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DROP DEAD CULINARY, A COLUMN BY LAURA WILSON

US consumers have a growing love for wines

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 12:01 am

As a recovering alcoholic, I have not had any wine – or any spirits – for 15 years. Thank God. But I serve it to my guests, who deserve a nice wine with their lunch or dinner.

The truth is, wine making, importing, exporting and pairings have changed in the last 15 years, and I do not know the half of it. But I can wow you with just a few little facts. Wine consumption in the U.S. has surpassed France and Italy per capita. Wine sales in the U.S. have grown 7.7 percent in the last five years. International wines are having a resurgence after the thrill of California-dominated everything.

It is not just French and Italian wines either. According to my research, grape mixing has grown from just red, white and Champagne. Rose is having a big boom, as are the old Lambruscos, sparkling wines, prosecco and Beaujolais Noveau. I remember when people made fun of those fools drinking the Beaujolais Noveau. In France, B.N. comes to its peak in November and signs are posted at every cafe's entrance, celebrating this beloved wine.

The Cordon Bleu always had a party, sponsored by the school, when B.N. was ready, complete with appetizers and students in the wine program strutting about, looking very important. (We could have all the free wine we could drink, but we could not have Internet. C'est la vie!)

Many countries are producing some great wines: Portugal, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, the list goes on. It is an exciting time for you oenophiles. I cannot taste the wines I sell to sample them, so I rely on others' advice. I kind of know who to ask and who not to ask, after getting thumbs up or thumbs down from my customers and husband! But you lovers of the grape, you have many ways, interesting and serious, to discern a wine's characteristics.

Here are a few guidelines for serving food with wine. I can only explain the simplest of rules for a foundation, and then you can take it from here with a sommelier or your trusty wine merchant. You want to focus on these four things:

1. Body – Does it feel light or heavy on your tongue?

2. Intensity – Is it bold or delicate?

3. Flavor – What does it remind you of? Berries? Oak? Apples?

4. Characteristics – Dry or fruity? Is it acidic?

Pairing ideas:

1. Salty, snack types of food: sparkling wines to lighten the salt, such as Champagne or prosecco.

2. Spicy, salty, smoky foods: fruity, low-acid wines such as pinot grigio, pinot noir and riesling.

3. Rich dishes: full-bodied wines such as merlot, chardonnay or a cabernet.

4. Acidic dishes: high-acid wines such as sauvignon blanc or Chianti.

5. Desserts: sweet wine such as Sauternes, muscat or prosecco.

Wine has evolved and changed from white with chicken and fish and red with meat. If you are into it, it is really exciting to watch all the strides, new grape varieties and new nations coming into the game.

Laura Wilson, owner of La Dolce Vita in Roanoke, is a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef. Her column appears every other Tuesday in The News-Sentinel. Have a question for Laura? Submit it to clarson@news-sentinel .com or call 461-8284. We’ll pass on questions to Laura. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.