A few years ago, a wine enthusiast wrote a letter to Wine Spectator’s Dr. Vinifera asking whether it’s safe to decant Sauternes. The letter writer had just come back from a restaurant and had been surprised to see that the sommelier poured a 1995 Château d’Yquem from a decanter. Dr. Vinifera responded that decanting Château d’Yquem certainly isn’t a common practice, but it’s also not a bad idea. Like any other fine wine, some Sauternes vintages open up with a little aeration and become more expressive.
In 2015, journalist Melissa Chang was invited to a private wine tasting party built around unique Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon food pairings. Each dish was designed specifically to complement a particular Dom Pérignon wine. The classic 2004 Dom Pérignon was served with bacon jam biscuits. A bottle of 1998 Dom Pérignon P2 was paired with smoked king salmon. The night wrapped up with glasses of 2003 Dom Pérignon Rosé followed by a sweet tofu dessert. Chang said the tasting reminded her just how versatile Dom Pérignon and other fine Champagne can be. She says, “Champagne is like a little black dress—it goes with everything.” This guide will show you how to create the ideal pairing for all the bottles in your collection.
My idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day wine is generally either vintage Champagne or aged red Burgundy. However, last year, we decided to try something a little different. We chose a bottle of 1961 Château Prieuré du Monastir Del Camp Rivesaltes–a truly special wine that had fascinating flavors of fresh citrus and dried fruit. Serving decades-old Grenache was an unexpectedly great Valentine’s Day wine idea because it made the evening much more memorable. My spouse and I have shared dozens of bottles of Champagne together, but we’ve only had one bottle of 1961 Grenache from the Languedoc.
This summer, I went to a wedding and was served the most delicious homemade Indian food I’ve ever tasted. I filled my plate with buttery chicken makhani, smoky tandoori, and a huge variety of spicy curries. The bride and groom provided two different alcoholic beverages to pair with the food: lager beer and Grenache. I’ll admit that when I saw Grenache on the menu, I was a little skeptical. I wasn’t sure how the wine’s flavors would interact with all of the complex spices in the meal. To my surprise, however, the Grenache blend the couple chose perfectly complemented the food. The fruitiness of the Grenache played well with the creamier dishes on the table, while the spicy notes in the wine enhanced the food’s smoky paprika and cardamom flavors. Grenache and Indian food is now one of my favorite pairings.
One of my friend’s favorite holiday traditions is to sit next to the fireplace with a bottle of vintage Graham’s at her side. She sips the wine slowly while nibbling on dark chocolate truffles or chocolate-covered almonds. For her, port and chocolate go hand-in-hand. Even though she’s served port with other desserts before, she always goes back to that same classic port and chocolate pairing.
Whenever I see a magnum from one of my favorite producers, I almost always buy it without a second thought. That’s because I host a Christmas dinner party with my extended family every year, and we go through around a dozen standard-size bottles over the course of the night. Hosting a party like this is a serious challenge–not only do you need to make sure there’s enough wine to go around, but you also have to choose those wines carefully so that they appeal to everyone’s diverse tastes. It took my family and me a number of years to refine our Christmas wine list, but we have finally come up with the perfect combination of wines that make everyone in the family happy.
For much of my life, New Year’s Eve celebrations revolved around dancing, fireworks, and flutes of Champagne. However, in the past few years, I’ve made wine a much bigger part of my holiday celebrations. It all started when I was invited to a friend’s house for a formal New Year’s Eve dinner party. I brought along a magnum of 2001 Ridge Monte Bello to share with everyone. As the night wore on, I noticed that several of the guests had pulled their chairs over to my side of the table hoping for a refill. They’d never had Ridge wine before and wanted to learn more about the producer. This gave me an idea: what if I hosted a New Year’s Eve wine tasting party?
Three years ago, I was invited to a New Year’s Eve dinner party with a small group of close friends. I knew that I wanted to bring a bottle of wine, but I was having trouble deciding what type to bring. I assumed that everyone else would be bringing the usual Champagne for New Year’s Eve, so I crossed that off the shortlist. I wanted to choose a wine no one else in the group would think to bring, like New-World Pinot Noir, Riesling, or Torrontés. I eventually decided on a bottle of Rhys Pinot Noir, and it turned out to be the perfect choice for the event. The wine paired beautifully with our food and it was a nice change of pace from the sparkling wine everyone else brought.
Champagne is home to more than 100 different houses, and each one has its own distinctive style. From Bollinger’s biscuity, full-bodied profile to Gimonnet’s delicate apple flavors, Champagne house styles are incredibly diverse. With so many to choose from, it can be difficult for even experienced collectors to find producers that make wine in the style they most enjoy. Whether you’re starting your collection of top-quality Champagne from scratch or you’re an experienced collector who wants to try new producers, learning about individual Champagne house styles can help you invest in wines that will suit your palate.
Pinot Noir is one of the most versatile wines to pair with food—from fresh spring vegetables to rich paté, you can serve this wine with a huge range of dishes. In fact, when I’m invited to a dinner party or bring my own wine to a restaurant, I very often take along a Pinot Noir, especially if I’m not sure what dish is going to be served. The wine’s perfect balance of bracing acidity, sweet fruit, and complex aromatics make it a joy to drink on its own or paired with nearly any dish.
Finding the right Château d’Yquem food pairing can be a challenge–although Yquem is an intense and powerful wine, some foods will overpower its complex flavors. I know a wine enthusiast who served a bottle of 1947 Château d’Yquem alongside a platter of very strong cheese (including blue cheese and aged asiago). The bold flavors of the blue cheese completely overwhelmed his palate and he could no longer taste the Yquem properly. Frustrated after this experience, he decided to only drink Yquem on its own in the future or to pair it with very delicate, mild foods like lobster or fresh pear. He’s now afraid to serve the wine with anything too bold or savory.
What factors affect wine quality the most? While grape quality and climate play a significant role, post-harvest winemaking techniques such as maceration, fermentation, extraction, and aging also influence wine flavors immensely. Last year I attended a special tasting dinner hosted by the owner of a winery in Red Mountain, Washington. Over dinner, we sampled a number of recent vintages from the estate, and the lead winemaker offered us in-depth insight into the winemaking techniques he uses to bring out the best flavors in the wine.