed_and_stemless_wine_glass

The stem is the part of the glass that lets you hold it comfortably. If you want your wine to maintain its temperature, you should avoid stemless glasses. If you also like swirling your wine, the stemless glass is not for you.

The stemless glass is however aesthetically pleasing sometimes. Except when you smudge its bowl with your fingerprints as you hold it. Let just say that you have to be very skilled at holding a stemless glass to enjoy drinking from it. Otherwise, you will smudge it with fingerprints.

Glass Color

It could be possible that you love colored or glasses decorated with patterns. Well, you should avoid those when drinking wine. That is because wine is best enjoyed in its full natural color. Wines do change their color over time; you should be able to see and enjoy that as well.

Glass or Crystal?

If you like your wine chilled, then you should go for crystal glasses. Their stems are thin meaning your hand will not warm the wine glass easily. Crystal glasses are however easier to break because they have been spun thinner than glass. You should also be aware that crystal glasses may contain lead.

The lead is supposed to make the wine stick to the glass as you swirl to bring out its aroma. Wine glass companies such as Riedel say that the lead is perfectly contained within the crystal structure, and their crystal glasses are perfectly safe. Still, it is better to be aware of that fact.

There are also lead-free crystal wine glasses one can find on the market.

The glass or crystal does not change the chemical composition of the wine. It simply helps you to enjoy the aroma before you taste the wine as well as preserve the wine’s characteristics while you enjoy it. You are therefore best placed to decide how you want to enjoy your wine. However, if you are serving others, it is worth considering the above factors.

Wine & Food Pairing Guide

From salmon steaks to ceviche, your next meal deserves to be paired with the best choice when it comes to wine. Yet, selecting which one goes with a certain meal can sometimes feel like a guessing game.

Does that Bordeaux go with the shrimp? Can you even pair Merlot with a burger?

You might be surprised to find out how many people wonder these exact same things. And really, these are some great questions, and today, we’re going to dispel some of the myths behind wine pairing. This way, whether you’re out with friends or eating in, you’ll know exactly which bottle goes best with any meal.

Chardonnay

A popular white wine choice with a full body, Chardonnay is somewhat dry. It’s flavor can range from full on oak-flavor to even lighter crisper citrus notes. When pairing this one, great choices include chicken dishes and meals with a cream base to them. To mix things up, you can try sushi as well.




Cabernet Sauvignon

Another popular selection, but this time in red, this wine is also a full bodied choice. With a great mouthfeel and strong tannins, it’s often best paired with beef and lamb. For something more casual, try it with some BBQ short ribs.

Sauvignon Blanc

This white wine is much lighter than our previous two choices and often has citrus notes. While it’s also a dry choice, it remains a very flexible wine. From pork and fish to fresh salads and pastas, you almost can’t go wrong with this one.

Pinot Grigio

Light, crisp, and fruity, the Pinot Grigio goes best with lighter fares. While there are some tart notes to this one, the apple and pear flavors it often exudes are just right for mild fish and cheese, but also a smaller, less-rich salad.

Pinot Noir

This lighter red is a good contrast to our other reds here. It’s cherry and cranberry are evenly matched when paired with more exotic meats like veal or duck. At the same time, it also goes well with pork or chicken and is excellent with firmer, but not hard, cheeses.

Zinfandel

The Zinfandel is a sweet classic. Encompassing nearly every tasty fruit you can imagine, it’s medium to heavy body is rightly paired with more spicy foods, especially BBQ. But two uncommon pairings to try are with a great curry dish or some Thai food.

Merlot

Another ever-popular wine that brings with it plum and deep cherry flavors. Almost any tomato-based meal will work perfectly with Merlot. Red meats are also another choice as are chocolatey desserts.

Chianti

Hands down, you’re going to love pairing this Italian classic with pizza. It’s also true that Chianti goes well with hearty spaghetti dishes and lasagna as well. And if you’re looking for a meat to add, you can’t go wrong with lamb here.

Sangiovese

Our next wine choice is also an Italian classic, but isn’t as well known. But it can be a great casual wine with a delicious burger. The acidity, with it’s light grape, really cuts through a grease burger in just the right way.

Malbec

Our finally selection is also known for its versatility. This red wine from Argentina is soft and sleek in its presentation. For this one, go with lean meats or lighter pasta fares. For example, a beef tenderloin steak will be absolutely excellent.

Just remember, wine is an experience that begs for experimentation and discovery. Always be willing to go out on a limb and try new things. And with our guide here, you have the perfect launching point for that journey.