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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Expert advice for wine n00bs on National Drink Wine Day

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2016 at 1:54 PM

click to enlarge Wine is so important at Norman's, they designed the restaurant around their wine cabinets. - PHOTO COURTESY NORMAN'S, RITZ-CARLTON GRANDE LAKES
  • Photo courtesy Norman's, Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes
  • Wine is so important at Norman's, they designed the restaurant around their wine cabinets.
Here's a day most of us will be happy to take part in: National Drink Wine Day, which is today, Feb. 18. For those of you who have oenophilic dreams of expertly navigating that 100-page wine list someday, here's your starting point.

Yusuf Yildiz, general manager and wine director at Norman's at the Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes, has some tips for getting your fermentation-fueled drink on.

In the meantime, pass the shiraz.

Orlando Weekly: What's the best way to pinpoint a bottle we might like out of a long and intimidating wine list?

Yusuf Yildiz: The best way to pinpoint a wine is to try and remember the name of the last wine you enjoyed. If you can remember, this would be a great way for the sommelier (the person who directs the wine program at the restaurant) to get a better understanding of your palate and the type of wines to recommend. 

OW: Old World versus New World wines – what's the difference?

YY: A lot. Styles, climates and regions. Both Old World and New World wines have a notably different tastes. For instance, most Old World wines come from European countries such as France, Italy, Greece and Spain. These wines have a longer and more traditional history in how and where they're made. Old World wines are often lighter-bodied and exhibit more herb, earth and mineral components. New World wines usually come from the U.S., South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, where the climates are warmer. These wines tend to be full-bodied and fruit-forward with no earthy or mineral notes.

OW: What are some basic pairing rules? Is it really as simple as red with red meats and white with white meats and fish? What about vegetarian pairings?

YY: The purpose of the pairing is to enhance and complement your dining experience. The most basic element to understand when pairing is the balance between the body of the wine and the weight of the food. If the dish is heavier, like a filet mignon or New York strip, then you will need a fuller-bodied wine. If the dish is light, like chicken or fish, then you will need a lighter-bodied wine. This concept also applies to vegetarian dishes.

OW: What is the protocol when the sommelier/server pours a tasting from a bottle? Should I smell the cork? What if I don't like the wine? Should I say so?

YY: Do not smell the cork after the sommelier opens your bottle of wine. The wine poured into your glass is what’s meant to be smelled. The purpose of smelling the wine is to distinguish if the bottle has been "corked," typically indicated by a musty smell. After you’ve smelled the wine, taste it to confirm that the wine is not oxidized or volatile. You'll be able to tell right away.

OW: What are some classic pairings that work every time so that when I go to a restaurant and order a specific classic dish, I can easily know what wine will work?

YY: Most merlot and cabernet sauvignon blends pair nicely with filet mignon. As for fish, it depends on the sauce accompanying it. For example, if you have a creamy or buttery sauce, a chardonnay would work best; if the sauce is tangier, then sauvignon blanc will work. Grilled fish with a heavy starch would pair best with pinot noir.

OW: If we're already well-versed in wine, what are some newer/up-and-coming grape varietals we should try?

YY: For reds, taurasi from Italy, and for whites, white Rhone from Southern France. Taurasi’s primary grape is Aglianico, which is produced in the Campania region. This is a full-bodied red wine with firm tannins and aromas of ripe black cherries and bitter chocolate. White Rhone wines are white blends that typically consist of two or more white grapes from the Rhone region.

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