Learning the basics of wine from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking
I first discovered Julia Child five or six years ago when I read her book My Life in France. At the time I was more interested in France than Julia or food. But through Julia’s enthusiasm for food I became interested and asked for Mastering the Art of French Cooking for Christmas. After reading the first few sections on kitchen equipment and proper knife usage I felt a little overwhelmed. However, her section on wines was fascinating to me. Wine pairing, serving and storage is a little intimating at first. Some people dedicate their entire lives to learning about wines, but Julia made sense of it for me. In today’s post, I want to hit the highlights of wine pairing with food, wine serving and wine storage that Julia outlines in her classic cookbook.
Wine and Food
“A robust wine overpowers the taste of a delicate dish, while a highly spiced dish will kill the flavor of a light wine. A dry wine tastes sour if drunk with a sweet dessert, and a red wine often takes on a fishy taste if served with fish.”
- The wine should complement the food and the food should accentuate the qualities of the wine.
- Pair the wine with the main course if you’re only serving one wine.
- Sweet wines pair well with light dishes, such as dessert mousses and cakes.
- Light, dry white wines pair well with seafood, cold meats and egg dishes.
- Full-bodied, dry white wines pair well with fish, poultry and veal.
- Rosés pair well with cold meats, eggs and pork.
- Light-bodied red wines pair well with roast chicken, turkey, pork or lamb, beef stew, steak, hamburgers and soft cheeses.
- Full-bodied red wines pair well with strong-flavored meats, such as duck, goose or meats marinated in red wine.
- Wine will improve its taste if allowed to rest for several days before it is drunk.
- Never warm wine artificially.
- Red wines are served at normal room temperature.
- White wines, champagnes and rosés are served chilled.
“The bigger the wine, the bigger the glass. A good all-purpose glass is tulip-shaped and holds ¾ to 1 cup. It should be filled to just below the halfway mark.”
- Wine has a lifecycle of youth, maturity, old age and death.
- If wine is left standing upright the cork will dry out and allow air into the bottle and spoil the wine.
- Shaking, jostling, extreme heat and cold will damage the wine.
“If [wine] is laid down to grow into maturity, it should rest on its side in a dark, well-ventilated place at a temperature of around 50 degrees F.”
I’m certainly not a sommelier or even a wine connoisseur, but Julia Child’s brief section on wines in her classic cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking provided me with at least a basic knowledge of wine pairing, serving and storage. That’s the beauty of Julia Child; she could always take something complex and intimidating and make it accessible for the average man and woman. If you have Mastering on an old, dusty bookshelf somewhere, I encourage you to pull it down and revisit Julia’s sage wisdom before your next get-together, dinner party or holiday meal.
Joie de vivre and good wine,