The Best Of WineSnark 2017

Authentic 100% Top QualityEver since grade school I’ve felt motivated to express myself through writing and by the time I was ten years old I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up; a mortgage banker. That’s right, I figured I’d make a fortune writing books so that I could follow my true passion; reading amortization schedules.

January is when we reflect on the memorable moments of the past year and I can think of no better way to bid 2017 adieu (that’s French for good riddance) than with a glass of wine. On second thought, better make that a bottle of wine. A magnum should suffice.

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Thanksgiving With Umami, & The Rest Of The Family

Cooking chicken in the oven.Thanksgiving is that special time of year when wine and food writers give thanks for the overabundance of tired old clichés they get to recycle. I firmly believe that writers shouldn’t rehash old boring clichés. My job as a writer is to create new boring clichés.

The family will be gathering at my house this Thanksgiving which means an assortment of drunkards, criminals and racists will soon gorge themselves on my hard-earned bounty. No wait, that’s not my family, that’s congress.

I want to stress in no uncertain terms that my family are not drunkards, criminals and racists; they’re just drunkards.

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Pass The Toast – The Maillard Reaction in Wine Barrel Toasting.

Chapter Thirteen, Part Four.
Dog stealing food.Not long after Kikunae Ikeda discovered umami, a French physician by the name of Louis Maillard (pronounced my-ARD) described the chemical reaction that takes place when amino acids combined with sugar are exposed to heat. This transformation, once known simply as browning, is now called the Maillard reaction. (It is rumored the original name, browning, was named after Maillard’s cook, Dorothea Brown.)¹

The Maillard reaction is what turns toasted bread a golden brown and creates the seared crust on protein rich foods like steak or chicken. I think my neighbor was grilling some protein rich food last night because I heard him say, “Hey Carter. Get your dog out of Maillard!”

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The Salt Conundrum In Food & Wine Pairing.

Chapter Nine, Part Eight.
Spanish dinner cooked and served on the tableWhen pairing food with wine, sweet and sour tastes fall neatly into the cancellation category, bitter and piquant are subject to the cumulative effect, and umami is best grouped with neutral pairings, but what about salt? In moderation, salt doesn’t seem to have any conspicuous consequence, but how does excessive saltiness in food affect the taste of wine? To learn how (or if) salt fits into the A. cancellation, B. cumulative or C. neutral categories, I invited some friends over for some organoleptic research. They quickly declined until I told them that meant we were going to eat and drink wine.

Good old fashioned research is difficult and time consuming but in the name of conscientious reporting the WASTED team (Wine Snark Academy for Sensory Testing, Evaluation & Debauchery) created a salty feast and drank five bottles of wine because that’s the kind sacrifice we’re willing to make in the name of, umm … science, yeah that’s it, science.

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The Neutral Effect In Food and Wine Pairing.

Chapter Nine, Part Seven.
Swiss army veg. Penknife has a vegetable for every occasion.

The impact of the chemical reactions taking place in your mouth when you combine food and wine can be very obvious when you’re experiencing the cancellation effect or the cumulative effect, but there’s another interaction between food and wine that’s just as rewarding, but much less pronounced. I call this subtle interplay the neutral effect. I realize that describing a food and wine pairing as neutral sounds sort of, well … neutral, but that doesn’t mean these combinations are boring. Neutral pairings occur when similar flavors come together in a safe, reassuring place, sort of like Switzerland.

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