I didn’t always like wine, or perhaps I didn’t try hard enough.
Like the majority of the “kahal,” I tended towards kiddush wine. You know what I am talking about, the sweet and bubbly kind, and not the square Manischewitz bottle or the Malaga syrup that can be substituted for cough suppressant. It was a logical conclusion deeply rooted in my pre-BT life where Strawberry Boones Farm was my beverage choice from an age that would be best described as “under.”
A major influence towards my change in wine attitude was one of my closest friends. For the purposes of conversation, let’s call her Rebbetzin K. (mostly, because that’s her name, so it makes it easy to remember—which, as you’ll see, becomes quite important as I take my imbibing journey). It was my adventures with Rebbetzin K. and Rabbi K. that had the greatest influence on my becoming a wine snob.
Before I go any further, let me make this clear—I may call myself a wine snob, but I assert no real “expertise” on the subject, just an adventurous streak when it comes to drinking, and a willingness to tell folks about it.
But I digress.
One of my earliest lessons associated with wine tasting occurred as I got off of a flight to TLV from EWR, on a trip to visit various family members in the Holy Land. Rebbetzin K. offered to pick me up at the airport, as she was already on the ground. She suggested a wine tasting tour before driving me to my daughter’s apartment in Jerusalem. Who was I to say no? So, off we went to the lovely Tishbi Winery.
Upon arrival, we were offered a wine and chocolate paired tasting for a very reasonable price. Six of each. Lesson one from the tasting—wine pairs better with chocolate than with cheese. Chocolate complements the flavor profile and doesn’t coat your tastebuds the way the fat in cheese does, allowing for a better tasting experience. It brings out the wine’s flavor rather than smothering it. Lesson two—when tasting wine, you’re supposed to take a sip of each wine, not down the entire glass. I mean, I got my money’s worth, but six glasses of wine complement the completion of an intercontinental flight in, perhaps, an unsurprising way—unless you’re the one enjoying the wine and chocolate. We were having a fantastic time, so we decided to move on to dinner and more wine before completing our travel for the day.
Please note, as Rebbetzin K. was driving, she was far more responsible than I regarding the volume of intake. Additionally, she has a significantly higher tolerance for alcohol than I, so despite my condition, she was in fine shape to continue driving.
As we headed out on our drive to Jerusalem, the travel and wine, food, and total carb consumption got the best of me, and I dozed off.
OK, maybe I more than dozed.
Rebbetzin K. later reported that she thought that she’d killed me.
Apparently, we arrived safely in Pat (the neighborhood where my kids live—it’s pronounced “pot,” and is home to the well-known Pat Pharmacy). I know this to be true, as I awoke the next day safely tucked into a bed at my daughter’s apartment.
On the fourth floor.
Of a walk-up building.
God bless my son-in-law, who carried my bags while I managed to walk from the car and up the flights of stairs.
I remember none of this part of the story.
All in all, a grand arrival in Israel. I heartily recommend it.
Thus began my foray into the joys of wine pairings. The take-aways from this experience?
1) The best wines are ones that you like. Despite assertions to the contrary, there is no “best” wine, no perfect styles, no absolutes.
2) Food and wine can be paired successfully if you match the relative complexity of flavor profiles—lighter wines with lighter flavored food, and heavier with heavier.
3) If you’re having trouble figuring the food part out, default to chocolate. Dark chocolate will match red wines well, with less mature wines complementing chocolate with lower percentages of cacao (and higher with higher).
4) When tasting, always work from lighter flavors to heavier ones.
5) When tasting, always take sips (I can’t stress this enough).
6) The most important lesson—wine pairs best with good friends. Ask Rebbetzin K. She’ll tell you. As will her husband. And all the other folks with whom I’ve had the privilege of sharing a bottle.
If you have a hankering to have your own imbibing journey, I recommend suspending any fear about tasting wine the “wrong way.” Be daring. Experiment. Don’t be guided by price, be guided by joy.
Heidi Rosen is a “retired” psychiatric social worker, who works part time as a psychiatric social worker. Her husband, Ira, likes beer. They live in Highland Park, New Jersey.