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How often do you drink wine without food?

I worked at a wine store once. One of the managers there told me that in Italy most of the wine makers will be sure to always evaluate their wines with food while a smaller but still a significant number of wine makers in France will do the same.
I'm not saying that I've never taken a glass of wine without food. But if I'm having a glass around the house even then I'll toss some nuts or a piece of ham into my mouth while drinking.
How often do you drink wine without food: always, sometimes, never?

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  1. Tastings aside, I almost always drink wine in the context of meal, though sometimes that can mean without food (e.g. a sharp white as an aperitif, a glass of fine sweet wine -- a Sauternes, vin de paille, vin santo, port -- by itself as dessert).

    The problem with serving food at wine tastings is that the food can prejudice your palate. The problem with tasting wines in isolation from food is that their primary purpose -- to be consumed at table -- fades, prompting the taster to focus on other things, not to judge the wine on its food-matching potential. What percentage of Decanter, Wine Spec or Parker tasting notes talk about specific food pairings or even the wine's food-friendliness? Next to none, in my experience.

    4 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      I like how the magazine Wine & Spirits always has food pairing suggestions with every review.

      1. re: carswell

        So does "food-friendliness" necessarily mean that a wine is better enjoyed with food or that it simply can complement a meal and is also well suited for consumption without food? Conversely what is non-food-friendly wine IYHO?

        1. re: Chinon00

          Sorry if I wasn't clear, Chinon. I meant general food compatability as opposed to specific matches. Some wine reviewers (I'm mostly aware of ones who write in French) will recommend incredibly specific food pairings for a wine they're reviewing (e.g. for a Vouvray: shrimp in a coconut cream curry with cashews and mandarin sections on jasmine rice). While that can be interesting, it's not particularly useful. But I do find it revealing that what are probably the three most widely read wine review publications focus so little on wine's primary purpose: to accompany food. Is it any wonder they -- well, Parker and Wine Spec at least -- tend to rate gobby blockbusters highly and frown on wines that, to use Broadbent's expression, "appeal unthrustingly to the senses"?

          "Conversely what is non-food-friendly wine IYHO?"
          I find many gobby blockbusters -- highly extracted, superripe, fruit driven, heavily oaked, high alcohol wines -- hard to pair with anything except the most strongly flavoured grilled red meat. And even when drinking them with strongly flavoured grilled red meat, I usually find myself wishing for something more refreshing (which they never are and which every dry food wine should be), something like a Chinon. So, those would be my nomination for food-unfriendly wine.

        2. re: carswell

          Connoisseurs' Guide does (or, at least, they used to -- haven't seen an issue in a while).

        3. Often. We both work late and need to eat right when we get home. We don't really relax until after dinner, at which time we'll sit back and have a couple glasses of wine.

          1. I find wine to be a very refreshing drink, much lighter than a cocktail, so I love to sip without eating. I'm sure I'm an anomaly, but to me a great wine tastes best on its own; it doesn't need food. Of course, ther are some great wine/food pairings, but I don't think they're necessary for appreciation of the wine.

            1. Glass of champagne, often. Or a first glass of wine at home or at a friend's house, especially something a cold wine in warmer weather (like a rose).

              Aw shoot [confession coming], infrequently after dinner with friends, full bellies all, there's just drinkin' -- throwing back copius amounts of swell juice. We're always safe, though.

              The tradition of consuming wine only with food in Italy (and much of Europe) relates historically to the fact that food was scarce, and wine was considered part of the calories of a meal. It was "food." Field workers often had wine in some rustic portable storage vessel not only to quench thirst, but to add calories to provide the necessary energy to work.

              1 Reply
              1. re: maria lorraine

                I think wine was also safer to drink than water which might be contaminated with sewage...

              2. wine without food......often

                1. Fairly often. Oftentimes when I drink wine with a meal, regardless of alchohol content, it makes me very sleepy and very unlikely to do anything else but fall asleep with the kids. Dishes in sink be damned!

                  But if I wait until after dinner, after kids are in bed, I'll have a glass or two of wine in a quiet and relatively clean house. Bliss.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: cookiecutter

                    Yes! I look forward to reading on the sofa after my son (and husband) are in bed. Especially when the house is clean and ready for tomorrow and I have a glass of wine and a cat on my lap. You're also right that if I indulge too early I get sleepy and miss out on that half hour or so of bliss.

                    1. re: Glencora

                      That sounds very familiar! I love to do the same thing when my son (9 months) and daughter (3 years) are asleep and I'm winding down at the end of the day. Wine is great with food, but it's just as good alone sometimes.

                    2. re: cookiecutter

                      There is nothing wrong with that. Just be sure to rinse the red from the glass, and then clean it properly the next day!

                      It's like serving my wife Port. I know that everything will have to be in its place, as she's soon heading for bed and the dawn will reveal the dishes, wine glasses, etc. But, that is not all bad...


                    3. I'll drink wine without a meal but wine, or anything else really, without something, even bar peanuts to nosh on, rarely.

                      1. 2d maria lorraine re the glass of champagne; generally try to combine some type of food with the wine though

                        1. I have 5 kids, 2 houses, a full time job, a from-home-business,2 dogs and run a web site.

                          so the short answer is OFTEN!!!!

                          1. Well... I'm doing it now. BUT, I hear the oven "binging," so I will have food with the next glass!

                            Actually, I more often have wine, without food, than I do food, without wine - breakfast excepted. I have yet to find a delicate "breakfast" Chardonnay, however, I always have wine with "brunch."


                            1. So, if most of you are drinking wine without food (and for a variety of reasons) do you think that that might affect what one desires flavor-wise from wine? In other words, if the expectation is that wine is essentially a “beverage” to be appreciated singly might we as a community be more susceptible to gravitating toward fuller wine than if we saw it more as a food accompaniment?

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: Chinon00

                                Absolutely. I have CA Chards quite often, an usually without food, as I find more to be "sippers." OTOH, if I have food to pair with Chard, I'll nearly always grab for FR. Also, I seldom do Sangioves without an acidic food, i.e. tomatoe, etc., as I do not fully appreciate that varietal on it own, as much as with food. It is often about the wine/food pairing, but often just the wine, by itself.


                                1. re: Chinon00

                                  Two thoughts, Chinon00:
                                  Generally, food friendly wines are lively, lighter in concentration, have good acid and less alcohol. Quaffers are good food wines...and good drinking wines.
                                  Also, wine enjoyed without food generally has to have fewer flaws, or rough notes. Food smoothes over a variety of rough notes, and can even make minor flaws appear to assets.

                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    Could you expound upon these "flaws" or rough notes. How would you further describe them please?


                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                      Yeah, I don't know about the flaws comment...food tends to make a wine's flaws more apparent to me, not less. Big sweet alcoholic wines (the typical non-food friendly wine which may taste nice as a cocktail) tend to taste flawed when you try to eat with them.

                                      Good wine-food pairings often enhance the flavor of both the wine and the food as the two are alternated. The flaws in either element are brought into focus, since your palate is re-energized rather than numbed by repeated tasting of the same flavors.

                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                        Here's an example: let's say a wine is over-oaked or the oak needs more time to age and mellow but the bottle is already opened. You can taste the smokiness, the wood -- it hasn't resolved and become integrated yet. An easy way to make that oaky taste go away is to serve the wine with something grilled. The charring on a piece of meat or grilled vegetables meets with the char in the wine, and so the oakiness is no longer perceived as a flaw.

                                        Yes, food can also reveal some flaws in wine: salt in a dish can magnify the percentage of alcohol, so a hi-alc wine to begin with becomes too much. Or, a heavy, concentrated jammy wine can overpower the food, making the wine too big, too heavy, too much, with that food.

                                        And then, then there is the holy grail of food and wine pairing -- what you always hope to create -- that the food and wine together create a brand new *third* flavor sensation, one that didn't exist before you put the two together. Now that's glorious.

                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                          You mentioned flaws in wine to be:
                                          1) high alcohol
                                          2) over oaked
                                          3) over concentrated

                                          While you mentioned food friendly wines to have:
                                          1) less alcohol
                                          2) good acid
                                          3) lighter concentration

                                          These descriptions are nearly polar opposites. So I gather that you are saying that wines "without flaws" ARE "food friendly" wines (which I agree with completely).

                                          Now your point that flaws in wine can be mitigated or enhanced by food is another story. Jammy wine with significant sweet-vanilla-oak and low acid isn't easily conquered.

                                          And finally for me food and wine pairing is fundamentally about creating enough contrast where each can be appreciated (more).

                                          1. re: Chinon00

                                            To further clarify:

                                            Wines with flaws can be entirely food-friendly -- in fact, the wine becomes better with food and *should* be enjoyed with food.

                                            A "rustic" wine, another example, doesn't seem so rustic with food. With proper pairing -- with an acidic food, probably -- its rough edges are smoothed over and disappear.

                                            This is part of the magic of food-wine pairing -- to be able to make minor flaws in a wine dissipate or disappear.

                                            I mentioned that a small amount of unresolved oak is easily smoothed over with a grilled food with a small amount of charring.

                                            Just to be clear, when I say flaw, I don't mean a serious winemaking or growing error, or any sort of contamination. But minor flaws, particularly noticeable when the wine is tasted alone, are often undetectable when paired with the proper foods.

                                            Hi-alc, jammy wines often overwhelm or eclipse the food (so the food flavors are barely noticeable) or lack a sense of liquid refreshment -- a quality that is largely a result of body and acidity.

                                            Concentration and extraction are different still. Provided these wines have good acidity, they can pair well with certain intensely flavored foods.

                                            In my mind, a food-friendly wine always has acidity. A wine can't recover from a lack of it, and I'm not sure I'd want to drink that wine anyway.

                                            Obviously, wines without flaws are great alone or with food. That's just so easy.

                                            1. re: maria lorraine

                                              Maria Lorraine, are you using "flaws" in the tecnichal or layman sense of the word?

                                              1. re: zin1953

                                                Layman...but I used the word with an awareness pf the lay/trade difference, remembering your clarification of the word "jammy."

                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                  Thanks for the clarification.

                                                  I appreciate your knowledge and expertise, but there are flaws and there are flaws . . . ;^)

                                                  1. re: zin1953

                                                    You got that right! The nomenclature gets tricky...and I go back and forth (sometimes ineptly) between lay and trade definitions. I'll have to work that out...perhaps be quite deliberate in my word choice and usage sense. You're just so dang sharp, Zin, you raise the level of play for all of us around...

                                    2. re: Chinon00

                                      Yes. If I know I'm just going to want something to drink without food, I'll choose something from California. I find that in general, they are great sipped alone. If I want wine with food usually I choose something from France.

                                    3. I always drink wine with or without food!! I love to prepare a meal around wine or I pick my wine based on food because I think food and wine pairing is important! But, I am not against coming home and opening a bottle without any food.

                                      1. I would never do it. I don't usually drink beer without food either. I find it much more enjoyable to drink whisky or brandy when not eating anything. I think it's the acid in wine that makes food a must to complement it.

                                        Obviously many people drink wine without food, and I think that's a big reason that many if not most of today's commercially produced (as opposed to artisinal, perhaps?) wines taste like candy.

                                        1. I usually have wine with food but on occasion will have it to wind down. I work p/t in a retail shop. During Xmas season we keep an open bottle of wine in back at all times. After work we will occasionally get a bottle sit and talk. Of if a bunch of friends and I are gathered for dinner we will have wine before, during and after.

                                          ...Okay I admit it. I am a wino :-)

                                          1. I pretty much drink anything [beer, wine, cocktails, etc] with food quite a bit and very often without. But I'm in New Orleans, so you kind of have to.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. Often! :) After a hectic day, there's nothing like sitting down with a glass of wine...the ultimate attitude adjustment! And if it's been a REALLY bad day, an icy cold martini.

                                              1. I sometimes sip a glass of wine while cooking, without eating. Also, like mojoeater, sometimes after dinner is finished and cleaned up after, and it's time to relax. Truth about that one is that it's usually just taking the bottle along with us from the dinner table to the sitting area where we'll polish it off.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: xena

                                                  I often will sit down in the evening and read a book while polishing off the bottle of wine that we opened for dinner. However, I much prefer having wine with a meal. On occasion I will get together with my siblings with several bottles of wine and just shoot the breeze, but that doesn't happen often, and it is usually while we are waiting to sit down to a meal where there will be even more wine. :)

                                                2. I know that I'm in the minority here, but I usually drink wine alone.. or with a little chocolate after dinner. When I'm out to dinner or having a meal with friends or family, I'll drink wine with my meal, but I RARELY do that at home - I just drink water and have wine after dinner. Of course, it's lovely to pair wine with various cheeses or other appetizers - but just daily, I'm a weirdo :))

                                                  1. oops.. should have read that posts before replying.. not in the minority at all :) ha

                                                    1. I've observed that many of you have stated that for "sipping" you'll choose a California wine while for food pairing you'll choose a French one (or some other "Old World" wine). This falls in line with the "American" approach to wine; it being viewed as a centerpiece rather than as a partner IMHO. If this is true is this a bad thing? For me as long as Old World isn't completely replaced by New World it's perfectly ok.

                                                      8 Replies
                                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                                        A place for everything and everything in its place. I'm glad there are wines that stand well on their own, and I'm glad there are those that pair well with food. Having options is definitely a good thing.

                                                        1. re: mojoeater

                                                          Honestly, I don't drink New World style wines (although I understand and accept that others enjoy them). And for me either style (new or old) can "stand on their own".
                                                          New World as I see it though (with their fleshy fruit and oak) can be rather anonymous and cloud the particular tendon, bone, and marrow of a wine/ place. But again to each his own.

                                                          1. re: Chinon00

                                                            Ooooh, that's a good phrase:
                                                            "the particular tendon, bone, and marrow of a wine/ place."

                                                            And brings up in my mind the the tumult over terroir...perhaps a new thread
                                                            about that...

                                                            1. re: Chinon00

                                                              In general, I cannot argue. However, I've had many NW Pinot Noirs, Zinfandels and Cabs, that definitely told me where they were from. Don't paint it with too broad a brush. There are some wonderful exceptions out there.

                                                              That said, like you, I normally reach for OW wines, to pair with many, many foods.


                                                          2. re: Chinon00

                                                            Interesting. I've never quite thought about it that way. When I'm making a favorite dish or going to my most frequented restaurants, I do tend to head to the Old World. I think it's because many of the Old World wines are much more versatile than their NW counterparts. Vouvray, Chablis, Sancerre, Dolcetto, Jumilla, CDP are all great complements with a variety of foods. But if I'm drinking wine without food, I don't necessarily head to the NW stuff. A Dominus just doesnt feel right without beef or lamb. .

                                                            1. re: mengathon

                                                              I just went to a great New England-style seafood place, for oysters and lobster...Muscadet was a no-brainer, and the cheapest wine on the list. You will rarely go wrong with old world regions like the Loire to pair with food, and you will likely save money, too.

                                                              1. re: kenito799

                                                                I couldn't agree more. For me, muscadets, against all others, are the best value.

                                                            2. re: Chinon00

                                                              Maybe a bit of over-simplification, but in very general terms I'd agree. Many NW wines are heavy on the fruit-forward aspect. That can work with food, but a well balanced, good acid wine, is more often better, by my palate.


                                                            3. A reply to a old post . I like to have a glass before and with dinner . With and without food for me . Though at the moment I am having a Chianti Classico from Felsina and it's screaming for food . I have , bone marrow , arugula , and a little ravioli to fix . Any habits changed in seven years ?

                                                              1. Hi, Chinon:

                                                                To quote the great Roy Munson, "Why, are you buying?"