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Strasburg Rail Road’s Wine Guide: Terminology, Pairings, & Definitions You Should Know

a man and a woman standing in front of a table

Want to attend a wine event but afraid your wine expertise isn’t up to snuff? Fear not, Strasburg Rail Road is here to help with some historical facts, wine terminology, and delicious pairing ideas to impress your loved ones. After you’ve done your homework, we’ll help you put your new knowledge to good use on our relaxing Wine & Cheese Train.

History of Pennsylvania Wine

In 1850 Pennsylvania had the third-largest winery production in the U.S. with a winery available in every county. Once Prohibition hit, Pennsylvania’s wine industry was destroyed. It wasn’t until 1968 when the Pennsylvania Limited Winery Act was passed that the state could begin to make and sell wine again. In the 70s, only 12 wineries had been established. Today, there are more than 200.

No matter where you are in the state today, you are less than one hour away from at least one winery. Pennsylvania is the nation’s fifth-largest grape-growing state, providing lots of opportunities for wine tasting and tours.

Wine Terminology

When discussing wine, it’s important to know the history of where the wine comes from, as well as the correct terminology. Learning the right lingo can distinguish a novice from an expert, so we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite wine terms that everyone should know.

Body – a term used to describe the weight and fullness of wine

Dry – opposite of sweet, a wine that has no residual sugar

Tannin – naturally occurring compounds in wine that create a bitter and drying sensation

Complex – a wine with many odors, flavors, and nuances

Varietal – a wine named after the grape that was used to produce it

Regional – a wine named after the region in which it was produced (ex: Champagne, France)

Blend – a wine made from more than one grape variety

Aroma – the smell of wine

Aeration – the intentional addition of oxygen to wine to soften it (Note: not all wines should be aerated)

Finish – lingering textures and flavors of wine

Wine & Cheese Pairing

Now that you’ve got some fun terminology to put to use, it’s time to pair that delicious wine with some cheese. Many experts tend to recommend only white wine with cheese, but the right light-bodied red wine can make a good pairing as well.

Because wine is an astringent and cheese is a fat, they sit on the opposite ends of the taste spectrum and create a unique sensation when paired together. Here are a few suggestions for your wine and cheese pairings, but keep in mind that everyone’s tastes are different. There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy your wine and cheese.

When drinking a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, a fairly robust wine, it is best to pair it with cheeses like Blue cheese, Goat cheese, and Gorgonzola. These cheeses tend to have a melt-in-your-mouth feel to them.

Chardonnay is a top-selling varietal wine with a buttery taste. It pairs best with Parmesan, Gruyere and Provolone cheeses.

Pinot Grigio is Italy’s most popular white wine with flavors that range from melon to pear. Enjoy this wine with some aged Cheddar, Asiago, and Mozzarella cheeses.

If you prefer a dry, red wine, Pinot Noir pairs nicely with Brie, Feta and Swiss. This lighter-bodied wine is one of the most versatile food wines in the world.

Last but not least, Riesling, a wine that can be enjoyed in both dry and sweet variations is divine when matched with Colby, Gouda, and Monterey Jack.

Whether you are hosting your own wine and cheese shindig or joining us on our next Wine & Cheese Train, we hope our guide has been helpful. There is so much to learn when it comes to the history and flavors of wine; we’ve only just skimmed the surface. We hope this information springs to mind the next time you’re enjoying a glass or two!