Exploring the etiquette for wine...

Meraki Festival.

Meraki Festival. - Credit: Archant

Is there a correct wine to drink with a certain dish or a correct way to serve it?

We love chatting to our customers about wine and helping them choose one that they will enjoy. In conversations recently it has also become apparent that there is a feeling there is a right way to drink wine and a need to be seen to be doing so correctly.

A very short answer is that there are some rules of thumb to follow to enjoy wine at its best that have evolved over time but there is really no right or wrong way to do so. It's all down to our own personal taste.

Wine is for enjoying and if you like a certain style of wine there are ways of serving it that will show it at its best. For example, a stylish fresh Chablis or zesty Sauvignon Blanc from France, New Zealand or Chile are delicious served chilled to bring out the refreshing acidity and fruit notes. Served like this they are great aperitifs on their own. Served too cold the flavour will be dumbed down or too warm and it will not show the fresh notes that these wines inherently have.

Red wines too, have an optimum temperature to enjoy them at their best, which is at room temperature. Light reds can be enjoyed chilled if you prefer as the tannins are soft whereas a structured Cabernet based wine such as a claret will taste very woody and seem to be lacking fruit as the chill dumbs down the fruit notes of the wine. Letting the wine come to room temperature, perhaps in a decanter, will allow the fruit and tannins taste in balance with each other in a well-made wine.

Wine makes a great accompaniment to food and certain wine types pair better with particular dishes dependent on the dominant flavours of both the wine and the food. Finding wine to complement the light fresh tastes of a summer salad, the full robust flavours of a winter casserole or a roast Sunday lunch will result in a different wine for each dish. A crisp white such as a Pecorino or Pinot Grigio from Italy, a Picpoul de Pinet from France are great with salad but this style would not complement a casserole as it would be overwhelmed by the richness of the dish. A better pairing to show off the food and enjoy a wine would be a richer oaky white wine or a fruity robust red such as a Rhone or Languedoc Roussillon, Argentinian Malbec or wines of similar ilk.

Following this thought process the answer to the question of 'Can I drink red wine with fish?' is a quick yes if you choose a wine to match the flavours. Fish with a meaty texture such as a tuna steak, monkfish or even haddock pair well with appealing fruity reds.

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There are also categories such as sherry, dessert wine etc that include very distinctive styles of wine that are delicious once tried in conditions that show them at their best. Uncertainty about which one, when is the right time to drink them, as an aperitif or with food is a barrier to trying them. In reality, there isn't a right way though chilling dry sherries for example will make them refreshing in the same way as white wines and more enjoyable.

Dessert wines, sweet sherries, port and Madeira all have an old-fashioned image that they are finding hard to shake off to be enjoyed nowadays. Some of this negativity is based on the thought that there is a correct way to drink them that doesn't match with contemporary meals.

In my view if you like luscious dessert wines but don't want to eat a pudding why not enjoy with a pate as a starter, or with cheeses as a digestif. Similarly, Madeira cream sherry or PX can be enjoyed with a rich fruit cake not just a rich dessert. Thus, as in many situations making the right choice to match our expectations or needs is better than trying to be correct.