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February 7, 2012

Finding the perfect wine for my palate

WASHINGTON — Recently I saw some Oliver wines on sale at a local business, so I grabbed the Soft Rosé, which I’d been wanting to try because I discovered it’s made with catawba grapes, my favorite. I think I paid $5.49 or so for a bottle, and it was very good.

Although I must add the disclaimer that I don’t have a very refined palate, it most certainly beats Boone’s Farm like a drum!

I once had a friend who probably would turn up his nose at such a pedestrian wine choice. He was quite the wine snob, following all the old rules with regard to which ones to chill and not to chill, which wines to serve with what foods, and so on.

For example, white wines traditionally would be chilled for two hours and red wines served at room temperature. Champagne and sparkling wines would be chilled for three hours. The old rules also stated that red wines should be served with red meat, and white wines with fish and poultry.

Today, though, there are many ethnic foods and spice combinations, as well as a wide range of wines that more or less make the old rules moot.

Experimentation and personal choice have become more acceptable. Few people are the sticklers my old friend is and undoubtedly wouldn’t blink at my red wine and raspberry Pop-Tart pairing, which years ago stopped my friend’s breathing. Somehow he didn’t think red wine and red toaster pastry were a winning combination. (Hey, red with red, right?!)

Typically I don’t like red wines, but occasionally I’ll try something different. I much prefer a white wine or blush and like to sip it with cheese on occasion. Pretzel bread and smoked gouda are a favorite snack of mine to have with it.

Recently, my daughter, Carrie; her boyfriend, Ryan; and I had the Oliver Soft Rosé with flatbread crackers, wheat toast crackers and a feta cheese spread that was wonderful. That’s about the extent of my personal experience since I’m not a big drinker.

However, I’ve read that vinegar, onions, garlic, fishy hors d’oeuvres, spices and mustards are not recommended flavors to pair with wines.

I’m a little picky about mixing flavor sensations and prefer to drink water with my meals. I’ve always thought wine leaves too strong a flavor in the mouth to have with meals, and I find it confusing to know what foods to pair with which wines. Perhaps some experimentation is in order.

A “soft” wine is mellow and usually low in acid and tannin. I would describe Oliver’s Soft Rosé as “balanced,” having all natural elements in harmony — at least, my tastebuds thought so. It was “clean,” or well-constituted with no offensive smell or taste, and had a pleasant “finish,” which is the taste a wine leaves at the end. Finish typically is described as either pleasant or unpleasant.

If wine leaves a rich, lasting flavor, it’s said to have “depth.” A sign of quality is when the wine has a “long” finish, leaving a persistent flavor that lingers. A wine that’s “short” leaves no flavor in the mouth after the initial taste.

If a wine tastes “bitter,” it’s a sign that something went wrong during the winemaking process. Perhaps too many stems were crushed or there was metal contamination. A “flinty” wine has a steely flavor and odor.

A wine that makes your mouth pucker likely has too much tannin, a compound that comes from the grape skins and stems. Since the color in red wines comes from the skins, they tend to have more tannin than white wines. The longer a “tannic” wine is aged, the more mellow it becomes. Tannic wines may described as “tart.”

A wine that’s too sweet and has too little acidity is defined as “cloying.” An “earthy” wine reflects the distinctive taste that some soils lend to wines made from their grapes.

If you’re like me and find all these flavor options confusing, stop by one of Indiana’s many wineries and take advantage of the tasting room.

When tasting wines — at home or in a winery tasting room — try the dry ones before the sweet ones and white wines before red wines. It’s also recommended to drink young wines before the older ones.

And feel free to ask questions. I have yet to visit a winery or tasting room where the workers weren’t happy to answer questions and describe their products. Just don’t forget your designated driver if you plan to taste-test very much!



After Andrea’s last wine column, her mom said “Thanks for making us sound like winos!” Be assured, they’re not! But it’s nice to enjoy a glass of wine before bed or on a special occasion. Andrea can be reached at

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