The Basics of Food & Wine Pairing
As we enter the holiday season, many of our holiday traditions include food, and enjoying special dishes that we often associate with our holiday memories.
May I suggest enhancing your holiday experience by adding wine to your menu and pairing wine with your holiday favorites? As I write this, I am reflecting back on this year’s Thanksgiving and the meal we prepared considering both the wine and food. We started our Thanksgiving with baked brie and champagne, followed by the traditional meal of turkey served with an elegant pinot noir, and finally, we ended the evening with homemade pumpkin pie and a full-bodied red blend wine. The whole experience was enhanced by considering both food and wine flavors and this made for a memorable Thanksgiving meal.
Food and wine can have a positive effect on each other and enhance the way either the food or wine tastes. By understanding food and wine pairing basics, you can avoid any unpleasant flavors as well.
Have you ever gone to a restaurant and asked to see the wine list and the server brings a long list with hundreds of wines to choose from? This experience can be overwhelming with too many choices and not enough information to make a decision. Some restaurants offer the services of a sommelier to help you choose a wine from the list by asking what you plan to have for your meal, then they can suggest wines in your budget that would complement the meal you have chosen. Sommelier is a French word that means “wine steward” and refers to a certified wine professional with extensive training and knowledge of wine and service.
Although having a sommelier serve you in a restaurant is an elevated experience, having a basic knowledge of wine and food can help you make choices both at home or when you go out to eat and feel more confident in your selections.
Since each of us has a unique sense of taste or smell, there are no definitive right or wrong answers, just suggestions. After all, if you are enjoying the food and wine together, that is what really matters.
Here are a few simple suggestions for pairing wine and food:
Pair bolder flavor foods with bolder flavored wines and pair delicate flavored foods with lighter, more delicate wines.
As an example, beef or red meat pairs with a heavier red wine like Williams Gap Fieldstone or Round Hill Red. Lighter fare such as scallops would pair with a zesty white wine such as Williams Gap Vidal Blanc.
Wines should highlight the food instead of overpowering it.
Understand there are four components in food including sweetness, acidity, salt and umami. These components can have either a positive or negative effect on the wine.
Sweetness - Pair sweet foods with a wine that has a higher level of sweetness than the dish.
Acidity - High acid foods should be matched with high-acid wines. Acidity in food enhances flavors.
Salt - Salt enhances wine flavors and can make the wine seem fruitier and can soften tannins in red wines.
Umami - Examples of umami in foods are cooked mushrooms or dried meats and cheeses. Choose wines with more fruit than tannins. Umami in food can highlight the bitterness of tannins in the wine.
A general rule to remember is that salty and acidic foods enhance wine flavors, and umami or sweet foods can have a negative effect on the taste of wine.
I hope this has helped you understand the basics of food and wine pairing and that you are a little more knowledgeable in this area.
If you want some hands-on practice with pairings, come visit our tasting room this holiday season and try our chocolate pairing boards. These boards are prepared with artisan chocolates made by the Conche restaurant in Leesburg. The Conche makes world-class chocolates and is owned by chef Santosh Tiptur, one of the world’s top chocolatiers.
Each of these artisan chocolates has been perfectly paired by our tasting room manager, Bridgette Smith with our current lineup of Williams Gap wines. Here are the pairings of chocolates and wines:
Spiced Caramel Apple - WGV 2019 Vidal Blanc
Dulcey Caramel Blond - WGV 2019 White Blend
Alphonso Mango - WGV 2019 Petit Manseng
Aztec Chipotle - WGV 2020 Mountain Valley
Strawberry Basil - WGV 2019 Cabernet Franc
Pumpkin Chai Latte - WGV 2020 Round Hill
The next time you come into the tasting room, ask for our artisan chocolate pairing boards. You can choose from either three white wine pairings, three red wine pairings, or for a really sweet experience, try all six of the chocolate pairings with your wine tasting.
Our tasting room at Williams Gap is beautifully decorated for the holidays and we hope you can come visit. Imagine yourself sitting in front of our main level stone fireplace or enjoying our outdoor firepits sampling hand-made chocolates while sipping a Williams Gap wine. I hope to see you this holiday season!
Summer Whites Boarding Pass
Hi, my name is Susan and I love learning about wine and sharing the love and appreciation of wine with others. I have been working at Williams Gap as a Tasting Room Associate since early May, 2021 and am WSET Level 2 certified. One of my passions is exploring wines from around the world and appreciating the difference that geographic location, climate and terroir can make in the taste of wines. The same grape varietal can make wine that tastes completely unique to the part of the world where it is grown. For example, a Pinot Grigio from Italy will taste completely different than a Pinot Gris from Oregon and location, climate and soil are important factors.
I love “traveling around the world” through tasting international and domestic wines, especially during this past challenging year when real worldwide travel has not been possible.
In August, as temperatures rise into the 90’s, we tend to gravitate towards lighter bodied, refreshing white wines. These wines are easy to drink on their own, and pair nicely with summer dishes like seafood, salads and lighter fare.
Crisp, acidic white wines get their characteristics from the terroir and climate they are grown in. As an example, cooler climates may create grapes that have more acidity, which translates into mouthwatering, refreshing white wines. Acidity in wine is described as a “mouthwatering feel” and it should be refreshing and enjoyable. It should be balanced with the fruit so the wine does not taste too acidic.
Here at Williams Gap this August, we are featuring our “Summer Whites Boarding Pass”. Come out and enjoy a seated tasting featuring our very own Vidal Blanc as well as five other refreshing crisp whites from around the world. We are also offering white wine flights, either domestic or international. In addition, these wines are available by seated tasting, by the glass or by the bottle
Let’s start with our domestic white wine offerings.
First, we have the 2019 Lone Birch Pinot Gris. This wine comes from Yakima Valley, Washington and comes from a family-owned vineyard with a lone 70 year old birch tree on the property which lends its name to this estate vineyard.
This wine is 100% Pinot Gris and although 2019 was a challenging year for winemakers in Washington State with cooler temperatures than normal, the 2019 Pinot Gris is approachable with high acidity and exceptional fruit aspect.
The Lone Birch exudes aromas of fresh lemon zest and tangerine which translate to bright flavors of melon and pineapple on the palate. This wine has balanced acidity which exits the palate with a clean and refreshing finish.
Our next wine is the 2020 Bonny Doon Picpoul. Bonny Doon Vineyard is located in Arroyo Seco, Central Coast of California. It is made from 100% Picpoul grapes, and “Picpoul” translates to “Lip Stinger” by definition. The grape originally came from Southern France. It is a high acid, savory, white grape that pairs well with seafood such as oysters. It comes from a vineyard in Arroyo Seco that is named the Beeswax Vineyard, which may give the wines some beeswax or honey aromatics.
The Bonny Doon Picpoul showcases subtle almond aromatics which translates to green apple and briny cucumber on the palate. It has a subtle, unique waxy scent.
Third, we spotlight our very own Williams 2019 Gap Vidal Blanc from Round Hill, VA. It is made from 100% Vidal Blanc estate grown grapes and offers aromas and flavors of ripe cantaloupe, lemon juice, lime zest and orange blossom. The stainless steel aging allows the wine to showcase the fruit. This vintage provides mouthwatering acidity that begs us to take another sip. I love drinking this wine on my front porch on a hot, summer day and then having a glass with a summer meal of light seafood and salad.
Now we are off to explore our international white wines.
First, we move on to Spain, and to our first international white wine, the 2020 Melea Organic White Blend.
The wine is named after the rare bee, Anthrophora Melea. It is an organic, vegan wine fermented with wild yeasts and made using viticultural practices that do not contain any toxic chemicals. The fruit comes from organically certified vines in the Cuenca area of La Mancha, Spain. The family has a bodega, or small wine shop, located in Alicante, a city in Spain and are leaders in the production of high quality, organic wines.
Tasting notes include aromas of wet stone and lemon grass which translates to honeydew and lemon curd on the palate. The wine is dry and refreshing with a long citrus finish with concentrated flavors.
Our next wine comes from France, a white blend called Domaine De Pajot Les 4 Cepages. This wine comes from the region of Gascogne from a small, family run winery and is produced from organically grown grapes. The grape varietals in this wine include 35% Sauvignon Blanc, 35% Columbard, 20% Ugni Blanc and 10% Gros Manseng. Ugni Blanc and Colombard grapes are often distilled into Armagnac in this region, but this family-run vineyard uses these grapes and blends them into this delightful white wine blend.
The Domaine de Pajot showcases aromatics of juicy pear and lemon which translates to kaffir lime on the palate which is perfectly balanced by mild salinity. The blend is the epitome of Gascony – light and fruity, fresh and crisp, with a bright texture and plenty of refreshing acidity.
I picture myself enjoying this wine alongside a poolside dinner or enjoying it by itself at a patio cocktail hour.
Our final international white wine is the 2020 Arca Nova Vinho Verde. Located on the Atlantic coast in northern Portugal, Vihno Verde means “green wine”. The Vihno Verde region is lush and green due to its high precipitation and Atlantic Ocean influence. Vihno Verde is known for light and refreshing wines.
The Arca Nova is made from a blend of three grapes, 50% Loureiro, 40% Arinto and 10% Treixadura. It offers pleasing aromas of honey crisp apple, lemon and honeysuckle. The slight effervescence and bright acidity gives this wine a bright and zippy finish.
All these wines are available for purchase by the flight, glass or bottle from our main bar, or for an elevated experience, by seated tasting in our upstairs tasting room.
We hope you will come out to Williams Gap to enjoy the last few dog days of summer relaxing with a glass or flight of refreshing white wine selections. If you want a bite to eat while you visit, we have charcuterie and cheese boards for purchase that pair perfectly with our wines. The beautiful mountain and vineyard views from our outdoor spaces and tasting room make visiting Williams Gap vineyard a perfect way to slow down and enjoy quality time with family and friends as summer draws to a close.
Tasting Room Associate