Wine

Wine is sunlight held together by water
-Galileo Galilei



No cooking-related text would be complete without at least a reference to wine, the noblest and most pleasurable of all alcoholic beverages. One of the oldest achievements of mankind (beer is thought to be even older), wine is being made and enjoyed all over the world, by simple peasants of Massif Central and Russian millionaires alike.
There is a reason why wine commands a science all of its own. A topic so vast  is practically impossible to compress in a few words of a blog post, even for an experienced Kitchen Witch. But the crime of not touching the subject at all would be much greater, so I will endeavour to present the absolute basics of oenology here, if only to have an excuse for taking pictures of wine glasses.
Simplifying things, it can be said that wine comes in two basic varieties : white and red. There is an ongoing debate about the classification of rosé, the 'pink wine', but the majority of specialists seems to consider it a variety of red.  Another popular way of describing wine is the use of terms 'dry' and 'sweet'. These terms may come in handy when dealing with absolute basics. However, as time and knowledge progresses, they are replaced with a subtler categorization, often a sum of grape variety, country of origin or even exact region and other information.
Knowledge of wine is a skill that requires long honing, time and taste. Since You never know the wine untill You try, a certain amount of trial and error will also occur. However, once a wine that suits Your palate is found, You will be introduced to the ultimate pleasure : sipping good wine calmly, on Your own or with a dear person. Not many pastimes can compete.
A skill even harder to acquire is the ability to match a dish You are serving to an appropriate wine. Choose it right, and You will create a perfect meal. Choose it wrong, and the food and drink will engage in a war right in the middle of Your mouth. Again, some trial and error is to be expected before You can match Your cooking, Your wine tastes and whatever the market has to offer. But there are some tips that can help those in need of guidance.
  • White wine
Delicate and subtle, white wine is sometimes considered 'lesser' in comparison to its dark, deeply coloured counterpart. In fact, most people, when they say 'wine', mean red wine. Yet it would be a big mistake to miss out on what white has to offer, both as an independent drink and in terms of meal accompagnement. Only white wine (dry or semi-dry) can be served with fish : indeed, offering red wine with any kind of seafood results in a disaster (semi-dry or dry rose wine is the best choice for fruits de mer like shrimp, though).  Poultry is another area reserved for white wine, although, as an exception, red is recommended with turkey. There are no exceptions when it comes to fish.
White wine in general tends to be milder (in terms of taste, alcoholic strength is a different matter)  than red wine, so it should go with milder dishes : salads,  vegetarian meals or spring and summer cooking, based mostly on vegetables and fruit - these are foods that will work with white wine very well. On the other hand, it will contrast unpleasantly with many cheeses, especially if it's semi-sweet or sweet.

White wine should always be served chilled : the lighter the wine the colder is should be (in terms of taste, not actual colour).
It is also the best choice for romantic evenings. While it may seem that red's deep and symbolic colour would be more appropriate, white wine does not lay heavily on the stomach (making you lazy) or on the head (making you sleepy). It also has the advantage of not leaving a dark, unpleasant patina on the mouth.
  • Red wine
Red wine is stronger and richer in taste than white. Its aroma can vary greatly, from a sweet aftertaste reminiscent of fruit juice to heavy-bodied dry wines with a taste of coffee or oak wood. This depends mostly on the grape variety, although You will never be certain of a wine's taste until You try.
A good red wine should have a very dark colour, almost black. If You have a reasonable amount in a glass and it's still transparent, looking more like a syrup, then the wine contains too much water. Red wine is never served chilled : the minimum temperature here is 18 degrees Celsius (64.4 Farenheit). If You have been keeping it in a lower temperature - in a fridge, or in the basement - it will need at least three hours' time to warm up, so if You have guests invited, remember about this.
Red wine has a strong taste, so it should go with strong dishes. The general rule is simple : the heavier the meal, the stronger the wine. (Again, in terms of taste and not alcohol percentage.) While a semi-dry Carignan is my favourite for Spaghetti Napoli or Spaghetti alla Crema,  it is still too mild to go with stronger cheeses like roquefort or a mature camembert. Red meat, especially grilled or roasted, should always be served with a full-bodied, dry red wine that can match the intensity of its taste.
Pink wine is often served with seafood, such as shrimps calamari, though white is also appropriate here. It's also a good choice for spicier vegetable dishes which might dominate white wine too much. Perfect for aperitifs, especially on a hot day.
  • Magical uses of wine
Practically since its invention, around 6000 b.c., wine has been used in ceremonies. Many religions have adopted it as a sacred drink - in ancient Greece it was one of the things worthy of being sacrificed to the gods, and the libations in honour of Dionysus in ancient Rome are famous to this day. Judaism also has many ceremonies that require the use of wine, such as the time of Pesach, when drinking wine is obligatory, or a Jewish ceremony of marriage, which requires the newlyweds to drink wine from the same cup. And, of course, no Christian mass can be celebrated without a chalice of wine, which might explain why Vatican has the highest wine consumption per capita in the world.
A Kitchen Witch can use wine to prepare various enchanted drinks. The addition of herbs and other magical ingredients to a right wine will make a powerful potion, be it to protect, bring fortune, happiness or just chase the sorrows away, especially if the potion is left to mature, allowing the alcohol to extract the ingredients' properties. Such an enchanted tincture is definitely more potent than a simple brew.
Together with mead, birch sap and water, wine is also a great drink to be served on celebrations such as the Equinox and the Solstice.


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