Tired of the same old drink? Why not give wine a swirl?

By Al Edenloff

Wine is for snobs. Or for the well-to-do.

It’s that kind of thinking that causes some people to miss out on a whole new world of delicious tastes and flavorful fun.

Sipping wine doesn’t have to be hoity-toity or budget busting. It can be casual and relaxed – adding a splash of fun to a special date night or a good excuse for a wine-tasting get-together with family and friends.

Don’t worry about undertaking exhaustive research to come up with that perfect combination of food and wine. Winging it is half the fun!

If you’ve never thought about giving wine a swirl, here are three simple things to try:

A zing of zin

Buy a bottle of zinfandel from California (not white zinfandel but the deep dark red stuff). Buy some olives (not the ones that come in a can but the ones from the olive bars found in most grocery stores). Select kalamata olives (stuffed with cheese), jumbo Sicilian green olives, spicy-seasoned olives – get as adventurous as you’d like.

Also, pick up some smoked almonds and a hunk or two of good quality cheese like Asiago, a well-aged Gouda, Pecorino or Gruyre. Now, try an olive, an almond or a bite of cheese and follow it with a sip of zin. The flavors should all come together in a delectable harmony of smokiness, salty-sweetness and deep nutty flavors that linger long after the sip.

Or not. But that’s half the fun, trying to find out which olive, which cheese, which nut works the best with what you’re sipping.

A classic cabernet connection

This experience has been known to cause even die-hard beer drinkers to stow away their suds, at least for supper. Buy a bottle of cabernet sauvignon (you don’t have to spend a fortune but you should avoid the really cheap stuff). Grill a thick T-bone, ribeye or sirloin steak to medium rare. Don’t mess with putting anything on it except for a shake or two of salt and pepper. After letting the steak rest a bit, savor a bite with a sip of cab.

Don’t expect angels to start singing but it can be pretty close. The fat and flavor of the meat is picked up and elevated to a new dimension by the bold cab. You can taste the fruit, berries and other elements of the wine, along with the heightened smoky, meaty flavors of the steak. By itself, the cab may be too dry for some palettes but with the steak it’s softer, juicier, lingering. Perfection.

A chardonnay combo

To get your taste buds dancing with a white wine, try th­is: Pick up a bottle of chardonnay and a small block of Havarti cheese. Cut an unpeeled pear into wedges and put a slice of cheese on top of one. Pop it in your mouth and take a sip of chard. Wow! The creaminess of the cheese rockets to a new level as it mingles with the sweet, buttery tones of the wine. Meanwhile, the fresh crispness of the pear is accented by the chardonnay’s bright fruitiness. It all works.

So there you have it. A few simple ideas to get you started on exploring the wonderful world of wines. Cheers!

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