Ray Isle teaches to taste wine like a pro

Ray IsleEven the executive wine editor of the venerable Food & Wine Magazine, Ray Isle, was an absolute wine neophyte in early adulthood. “I grew up in a household in Houston where my dad drank beer and occasionally Bourbon. I didn’t have any experience with wine.” He has learned a lot over the years and passed along his wisdom to demystify wine in the session, “Become a Wine Expert in 45 Minutes” at the 2015 Austin Food & Wine Festival,

The first way to become a wine expert is to taste the wine rather than just drink it. The difference is that when you taste it, you actually think about what you smell and taste. Seems straightforward enough. To get the most out of tasting, Isle shared a few easy tips:

  • Swirling wine in your glass leaves a thin coating of wine inside the glass, which allows it to give off more aromas thereby making it easier to smell.
  • Now that you’ve swirled it, stick your nose in the glass and think about what it smells like.
  • Taste has everything to do with smell. When you slurp a wine and swish it around in your mouth, the vapors are able to better get into the nasal passages. That helps you taste a lot more of the flavors in the wine.

Pairing wine with food can be daunting, but not with Isle’s expert advice.

  • Match the weight of the wine with the weight of the food. Light foods go better with crisp, light wines. Big foods are better with big wines, regardless of whether they are red or white.
  • Any food that you would squeeze lemon onto, like fish, will go well with Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Avoid pairing sweet foods with highly acidic, tart wines.

According to Isle, the three worst food and wine pairings on earth are:

  1. Wedding cake and Champagne
  2. Oily fish and tannic red wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon
  3. Artichokes and any wine. “Artichokes are born thinking, ‘I’m going to find some wine and fuck it up.’”

Drink like a pro

Related 2015 Austin Food & Wine Festival Articles: 

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Published by

Matt McGinnis

As a marketing strategist for Pen & Tell Us, Matt McGinnis provides marketing, branding and communications counsel to food and beverage as well as other clients globally. He is also an avid beverage enthusiast, chronicling his interests as a Food & Drink contributing writer for CultureMap, as the Food & Drink columnist for Austin Man Magazine, and as a blogger for What Are You Drinking?. He is passionate about the wine industry having previously worked at a winery in Oregon and in wine sales. He has served as Guest Host of Sommelier Cinema at the Alamo Drafthouse, and is a Certified Sommelier in the Court of Master Sommeliers. His writing has been recognized as a Top 10 Food Blog by the Austin Chronicle in 2013 and 2014, with a 2011 Texas Social Media Award from the Austin American-Statesman.

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