Holiday cheer!

Submitted by Evelyn C. McDonald
Arts & Culture Reporter
December 6, 2017 1:00 a.m.

The holidays can present a unique quandary for us. Someone issues a dinner invitation and we want to bring a bottle of wine. Our questions are what kind of wine should I bring and how much should I spend? Does the old “red with red meat and white with seafood or chicken” adage still work? Must the wine have a cork or are wines with screw tops okay? These questions can put undue and unnecessary pressure on holiday events.

Last week, Rosemary Rillo treated about 20 of us to a presentation on wine pairings and champagne at the museum. The discussion was presented by Amelia Lifelong Learning and sponsored by Moon River Pizza. Her discussion was intended to demystify wine selection and make it less stressful and more fun.

“You don’t want a wine to overwhelm the meal or vice versa,” was her hint. She explained that issues such as the heaviness of the meal or the wine were more important than color. A creamy dish, no matter what the meat, benefits from a wine that cuts the creaminess somewhat. If the meal is a heavy dish, you need a wine that will stand up to it. If you have no idea what’s being served and hesitate to ask, champagne might be an interesting choice.

Rosemary illustrated these wine basics with two white wines and three reds of different weights and dryness. She invited us to sample these wines with crackers, cheese, and other appetizers. As we were experimenting, she encouraged us to try different wine combinations on our own. The idea was to find what we enjoyed.

She talked about value wines. In her definition, a value wine can be any price. The idea is that for its type, the price made it a good value. Thus, a $25 bottle might be a value wine because comparable wines sold for $40.

Rosemary talked about the champagne growing regions of France and the process used to create it. She told us that at the start, wine growers were trying to get the bubbles out of wine before realizing how unique the taste was. Only one region of France can use the word champagne. Other regions making sparkling wines have to select other names. In Spain, it is called cava; in Italy, prosecco. We tasted three types of champagne – prosecco, rose and brut (dry in champagne language) with the appetizers.

It was a fun evening. Rosemary was careful to tell us that she was not a sommelier (wine expert). Her knowledge came from experience tasting and working wines. She helped us take some of the tension out of wine buying.

Evelyn McDonald moved to Fernandina Beach from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. in 2006. Evelyn is vice-chair on the Amelia Center for Lifelong Learning and is on the Dean’s Council for the Carpenter Library at the UNF. Ms. McDonald has MS in Technology Management from the University of Maryland’s University College and a BA in Spanish from the University of Michigan.

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