The holiday season is full of opportunities to host parties and to entertain friends and family. One hurdle to overcome on your way to the host or hostess hall of fame is choosing what to serve — both food and beverage. In Pairing with the Masters: A Definitive Guide to Food & Wine, Certified Master Chef Ken Arnone and Master of Wine Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan introduce readers to a primer on wine — its terminology, as well as components and flavor characteristics. As part of that primer, they include tips on tasting for different characteristics of wine. Here is a short introduction to tasting for a wine’s aromas and flavors, with a side of how those characteristics impact food and wine pairings.

The test of a wine’s aromatic intensity lies in three areas: the chest, the chin, and the nose.
    1. The Chest: Can you smell any wine aromas when you hold the glass down at chest level? If you can, you’re holding a very aromatic wine that includes compounds so distinct that you can smell them at this distance.
    2. The Chin: If you couldn’t smell anything while holding your glass at your chest, but you can when you’re holding it at your chin, the wine in your glass is likely a more moderately aromatic wine. In very aromatic wines, you may have smelled aromas at chest level and smell different aromas now at the chin.
    3. The Nose: You may be able to tell where we’re going here. In order to detect aromas in a less aromatic wine, you’ll need to stick your nose into the glass. Again, doing so for a more aromatic wine will allow you to detect different aromas than you did at chest and chin level.

So what does aromatic intensity mean for food pairings? The authors indicate that intense aromas will likely mean intense flavors. As you might expect, wines with intense aromas may be a riskier match when pairing. Be wary of the wine intensity overpowering the food — or vice versa. However, a high-intensity pairing can pay off with delicious, bold flavors! (pp. 19-20)

Arnone, Ken and Simonetti-Bryan, Jennifer. 2013. Pairing with the Masters: A Definitive Guide to Food & Wine. 1st Ed. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar, Cengage Learning.