When I first began WU, I offered a case of wine I called “The First Aid Kit.” Basically, it had a wine for any food, occasion, or moment that might arise. I thought of it the other day when I got caught with my pants down… I didn’t have what we needed to make the meal better. Sadly, I didn’t heed my own advice and I was unprepared. I stopped selling these kits as a stock item because the sheets I would send along were logistically problematic, but I still on occasion help people “be prepared.”
The idea is simple: you have 6 whites and 6 reds (really I prefer 8 whites and 4 reds but customers like the idea of 6/6) with varying body weights, fruity vs earthy notes, and acid levels. This way if someone shows up at your house with anything from sushi to beef wellington, you are prepared.
Here's what you should have on hand to be fully prepared:
1. German Riesling > For sushi. The clean flavors and absence of oak echo the clean flavors of fresh fish. Try also with pork. It's a contrast in bodies, but it works.
2. Pinot Blanc or Pinot Auxerrois from Alsace or Gruner Veltliner from Austria > For Asian food. These will work with Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, etc. Also great with salads as the high acid levels can handle the dressing.
3. A sparkling wine, preferably Champagne > Do I really need to explain the need?
4. Sauvignon Blanc > You always need an aromatic that can echo aromatic foods like asparagus, goat cheese, or even curries. Also great with salads as it typically can handle the dressings.
5. Bordeaux Blanc > You want the aromatic and freshness yet a little more body than a Sauvignon Blanc alone. This is perfect with Mexican food as it works with guac and can work with light meats and fishes.
6. Chardonnay, either unoaked or balanced oak > Reach for this with fuller fishes like salmon and even chicken and pork.
1. Rosé > Tuna niçoise salad, picnics, apps… such a flexible wine.
2. Beaujolais > Works nicely with mushrooms and even some fishes. Can also handle soy sauce but be careful pairing with Asian meals.
3. Pinot Noir > Medium bodied and can work with salmon, chicken, pork, and earthier flavors.
4. Spanish Tempranillo or Rhône reds or Dolcetto > We all need something on hand to work with red sauces and weeknight meals. These are the workhorses of the red wine world.
5. California Zinfandel or a Syrah > Don’t we all BBQ?
6. Cabernet Sauvignon > The big daddy…with the big tannins, big body, big flavor. Pairs with big meat flavors.
Before you even ask… no, you don’t need to keep all those whites in your refrigerator. It only takes 15 minutes to ice a wine down.
I don’t know about you, but I am looking in my cellar tonight to make sure I am prepared.
Angela Camacho, a certified sommelier and author of a best selling wine tool, The Wine Wheel®, shares her obsession with wine and food.