Pinot Noir with Earthy Flavors
Pinot Grigio with Fresh Meats and Veggies
Chardonnay with Rich & Buttery Dishes
Staying in for the foreseeable future has been a tough adjustment for a lot of people. Transitioning from the demand of the “go, go, go” lifestyle to constantly being home is a strange and unexpected change, and the sudden isolation can leave some people feeling vulnerable. Loneliness, boredom, anxiety, and depression are all issues people are fighting on a daily basis. Not to mention the stress of having to cook for yourself every single night and the increasing dependency on emergency food to sustain you until your next grocery run.
If you’re struggling to make your time at home fun and productive, plus struggling to come up with delicious and exciting meals to cook at home, let us be your wine guide towards making homemade meals as elevated and delectable as a meal at an upscale restaurant.
We’ve compiled a shortlist of food picks for wine pairings that bring out the best flavors of your seemingly boring everyday types of meals. Simple meals like pasta, chicken, and all sorts of frozen meals can be amazing when matched with appropriate wine types. We’d like to highlight three types of wine that are originally from the Burgundy region of France, and are currently fan favorites in and around Oregon vineyards.
So the next time you go into your kitchen to prepare dinner, pour yourself a little wine taster of any of the following selections and see for yourself how to drink wine with the right pairing and make every dinner at home feel like a special occasion.
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With its origin dating back more than 2000 years, Pinot Noir has earned the well-deserved nickname, “the diva grape”, because of the care and attention necessary to make this varietal thrive. Pinot Noir is one of those types of wines that grow best in cooler climates, like the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and its skin around the grape is quite thin. Pinot Noir grapes love to grow close together in tight pine-cone shaped clusters, and growing them in a warmer climate would cause the skin of a Pinot Noir grape to likely rot and break apart.
As the Pinot Noir grapes thrive in the cool soil, their grapes also absorb the earth that surrounds them. The varietal typicity of Pinot Noir has a minerality to its flavor, as if you could still taste the soil. Since Pinot Noir takes its time during the harvesting season to absorb all that flavor, the wine comes out of the fermentation process light-bodied and low in tannins.
This is why foods with earthy flavors, such as mushrooms or herbs, pair so beautifully with a glass of Pinot Noir. When you go into your pantry looking for ideas to flavor your main course, think of ordinary herbs like rosemary, thyme or basil, and consider having a nice glass of Pinot Noir to go with them. Though originally from France, Pinot Noir is the red wine most well known for pairing with Italian dishes, which makes perfect sense since so many Italian seasonings you’d find in a pasta or pizza sauce are the sort of herbs that highlight the rich and dry finish of a Pinot Noir.
As you’re making a “simple” meal for yourself at home, whether that is a pot of spaghetti with marinara sauce or a frozen cheese pizza, take a look through your spice rack and see if a little basil or oregano could liven up this quick meal. Then, to take this meal from good to great, pour yourself a glass of Pinot Noir and let those herbs sing.
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Pinot Grigio is, DNA wise, a mirror image of Pinot Noir. There are many white varietals that are a close descendant of Pinot Noir, including Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and the nearly extinct Gouais Blanc. And like its Pinot Noir father, Pinot Grigio is originally from France and also grows in tight, pine-cone shaped grape clusters. However, any wine 101 student could tell you, when comparing the flavors and mouthfeel of these two varietals, they couldn’t be more different from one another.
Though Pinot Grigio is classified as a dry wine, like Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio falls far higher on the acidity scale than most other dry wines, and yet it is still considered a medium-acidic and medium-bodied varietal. The primary flavors are fruit-forward, like lemon, lime, pear, and apple, while also balanced with flora aromas and a minerality flavor similar to its Pinot parent. In some regions, take Italy for example, Pinot Grigio is harvested early in the season in order to retain all that refreshing acidity and tone down on the potential over fruitiness of the grape.
These citrusy and refreshing notes are what makes Pinot Grigio your fresh food friend when it comes to cooking at home. Not only for fresh fruits and vegetables, but also with fresh, light proteins, such as fish and shellfish. Even if you’re just pulling out a frozen piece of white meat from the refrigerator for dinner and opening a can of vegetables, serving your meal with a glass of Pinot Grigio will bring back those light and zestful flavors that might have gotten lost while your ingredients were in storage. Add in a little rice, or any absorbent grain will do, as a side dish and squeeze a little lemon or lime juice over your plate and congratulations, you’re your own personal chef.
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Chardonnay is a type of wine that sits in an interesting spot in the Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio Venn diagram, being that it’s a dry white wine like Pinot Grigio that is mildly sweet and acidic, but if you were to compare its history and its climate preferences then you would find that Chardonnay, though a white varietal, is actually the true companion wine to Pinot Noir.
Chardonnay, like Pinot Noir, also dates back as far as when the Romans ruled over Burgundy, which is why Chardonnay grapes thrive in similar cool environments as Pinot Noir, prompting vineyards today to grow the two side-by-side. In France, if you were to order a Burgundy Red label, your glass would be 100% Pinot Noir, and if you ordered a Burgundy White, that wine would be 100% Chardonnay. Visit any Northern California or Oregon vineyard where Chardonnay stocks the shelves, and you’ll find its Pinot Noir companion.
Flavorwise, when preparing a meal from your own kitchen to be paired with a bottle of Chardonnay, it’s best to take the earthy qualities of a Pinot Noir and the fresh, citrusy ingredients of a Pinot Grigio, and then add a little butter and you’re good to go!
The texture, or mouthfeel, of a Chardonnay, is often described as smooth or buttery, and many white-fleshed fish dishes are prepared with a butter-based sauce, making seafood and Chardonnay a match made in wine pairing heaven. Unlike other white wines, Chardonnay is full-bodied, which means it’s a little higher on its alcoholic volume, but still has enough acidity to pair beautifully with a rich piece of seafood, chicken, or any light, white meat. Plus the mild sweetness of a Chardonnay’s finish will serve as a palette cleanser against lightly salted food, balancing out your meal and making every bite taste just like that first bite.
As life goes on, with money being tight and our whole country trying to make this new normal work for us and our families, it’s important to use this time in isolation to learn new tricks and techniques that could make our extended staycation a fun adventure, rather than a lonely spring season. Food and wine have always been something to bring us together in joy, laughter, and comfort, and there’s no reason that has to change now. So, continue to eat, continue to drink, and, if you can, please continue to be merry.