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A Wine Column For Regular People
I know a few things about wine -- about three things, that is:

1. I like white better than red.
2. You're not supposed to chill red.
3. I forget the third.

Karen Page is an over-achieving, self-made woman from Michigan (like me), married to chef Andrew Dornenburg. Together, they're award-winning food writers (James Beard Award, Georges Duboeuf Award, and Gourmand World Cookbook Award), and a lot of fun, and the two of them just started a wine column in The Washington Post for people like me. Here's an excerpt from their first:

Wine isn't the first thing that might come to mind when you think about eggs. After all, it's bad form, not to mention a warning sign of alcoholism, to drink before noon. But since egg-based dishes, despite their breakfast connotations, play so well in other meals, especially this time of year, the question arises: What wine should you drink with them?

Joshua Wesson of the Best Cellars retail chain once told us memorably: "Wood and eggs are an awful combination. If you want to make someone suffer, serve them barrel-aged chardonnay with an egg salad sandwich!"

Of course, then we had to taste the combination of a particularly oaky chardonnay and egg salad for ourselves. It struck us as a cross between tinfoil and one of Harry Potter's more distasteful Every Flavor Beans. Our tongues still haven't forgiven us that research.

In general, savory egg dishes such as omelets, frittatas and quiches are well-matched by a dry champagne, especially blanc de blancs (that is, 100 percent chardonnay), or sparkling wine. Chardonnay -- unoaked or very lightly oaked, of course (as if you could forget) -- works, too.

A general rule of thumb for identifying an unoaked chardonnay: The lighter the color and the lower the price, the less likely it is to have spent time in expensive oak barrels. More important, check the label. While some indicate the wine is "unoaked" or "oak free" (as does the smooth-textured St. Supery Estate Oak Free Chardonnay), wineries sometimes have fun with their wording. For example, Trevor Jones christens its unoaked chardonnay "Virgin," and Four Vines describes its own as "Naked."

Posted by aalkon at April 1, 2007 9:27 AM


Amy, I think the third thing about wine is that you're supposed to serve white with seafood and chicken and red with red meat. Except when you're not. Or something. We have now reached the limit of *my* knowledge, or lack thereof, about wine, which is why I'm so excited to see this column...that, and the fact that I looooove champagne. Thank you!

(Also, you're not supposed to chill red...but the "room temperature" they're referring to is more like the 55-degrees-ish of a British wine cellar than the 70-plus-degrees-ish of a typical American home...)

Posted by: marion at April 1, 2007 8:44 AM

I was thinking of that chilling thing when I posted that. I knew there was some caveat!

And I drink white with everything. It's girly wine, and I'm a girly girl, what can I say?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 1, 2007 9:31 AM

El Inglés white wine tips:

Buy Rully in preference to Chablis. Buy St. Véran in preference to Pouilly-Fuissé, if you can find it. Being "over the next hill" from each other, these wines are almost identical but the lesser-known ones are a far better bargain. All four are likely to be made with chardonnay although aligoté is allowed in Chablis. A fine red is also made in Rully from pinot noir, but I guess you don't want to know that.

Oh, another tip. All those oaky California chards are an utter travesty and should be poured down the nearest drain if possible.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at April 1, 2007 4:39 PM

Wow, those are the same 3 things I know about wine.

Posted by: Darry at April 1, 2007 8:22 PM

Thanks for the tips, Stu!

I too pretty much just like white fact, if I had my druthers, I'd stick to sparkling wines. However, I do enjoy a good red wine with red meat - brings out the flavor best for me. As I understand it, though, those food-wine associations are becoming a lot less rigid...

Posted by: marion at April 1, 2007 8:39 PM

I was gonna suggest to you this morning Amy to get a De La Doucette Pouilly Fuisse, which when I preferred whites about 20 years ago was delicious, a real treat at a good price.

As for wine not going with eggs... Champagne brunch!

Posted by: eric at April 1, 2007 8:47 PM

You're quite right...Gregg got a bottle for us in France, and brought it back. I still have it. We should get it here, too. Thanks for the tips! (Eric and Stu.)

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 1, 2007 10:39 PM

Fran Lebowitz summed it up nicely when she observed that great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and inferior people talk about wine.

Posted by: Lena at April 2, 2007 11:11 AM

A little history lesson. In Henry VIII's Hampton Court, grows the oldest grape vine in Europe. It came from the New World (hey, that's US!!) All the grape vines in Europe had died from a blight. Grapes were imported from the New World to replace Europe's loss. Since nobody had gone very far West in the New World yet, I think we can assume that those grape vines came from what is now the Eastern U.S. So don't try to impress me with your snooty attitude about French wines. They are the descendants of American imports.

Posted by: areyouliterate at April 3, 2007 6:20 AM

> Grapes were imported....

Actually, entire vinestocks were imported, and grafted onto the phylloxera-ravaged euro-vines.

Many expert oeno-people teach that soil, geography, and careful fermentation are the most infuential factors in wine quality. The grape itself is of lesser importance. And that is why a bottle of Romanee Conti will cost you a small fortune, but a bottle of Charles Smith chard is worth $2. Same grape variety.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at April 3, 2007 8:51 AM

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