Whether you're playing host or are simply looking for that perfect bottle of wine to give as a gift, it helps to know about wine characteristics and how to match to your food. Here are some hints to make your choices easier. Check out these suggestions and find the match you like best.
Flavour: Apple, baked apple, pear, lemon-lime, pineapple, tropical fruit. If barrel fermented and /or oak aged, also butter, butterscotch, toast, fig, vanilla, hazelnut, nutmeg, clove.
Intensity: Restrained to assertive
Texture: Firm and crisp if stainless-steel fermented; round, full-bodied if oak treated
Chardonnay's rich elegance find its match in foods that are equally stylish. Bolder examples show especially well with strongly herbed dishes, while more restrained versions shine in the company of luxurious cream and butter sauces and mellow, earthy flavours such as mustard and mushrooms.
Flavour: Dried apricot, vanilla, almond, spice, smoke
Texture: Medium to full-bodied, firm, mouth filling.
Proving to be a brilliant performer in Canada, the best examples of Pinot Gris are distinctive, complex and incomparably appealing. Vinified with or without oak, bone-dry and well structured, they're a match for elegant Canadian and Inter-Continental cuisines including fresh B.C. salmon.
Flavour: Grass, herbs, gooseberry, sometimes smoky, blackcurrant, melon
Intensity: Moderate to assertive, distinctive aromatics
Texture: Light to medium-bodied, usually crisp
Sauvignon Blanc is crisp, refreshing, high-acid wine for summer sipping, on its own or as an aperitif. It is excellent with shellfish or light, subtle dishes, in its oak-aged versions, with richer fare.
Flavour: Clove, rose, grapefruit, fruit salad; drier styles also mineral, earth, pepper and citrus. Over ripe fruit can produce aromas of fatty bacon
Intensity: Highly aromatic, assertive
Texture: Medium-light to full bodied, lively
Sweetness: Dry to semi-sweet
Gewürztraminer is one of our more popular varietals, and for good reason; it is intense with exotic aromas and flavours. Ideally suited to spicy cuisines from China to Thailand to India and stands up well to salsas and the grilled or barbecued flavours of contemporary North American cuisines.
Flavour: Ranges from mineral, citrus and petrol to ripe peach, apple, herbs and floral.
Intensity: Restrained to assertive.
Texture: Light to medium-bodied, crisp.
Sweetness: Dry to sweet.
No matter what the style, Riesling maintains an attractive balance of fruit and acidity, making it an exciting match with dishes that have their own sweet and tart elements. The most fruit-driven examples take well to barbecued or smoked foods and a wide variety of fruity and subtle spicy flavours.
Flavour: Cherry, strawberry, plum, violet, beetroot, mint, smoke, cinnamon; mature examples also tea, leather, brown sugar, mushroom
Intensity: Subtle to moderate
Texture: Light to medium-bodied, silky, generally soft tannins
Pinot Noir's greatest strength is its suppleness. Without the hard tannic structure found in many red wines, it pairs well with a wide range of foods – from fish and game birds to grilled beef and lamb. Don't overwhelm its gentle fruits and refined complexity with strong or spicy flavours.
Flavour: Currant, raspberry, blackberry, cedar, herb, mint; sometimes bell pepper, green olive, dill
Intensity: Moderate to assertive
Cabernet Franc is similar in style to better-known Cabernet Sauvignon, although almost always lighter and less tannic. It pairs seamlessly with dishes in which vegetables play a strong supporting role.
Flavour: Raspberries, plums, black cherries, licorice, orange, coffee, toffee, chocolate
Intensity: Moderate to assertive
Texture: Medium to full-bodied; can be tannic
Merlot is the red wine for red meats. It has the weight and fruit to match wine-braised stews and roasts and the structure and polish to pair with rare-grilled prime cuts.
DESSERT WINES: Late harvest and ice-wine
Flavour: ranges from citrus through peach, pineapple, and apricot to caramel, raisin and nuts
Intensity: Moderate to highly concentrated
Texture: Medium to heavy, smooth, satiny
Sweetness: Sweet to ultra-sweet
Any dessert served with a lusciously fruity dessert wine is a spectacular way to end a meal. Just remember, always choose a dessert wine that is sweeter than the dessert; otherwise, the wine may taste bitter, thin and coarse by contrast. Simple is best; pound cake, crème brulée, shortbread, nuts; or poached fruit and fruit-nut tarts with or without a custard base. Chocolate, unfortunately, is rarely a flattering companion.
Paul Clark has spent 18 years in the hospitality industry, specializing in food & beverage management, winning several awards for his wine menus. Active in the wine industry for the past 18 years, marketing and promoting British Columbia wines, Paul was instrumental in the development and educational programming of The Wine Museum in Kelowna, British Columbia. Paul is an active member of the Society of Wine Educators, Washington, DC and is a certified wine educator. Currently Paul is the marketing and sales agent for two Okanagan wineries including consulting to the hospitality industry and instructing the Retail Wine Sales Certificate course for Okanagan University College.