How do you know what to drink with your favorite food?
“I know nothing about wine,” I say when I arrive.
It’s true. I enjoy a rosé with friends, white wine with some cheese, red wine with steak. But to be honest, I usually prefer whisky. Besides, I never know what makes a good wine anyway, and what goes with which. So I let my friends choose.
“I love a good Riesling,” says one. “This Merlot is so dry,” says another. “Cabernet Sauvignon, always,” was the advice of David Broussard.
The names are familiar, and I suppose I know which one is red and which one is white. But really, I know nothing beyond that.
Fortunately, I found myself at Wine Story’s newest branch in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Even better, I was there for a glorious lunch by Margarita Fores, and I was seated beside Carla Santos, Wine Education Manager at Wine Story Academy.
“Have a sip of this,” she urges me, “then hold it in your mouth for five seconds.”
“Take a bite of this one, then drink that,” she tells me next.
“Oh, this,” she gestures to her glass, “is so lovely with this!” she enthuses as she points to a little morsel on her plate. “Try it!”
Obediently I take every sip and take every bite as she instructs, and each instant I am rewarded with a symphony of flavors. She is similarly enthusiastic with the photographer sitting on her other side, and he seems as delighted as I am to be schooled in these things.
The title Wine Education Manager means she knows wines, infinitely better than I do. Not only that, but she’s also accredited by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust to do her job. And this she does very very well.
I think the universe conspired to seat me beside her at that lunch. I take the hint, and plunge into my wine education. I confess upfront that I know absolutely nothing, and she is more than happy to share her knowledge with me.
For example, I finally learned why wine goes so well with cheese.
While wine is a marvelous experience by itself, food pairings do in fact make a difference, as each bite you take brings out the complexities in the flavors of the wine. The salt in the cheese or cold cuts—or whatever salty food you happen to have on hand—smooths out the tannins in your wine, and the strong flavors will suddenly turn sweeter on your tongue.
So if you’ve ever felt like an uncultured heathen for having salty potato chips with wine, fear not. You’re actually (sort of) on the right track.
“Soda, it’s a comfort drink,” says Carla. “But wine, it’s different every time, with different friends, different glass, different year. It’s an experience every time. Even food pairings. The same exact wine can taste, can feel totally different.”
It’s amazing what a little bit of knowledge can do to alter your experience completely. I enjoyed a glass (all right, it was two) of a Thienot Brut Blanc de Blancs NV with the appetizers being passed around on trays. With each bite I paused and observed the new flavors resulting in the interaction of the food and the wine. It was a like a new experience each time: a sip and a bite of the baked artichoke and Camambert; then a sip of wine as I pop an olive in my mouth.
When I tell my friends about this glorious lunch, I tell them, quite honestly, that I lost count of how many glasses of I had. I only know the names because I took pictures of the labels.
There was a Ferran Blanc 2015, which was lovely with the bouillabaisse of Philippine seafood: river prawn from Bulacan, white marlin from Bohol, scallop from Capiz, Negros blue crab.
The meat entree was duck breast with mangoes from Cebu, paired with La Fleur de Bouard 2014. A large stick of cinnamon accompanied the plate, and it was quite a curious thing to sniff a spice I had only previously seen in powder form, and then to take a sip of wine, and to ponder on the combined sensation.
There was a glorious dessert of dulce de leche and Philippine chocolate, and the Petit Guiraud 2013 made every bite sweeter and richer and more exciting.
I confess, if I went to a wine store today, I still would not know what to buy. If I were ordering at a restaurant, I would not know what to pair with osso bucco or roast pig. But I do know that with any glass, I now know to be more thoughtful with every sip and more observant of every bite of food. And if I want to learn more, I can drop by Wine Story for a drink and an education.