When you begin learning about wine, my suggestion is to begin at two of the most important characteristics that make up the wine experience: acid and tannin. Why? Because for me, both of these are tied to food pairing, a passion of mine, and one of the most exciting aspects of the world of wine. Without food alongside it, drinking wine often degrades into a sloshfest… no wait, that’s college… but you get my point. Food and wine – Romeo and Juliet – summer and baseball – all are better stories with a partner.
Back to the wine… Acid gets your mouth watering. More saliva in your mouth helps you break the food as you chew into smaller pieces. Smaller pieces are more easily picked up by your taste buds. Hence, you taste your food more easily after drinking a high acid wine. Also, as Andrea Immer puts it, “Acid is like a highlighter for food.” It just gives it a boost. Wines from cooler regions tend to have higher acid. Try a pinot grigio from Venezie, Italy for a more acidic white wine.
Tannin, the grippy stuff in red wine, dries your mouth out because it adheres to the protein in your saliva. But get this… when you’re eating rich meaty dishes with protein and fat in them, the fat coats your tongue and sides and roof of your mouth (appetizing, eh?) and like paint on a board, seal up your taste buds. Tannin acts like sand paper to clean off your taste buds so you can taste the next bite better. More richness and fat in the dish? Look for a wine with higher tannin. Wines with high tannins include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Nebbiolo; medium to low-tannin wines include Malbec, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and red blends.