The following is a part of a guest series authored by Lauren Gutshall on discovering new wines and beers.
Wine’s silky texture, its beautiful aromatics, and the way every grape varietal brings something distinct and special to the bottle makes it seductively enticing. Wine can be graceful and elegant. It can be flirtatious and fun. It can be warm and comforting. It’s easy to delight in wine’s versatility.
I love craft beer for many of the same reasons.
The more I drink and the more my palate expands, the more I recognize the striking likeness between certain types of beer and wine. It’s fun to compare Gewurztraminer and Saisons, Catawba and IPAs, Merlot and Porters.
I’ve worked at a small local winery for several years, and I’ve become pretty good at helping self-proclaimed “beer drinkers” find a wine that they actually like. I’ve also helped wine connoisseurs find beer they enjoy. I’ve gotten so accustomed to assisting those who are undecided that I’m notorious for choosing drinks for strangers in bars.
Once you understand their basic similarities, it’s really not that hard to transition between beer and wine. Both worlds are vast and exciting to explore, but I’m going to start with two common options that also happen to be among my favorites: dry Cabernet Sauvignon and hearty stouts.
The Cabernet Sauvignon grape is native to the Bordeaux region of France, and is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet franc to make rich Bordeaux wines. Despite its French origins, Cabernet is now grown all over the world; California has a wonderful reputation for producing good cabs. Full-bodied with a strong tannic structure, Cabernet Sauvignons tend to have rich notes of blackberry and plum.
Stouts are a dark, almost opaque, beer that has a thick body and a creamy richness. Stouts lack the bitterness that typically comes from hops. They are often brewed with coffee, chocolate, oatmeal, or oysters, which enhance stout’s natural malty flavor.
Both Cabernets and stouts have so much complexity and depth of flavor. Neither are afraid to show you exactly what they’ve got from the moment they hit your tongue. Their immediate boldness is matched by their underlying structure, so they finish as strongly as they start. In between they fill your whole mouth with a velvety richness and warmth.
You should never be afraid to chew on them; they actually like it. Cabs and stouts want to be noticed. The roasted malty flavor of stouts is not unlike the heavy oak notes in cabs. The firm tannins of Cabernets match the strong structure of stouts. And they pair well with the same foods: thick steaks, succulent short ribs, lamb chops, and chocolate. Stouts and Cabernets want to be consumed with foods that enhance their intensity.
I personally like to drink both cabs and stouts close to room temperature. It opens up their distinctive bouquets and enhances their bold flavors. Stouts and cabs both have a great earthiness that is drawn out when they are served either at room temperature or just slightly chilled.
Cabernets and stouts are great this time of year. They ward off that dying bite of winter and pair beautifully with that first steak off of the grill. And let’s not forget that St. Patrick’s Day gives us all an excuse to imbibe in the ultimate daily drinker stout: Guinness. Slainte!
Worth the Splurge:
“Sunday School” returns next week with another look at beer and wine. Have a question for Lauren? Submit it in the comments below or contact me.