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Food & Dining // Vino Sense
Roberto Viernes

Red Wine Rules, Even In The Islands

Many people assume that because our Hawaii Regional Cuisine has plenty of seafood and many different spices, including those sweet and spicy – all the flavors that lend themselves more to white wine – our white wine consumption would be higher than red. It also is worth mentioning our relatively consistent balmy weather. Wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Chenin Blanc and some Chardonnay are obviously better suited to drinking in warm weather, as well as pairing with the predominant cuisine.

And yet we, as a total, drink more red wine than white.

In fact, red wine consumption is about 55 percent of all wine consumed in our state. That may not be news to anyone, but weather has nothing to do with it. It has a lot to do with the fact that many drinkers see red wine as being more healthy. Resveratrol and all the other antioxidant compounds in red wine have certainly found their way into our collective health consciousness.

I think we drink more red wine also because most drinkers see it as having “more” flavor. The lack of pigment creates the sense that the wine does not have a lot of flavor and is more watery. Therefore, in the mind of these same drinkers, red wines are presumably more flavorful. White wines get a bad rap for being wimpy and, yes, some are sweet.

I am no expert in the consumption of food in Hawaii, but I question the fact that just because our Hawaii Regional Cuisine is so famous for its seafood, do we as a state eat more seafood than land-raised meat? I can name some terrific steak houses as well as burger joints in which I would much rather have a red wine than a white. Every backyard barbecues I have attended have had something that came from an animal with four legs on top of the grill. And a red wine is de rigeur for me if meat is on the fire.

Wine and food pairings be damned, the most popular wine in the state is Cabernet Sauvignon.

Thankfully, the “wine police” are not going to stop you from drinking Cabernet with anything your palate desires. We are free to drink it with our opakapaka, Waimanalo green salad and our poke, if we so choose (not that I am recommending that). And there are so many other fine red wines to enjoy: Pinot Noir (my favorite), Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah, Grenache, Nebbiolo, etc.

Never say never, but I think red wine always will outpace white wine in consumption in Hawaii. It really is not about the weather or the cuisine. In the end, it is all about flavor.

Recommendations: 2010 Thomas George Estates Russian River Pinot Noir ($30) Wonderful aromatics lead to a really sultry, elegant and inviting world of flavor on palate. 2012 Coppola Chateau Red ($15) This blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre is just what the wine doctor ordered. It has plenty of black and red fruits spiced with cinnamon and the richness in the mouth goes way beyond its price point.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. Email rviernes@southernwine.com or follow him on Twitter @Pinotpusher.

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