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Jakarta Post

Five fail-safe wines for almost every occasion

  • Kindra Cooper

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, August 30, 2013   /  02:04 pm

Wine as a social lubricant and a mood-creating beverage can make or break a meal or special celebration. The following are some tips for matching the right libations to five very different types of occasion.

Pairing with Indonesian food

Rich, full-bodied wines can best neutralize spicy foods or balance the creaminess of coconut milk, a common ingredient in Indonesian dishes, says Ebby Reyhani, the corporate wine ambassador at VIN+ wine bar. He cites Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent, two varieties of Beaujolais Crus, as examples. Made from the Gamay grape, Beaujolais Crus is the highest Beaujolais classification and as such its product is darker in color, longer-lived and heartier.

'€œIn both cases '€“ because it doesn'€™t have too much tannin, it'€™s a good fruit, it'€™s not too sweet, not too dry '€“ it'€™s a very safe bet,'€ assures Reyhani, referring to the bitter-tasting polyphenol found in the immature fruit, leaves and bark of plants. Conversely, tannin-concentrated wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Montepulciano, only fan the flames where pepper is concerned. '€œIt'€™s a bit like drinking Coca Cola and biting on a chili,'€ he warns.

Wedding celebrations, formal events

A recurring misassumption is that ritzy events require high-priced wines. Even more important is finding one that spans guests'€™ disparate tastes, says Reyhani. '€œIf you go for very specific regions which have very unique, powerful characteristics, one person might love it, one person might hate it. If you go for something that'€™s neither too fruity, neither too spicy, neither too tannic [nor] too acidic then it might not be the best wine in the world for somebody but you can please a whole crowd.'€

Fortunately, these crowd-pleasing vintages also tend to be mid-range pricewise, says Reyhani. '€œMargaret River Cabernet Sauvignons are great; it'€™s a slightly warmer climate than Bordeaux so you get riper fruits but you also get a little bit of tannin in there.'€

He also recommends the
Côtes du Rhône wines made
from Grenache grapes, one of the mostly widel planted grape varieties in the world. '€œThat gives you white wine that doesn'€™t have too much acidity [and which] has a nice roundness to it.'€ Marlborough Sauvignon blancs, he adds, are the most reliably '€œmiddle ground'€ wines. '€œThey'€™re crispy, they'€™re aromatic, they'€™re not too expensive as well but they'€™re not the cheapest wines, either.'€

A semi-casual celebration

Sparkling wine adds literal and metaphorical fizz to any semi-swanky get-together, such as
a wedding anniversary or birthday celebration. '€œAustralia does
some really, really good sparkling wines these days '€“ Argentina do, Chile do. But you can'€™t beat champagne. Champagne is by far the best for any celebration,'€ Reyhani says. Try Argentine Pinot noir and Australian Shiraz or Chardonnay.

A romantic dinner

When striving to impress, people tend to fall back on status-symbol varieties, says Reyhani. '€œThe great thing about a romantic dinner for me is you always go French,'€ he chuckles. Naturally, these premium wines are pricier for being mainstays. '€œYou could go for a nice vintage Château Margaux or Château Haut-Brion or a Romanée Conti [...] If you go for those iconic wines, it impresses, it looks good and it shows that you'€™re making the effort.'€

The wallet-friendly alternative is, again, champagne, says Nicholas Delion, export manager for the Asia Pacific region at Champagne Taittinger. '€œIf you talk to Mr. Taittinger, he would say champagne is half a premium wine and half a symbol. And
if you disregard one of the two aspects, then you'€™re wasting your money in one way. The idea is to transform a normal moment
into a special moment. That'€™s something that champagne does which not many other wines do,'€ Delion says.

The uninitiated

Novice drinkers should begin by building on established preferences, says Reyhani. '€œI start by asking them what they drink normally, because say, for example, if people drink iced tea without sugar or iced tea with lots of sugar then there'€™s a good chance that they'€™re going to have different tastes.'€ The less sugar-inclined may gravitate toward drier (less sweet) wines with higher tannin levels, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.

The sweet tooth, meanwhile, may appreciate a dessert wine such as the fruity, floral-scented Moscato d'€™Asti, German Auslese Riesling or Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise. '€œThe best thing to do is not to get too expensive [...] If you go straight to the top end, the more expensive wines are harder to drink, harder to understand
and it can scare people away,'€ warns Reyhani.