Wine and Coffee - a Pair-allel Universe

April 06, 2011


It’s been said that coffee is the new wine. The two favorite beverages have been seen together lately, leading some to suspect they might have a thing going on.  Not since the ancient Celts of Galicia mixed wine and coffee beans in their Queimada fire drink have we seen the pair so closely associated.


The relationship might be fueled somewhat by the phenomenal growth in coffee popularity and the “geeking” of coffee; that is, we are seeing the development of coffee as a science similar to enology, the study of wine. Strangely though, there doesn’t seem to be a name for coffee science; at least, after a Google and Wikipedia search, the only term for “coffee science” was…… “Coffee Science”.  An enologist studies wine; a coffee geek studies coffee. Truly a term must soon be coined for this emerging specialty.


Regardless of titles and names, there is an intersection of coffee lovers and wine lovers.  Many of us love both; some of us can get into lengthy discussions throughout the night discussing the varietals, best growing regions, qualities and characteristics of favorite wines/coffees, complex flavors of both, best pairings of wine or coffee with different foods, and so on. The rest of us would just like to enjoy drinking our favorites into the night. If we start with wine, we usually have to sooner or later end the binge with coffee. Thus we have the most basic of wine-coffee pairings.


Wine and coffee do seem like a natural pair because of these and other similarities. Beyond the term varietals, many more language similarities are used in discussions about both. We speak of blends vs single origin in grapes and coffee; there is wine tasting and coffee cupping in wine bars and/or coffee bars; gourmet meals are accompanied by gourmet wines and coffees; the palate has to be trained to fully appreciate both; you sniff both before tasting; both have varying degrees of depth and body; you can get lost in the experience of drinking either; both are big in Italy; and both go amazingly well with chocolate.


Recently a new trend is being developed to combine, or pair, wine with coffee throughout a meal, finding the right wine and the right coffee to go with the chosen foods. Because sniffing the coffee acts to cleanse the palate, by resetting the sense of smell, the taste buds are continually open to the other tastes, enriching the meal. The different flavors seem to pop much more if beans are sniffed between courses.


Whether this is true or not, it sounds like a fun experiment. Some great espresso, some nice dry red wine, and a good meal. I'm game. I'll soon be sniffin the beans to see if the flavors explode. Cheers!


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