We've turned the calendar page over to September. The kids are back in school. The daylight hours are shorter and the evenings are turning cooler. Autumn is in the air. Even if our favorite summer activities are over for another year, fall brings its own set of unique events. The past couple of years, a favorite fall event of mine has been to visit a local winery or two and watch and enjoy the events that lead up to another successful grape harvest.
I surely don't profess to being an expert in the area of wine-making. But I do enjoy a nice glass of wine with a meal every now and then.
I've picked up a tip or two at past visits to local wineries when they've had open houses or samplings.
This past summer, when I attended the "Nutrition Adventure" event sponsored by the Beef Council in Kansas, I had the opportunity to pick up a few more tips on pairing wine with beef. We were treated to a chef-prepared, four course meal that paired a different wine with each course offering. While we sampled the different wines with each paired food, Certified wine professionals provided us with information and suggestions on how to perfectly pair the wine with the food.
According to the presenters, wine's key component in building synergy with beef is in the tannins. Tannin is a substance found in the seeds, skins and stems of red grapes. Tannin, in proper amount and proper ripeness, gives the wine structure and texture.
Tannin is also a preservative, which can help the wine to age gracefully. Tannin can be a key factor in food and wine pairing.
So why is tannin key to pairing red wine with beef? According to our presenters, "Juicy beef is mouth-coating; tannin is mouth-cleansing; the pairing of red wine with beef is the perfect 'see-saw,' or counterbalance. The palate is coated by the beef, then cleansed by a sip of red wine, which prepares the palate for another bite of juicy beef. The protein in beef tames the edge or roughness of the tannin, creating a perception that the wine is more mellow. Thus, a synergy is created between red wine and beef, as each makes the other more enjoyable."
Following are some pairings that the wine professionals suggested at our conference:
Dry sparkling white wine/appetizers
Merlot/braised dishes with sauces
Pinot Noir/beef tenderloin
Zinfandel/smoked beef or burgers
Our conference was sponsored by the Beef Council and so the meat that was featured was beef. But wine pairs well with other meats and entrees as well, and there are a lot of choices when it comes to wine. So, what is a good wine? Really, any wine that you enjoy. During my visits to local wineries, I have picked up some helpful "wine wheels" that make suggestions for pairing types of wines with various foods.
You can sample some of the different kinds of wine at open houses or ask when you make a purchase for suggestions. Or you can go with the basic rule of "red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat."
With more than 20 wineries in Minnesota alone, the popularity of wine continues to grow. If you're looking for an interesting autumn activity, taking in a local "grape-stomp" or open house might just lead to a new favorite when it comes to enjoying a glass of wine with supper.
Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center. In addition to her column, you can also find nutrition tips and ideas on the blog she writes at www.averastorycenter.org.