(Second in a 3 part series)
This question lets me know what flavors you like coming from the realm of food. If someone says steak I ask them how they season it. I admit sometimes this question does not work well. I am relying on the idea that the person is drinking wine with their meal. A lot of the time people just want to drink wine on its own, without other flavors intruding onto the palette. So assuming that the person does eat food while drinking I have one of two options; I can complement the food or contrast the food. For example most people will take a spicy food and pair it with a wine that is on the sweeter and or fruity side in order to counteract the heat on their palette. If you use a high tannin wine you can create heat in your mouth that dries out your tongue.
This is not good because heat is actually an oil coming from the capsaicin family of plants. Without saliva that heat will cling to your palette and ruin a dining experience. Think of using a wine like the Praxis Viogner next time you eat spicy shrimp. It has fruity tones and a slight floral sweetness that will help soothe the palette.You can also use your wine to help supplement the flavors of the meal. If I have a customer who comes in and tells me their favorite meal is a steak with just salt and pepper, cooked closer to rare than medium; with a fresh salad with vinaigrette and roasted potatoes with olive oil and rosemary. A simple meal focusing on subtle flavors and the layering of flavors for the meal. Not big explosions of flavor. Taking an almost minimal approach to the large explosive flavor that big reds deal with well. This is where smooth and well constructed wines come into play. Sometimes I say that you can taste the wines bone structure.
Wines like the Atrea Old Soul Red. This is a zinfandel blend that is made to supplement the subtle flavors of a simple meal. This red has a light fruity front with a bit of spice on the back, but has a silky acidic finish that helps the spice slowly come off the palette. While the wine is helping the flavors of the food blend from one flavor to another, just as sipping on this wine would do if no food was involved at all.