This month we explore the joys of BYOB. BYOB is most commonly meant to stand for “bring your own bottle”. It is generally recognized that the more modern usage of the term was initiated by drinkers in the 1950s, but in the early 19th century, the term BYOB was used in society slang to mean “bring your own basket”, with reference to group picnics. A basket would of course often include alcoholic beverages, but this is not believed to have been the primary focus of the term. Later, “BYO” (Bring Your Own) emerged to allow guests to bring their own bottle or bottles of wine.
Here on the Jersey Shore Bring Your Own Bottle restaurants represent an incredible windfall to the conscientious diner. Many are exceptionally fine dining establishments to which you may tote along an exceptional vintage of your own choosing and match it up with superior cuisine. This gives us the best of both worlds fine dining and favorite perfectly matched wines.
If you are a relative newcomer to the world of wine, a visit to a BYOB restaurant could seem to you to be a major inconvenience. Not only does it necessitate a trip to your local wine shop, and the time and trouble spent scouring the shelves for what you hope is an appropriate vintage; it also represents the mental anguish of wondering whether your selection(s) will ultimately be considered beneath contempt by some restaurant lackey. But as you become more adept at deciphering oenological esoterica and, perhaps, even begin to lay away a few bottles in that unused hall closet or cellar, your fears will undoubtedly dissipate. In the meantime, console yourself with the fact that you are saving your hard earned dollars by frequenting a bring your own restaurant.
There is only one rule of thumb to consider: Choose a wine that will be compliment both your food and your surroundings. Fine restaurants call for equally fine wines or, more simply put just bring a good wine.
The rules for wine pairing have relaxed a bit, but the fact remains that certain flavors of food and wine mix better together than others. When pairing food and wine, the goal is synergy and balance. While it isn’t unheard of to have a white wine with meat or a red wine with fish or seafood, you don’t want to serve a very strong tasting wine with a delicate entree (think Cabernet Sauvignon with sole), or the other way around. The wine and the food should complement each other, not battle against each other. One way to decide is to remember what some experts recommend, “Simple wines with complex foods…complex wines with simple foods.”
When in doubt about your menu choices, bring two bottles, one white and one red. This is particularly important when you’re not quite sure where your taste buds may lead, or when you’re dining at an exceptionally fine restaurant. When you tote along two bottles you are not only increasing the spectrum of gastronomic possibilities, you are also serving notice that you take both food and wine seriously. Like it or not, whether purchased on site or ferried across the threshold, wine makes a statement, a statement that restauranteurs are quick to pick up.
I often bring two of the bottle I plan on drinking with my meal. No, not because I plan on drinking more, but in case the first bottle opened is tainted in some way, corked, oxidized or displays some other fault. There’s nothing worse than having only one bottle and discovering it’s gone off. Of course a stelvin enclosure (screw cap) or zork top will greatly decrease the odds of a bad bottle. (Yes, good quality wines can be found in these easier to open bottles) .
BYO is not only affordable, it’s also a guarantee that you’ll get to drink your very favorite wine or beer, no matter where you are.
Above all don’t stress over the perfect food and wine pairing. The best pairing is good food, good wine and good company. Friends and loved ones are the most important ingredients—we’ll drink to that!
Simple Rules for Pairing wines with your meal
- Wine drunk by itself tastes different than wine with food, because wine acts on food similar to the way a spice does. Acids, tannins and sugars in the wine interact with the food to provide different taste sensations.
- A good match will bring out the nuances and enhance the flavors and unique characteristics of both the food and the wine. Remember that if you are having more than one wine at a meal, it’s customary to serve lighter wines before full-bodied ones. Dry wines should be served before sweet wines unless a sweet flavored dish is served early in the meal. In that case, match the sweet dish with a similarly sweet wine. Lower alcohol wines should be served before higher alcohol wines.
- Balance flavor intensity. Pair light-bodied wines with lighter food and fuller-bodied wines with heartier, more flavorful, richer and fattier dishes.
- Consider how the food is prepared. Delicately flavored foods — poached or steamed — pair best with delicate wines. It’s easier to pair wines with more flavorfully prepared food — braised, grilled, roasted or sautéed. Pair the wine with the sauce, seasoning or dominant flavor of the dish.
- Match flavors. An earthy Pinot Noir goes well with mushroom soup and the grapefruit/citrus taste of Sauvignon Blancs goes with fish for the same reasons that lemon does.
- Balance sweetness. But, beware of pairing a wine with food that is sweeter than the wine, although I do occasionally like dark chocolate with Cabernet Sauvignon. I also like chocolate with a beautiful single malt. Come to think of it, I like chocolate with just about anything.
- Consider pairing opposites. Very hot or spicy foods — some Thai dishes, or hot curries for example — often work best with sweet desert wines like sauternes, or reislings or torrontes from argentina. Opposing flavors can play off each other, creating new flavor sensations and cleansing the palate.
- Match by geographic location. Regional foods and wines such as French fare with French wine, Spanish food with Spanish wine, having developed together over time, often have a natural affinity for one another.
- Adjust food flavor to better pair with the wine. Sweetness in a dish will increase the awareness of bitterness and astringency in wine, making it appear drier, stronger and less fruity. High amounts of acidity in food will decrease awareness of sourness in wine and making it taste richer and mellower — sweet wine will taste sweeter. Bitter flavors in food increase the perception of bitter, tannic elements in wine. Sourness and salt in food suppress bitter taste in wine. Salt in food can tone down the bitterness and astringency of wine and may make sweet wines taste sweeter.
- If a dish is acidic — citrus or vinegar — then an acidic wine would be appropriate, although a lightly acidic dish can be balanced with a lightly sweet wine. Acidic white wines are Sauvignon Blanc and most sparkling wines. Acidity in wine cuts saltiness, so sparkling wines generally pair with salty foods better than less tart wines such as most red wines.
- Tannins from the skins and sometimes stems of grapes and the oak barrels used for aging cause the bitter or astringent aftertaste in some red wines. Tannins mellow with age and are one of the components that add complexity to a mature wine. Foods with a prominent salty, sour or bitter taste will make a wine seem sweeter and less tannic. Bitter red wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel and Syrah.
- Alcohol gives wine a sense of body and weight, the higher the alcohol, the more full-bodied the wine. Rich meat, fish or chicken dishes that include cream are well suited to full-bodied wines (13–15 percent alcohol) whereas light, simply prepared and flavored dishes pair better with low alcohol wines (7–10 percent).