by Allie Merrick
If wine were a food group, it would be at the base of my pyramid providing a foundation for the rest of my food. This comes from a girl who’s sure her blood type is CAB+, considering the amount of Cabernet I consume. To better mold this metaphor, I’ll make a few consumable comparisons between wine and food in terms of Cabernet and Chardonnay.
Cabernet Sauvignon – the Steak of Wine
A wine that sips like a meal, Cabernet Sauvignon has dense, meaty qualities. Weighty on the palate, it’s a wine of structure and substance. And just as there are many different cuts of meat, there are many different classes of Cabernet. Filet mignon is a cut from the small end of the tenderloin and usually the most expensive cut by weight. If Napa Valley is the tenderloin, Cabernet from Howell Mountain is the filet mignon. And, yes, it’s pricey and highly sought after. Steak tartare is finely chopped raw fillet and mirrored most by Cabernet from Washington, as the wine has a raw, unprocessed character with finely cultivated flavors. While raw egg is typically used in tartare, rarely will you see it used to clarify Cabernet from Washington, as it tends to be unfined and unfiltered. (Note: Fining is a process in winemaking where egg whites are used to clarify the wine by removing organic compounds.)
Chardonnay – the Bread of Wine
Imagine a homemade loaf of bread being pulled from a warm oven. Inhale. Can you smell the yeast that lifted the loaf or the butter that basted the crust? These same scents can be found in some bottles of Chardonnay. Please note, I said some and not all. Just as there are many styles of bread depending on where in the world its made, there are also many styles of Chardonnay resulting from different regions and different winemaking practices. While you may get butter and yeast on the nose of one Chardonnay, with another you may find more unleavened bread qualities with an absence of yeast flavor and abundance of apple and pear preserve used for topping. It seems that styles of Chardonnay cover the entire spectrum. While I’ve tasted Chardonnay that had so much oak influence (due to the type of barrel used and the amount of time inside the barrel during the fermentation and/or aging process) that I feared I might get a sliver in my tongue as I might as well have been licking a piece wood. I’ve also tasted Chardonnay with flavors completely opposite – very sharp, bright and steely having spent time in stainless steel barrels.
So, what kind of steak and bread or type of Cabernet and Chardonnay are best? The answer for this can only be found on your own palate. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, perfection is on the palate of the taster. As you taste, know that everyone’s tastes are different. While some prefer filet mignon to steak tartare, others will choose Cabernet from Washington over Cabernet from Napa, even if it’s from Howell Mountain. When you are handed a menu, order what you like according to your palate not points. After all, when it comes to wine, it’s not about the excellence of the score. It’s about the experience of the sip.
About the Author:
Allie Merrick is the co-host of My Wine Words (www.mywinewords.com), the NW Wine Correspondent for Northwest Wines To You and creative contractor under her own label Allie Merrick Inc (www.alliemerrickinc.com).