This section is from the book "The American Woman's Cook Book", by Ruth Berolzheimer. Also available from Amazon: The Domestic Arts Edition of the American Woman's Cook Book.
Wine seasons fine food and kindles delight in dining adventures. Until we have ample time in which to train our palates, the nice distinctions between the great vintages must remain an occult problem, but our education and our pleasure can be increased immediately by a somewhat cursory survey of the accepted laws for the serving of wine and for its use in cookery.
The fermented juice of grapes is the base of all wines. Except for the so-called fortified wines, there are two main headings for imported and domestics alike - red and white. The white types vary from a pale beige to a deep amber; the red ones show an even greater color variation. The latter should grow slightly light with age. If a red wine does not do so, it has been toned up in its youth. White wines, on the contrary, gain body and grow more golden with the lapse of years.
This passage of time affects wine as it does humans, for wine is a living thing. It becomes sick; it recovers; it is affected by the seasons, by heat and cold; it grows old; it dies - all this even after it has been bottled.
The term "good year" (we quote a chart on the opposite page for important French wines) merely means that the balance of sun and moisture of that particular year was propitious to superlative wine. In general, it is wiser to buy a fair wine of a good year than a famous brand of a poor year.
For daily use, still wines are suggested. If you are serving a single wine, serve a white wine when your main dish is a fish or a light type of meat; to accompany beef, lamb, and the like, a red wine is advised. Claret is the customary red wine for frequent service.
Claret at its best comes from the Bordeaux district of France. In that district the vineyards are large enough to permit the owners to carry out all the processes of growing, pressing, bottling and storing on their own land. Hence their brand names - usually the names of their chateaux - are guarantees of uniform quality. Red Bordeaux are lighter than most other red wines.
White Bordeaux come from the same district and are, generally speaking, sweet wines. Sauternes and Graves are two famed classifications.
Burgundies come from a very small district extending southward from Dijon for some thirty-five miles. The upper portion produces the great red Burgundies; the southern portion supplies lighter kinds and the great white Burgundies. Bottling at the property is infrequent, for the holdings of a proprietor are small and scattered. As a result Burgundies are commonly sold under the name of a township, and your greatest protection in their purchase is the reputation of the purveyor.