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There’s a drink for that: Pairings for TV watching and more

By Deirdre Parker Smith

deirdre.smith@salisburypost.com

It’s really too hot to fix anything more than a tomato sandwich or throw a roast in the slow cooker.

That means there’s more time to look at two recent books on beer and wine. Something about the oppressive heat does call for an icy cold beer.

With a cover and illustrations designed to appeal to woman, “This Calls for a Drink: The Best Wines & Beers to Pair with Every Situation,” by Diane McMartin is a great place to start experimenting.

She is a sommelier, trained to know all things about wine and she knows all about beer, too.

In this book, she’s having a lot of fun She’s not kowtowing to the wine snobs, or the people who buy the cheapest thing at the store. Anyone, male or female, who sips … er, dips into this book will learn something.

She’s opinionated and swears quite a bit in her lessons, so be forewarned. But her knowledge is good and she’s not going to send you on a wild goose chase to find something.

What’s particularly fun here are her pairings, the ones for binge watching, for finding your first gray hair and for reading.

She recommends booze for a breakup, refining it by who dumped whom, for having an awards-night party, for buying appropriate gifts.

She starts out with buying tips: Ask questions. Find an expert. She continues with reading wine labels, which, if the wine is from Europe, can be a little intimidating. If you’re used to Barefoot’s ultra simple labels, just Merlot or Pinto Grigio, deciphering the information on a French, German or Italian wine label may scare you away.

McMartin demystifies it with clear explanations and information. If you don’t care about that stuff, just skip it and move on. This is a book that’s easy to dip into when the occasion arises.

There’s a section on glasses that’s pretty interesting, too. Many wine drinkers have seen the expensive Riedel glasses, or have been lucky enough to drink from one. The glasses do enhance the flavor of the wine, but they are an investment, and they are quite fragile. If you want to build an impressive collection, go for it, but if you’d rather have something good and more affordable, she suggests Schotts Zweisel as a great brand in a variety of styes and shapes. Stick to the basics, she writes. Get a glass you can get your nose into so you can appreciate the aromas of the wine and enjoy.

For beer glasses, she likes a tulip-shaped glass, a pilsner glass and a good old imperial pint.

And she gives tips on opening, decanting and storing wine and beer.

Now you’ve reached the good part — the pairings.

The first entry is “Dating, Mating, Rejection, and Heartbreak.” For example, “When you’ve been chucked for someone else, you need something cheering. Something a little bit sweet, like Moscato d’Asti, is just the ticket.” Then she produces a sidebar that describes where the wine comes from and what to expect, as well as some brands to try.

For a family reunion, McMartin recommends beer — an American amber ale, perhaps, if the reunion is in the fall. Her picks: New Belgium Fat Tire and Troegs Nugget Nectar, but beware the second one, it’s 7.9 percent alcohol.

For a girls night of catching-up, try a red called Grignolino, from Italy, which has aromas of red cherries, roses, strawberries and something spicy.

If you have you impulsively decided today will be the day to fold your laundry, organize your shoes and wash the windows, go with a good old fashioned American IPA, which will also go well with the snack you sneak while sorting.

If you’re getting ready for your 20th class reunion, where “everyone has gotten boring,” spice things up with a shandy. What’s a shandy? Beer and lemonade. McMartin likes Long Trail Summer Ale and Newman’s Own lemonade, about one-third lemonade to two-thirds beer. She also takes the opportunity to explain a Radler, which is beer and citrusy soda, or a diesel, which is beer and a cola.

There’s a chapter of “Thwarted Childhood Fantasies,” with suggestions for those of us who dreamed of being an astronaut or a famous novelist.

The Holidays section includes a plug for seasonal ales at Thanksgiving, pumpkin included. With your turkey, look for an off-dry Riesling from Germany.

And here’s a chapter that’s appropriate for this season of storms, “Stuck Inside: Hurricanes, Tornadoes and other Climate Change Induced Severe Weather.”

First of all, you must have your snacks lined up. McMartin is addicted to cheddar & sour cream Ruffles, which taste great with champagne. For Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tarts, a white port is the way to go. Port is a fortified wine that is usually made with red grapes, but white port uses white grapes, so it’s lighter in body and color. For pretzel combos, Chianti is the way to go. And for barbecue-flavored Fritos, drink a Rauchbier, a German beer style, and Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen from Brauerei Heller-Trum. You might have to plan  ahead to find something like that.

For adults at the back-to-school party, dry and off-dry hard ciders are crisp and refreshing.

McMartin also offers tips on what to drink while binge-watching old episodes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” or other weird and wonderful shows.

What you’re reading determines what you’ll be drinking, so for a classic like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” try a white wine from France, such as Domaine de Montbourgeau L’Etoile Vin Jaune, a chardonnay without all the sweetness.

And if you are lucky enough to go tubing down one of North Carolina’s lovely rivers, be sure to bring the Kolsch beer. McMartin suggests Schlafly, Gaffel or Blue Mountain Brewery Kolsch 151.

And there’s more, plenty more advice, off the cuff remarks, snide observations, silly situations. Her little boxes of information are helpful, and she has some information about sources for her recommendations.

The book is published by Workman and costs just $14.95.

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