Will Milk And Wine Mix? Should You Drink Them Together?
Let’s explore the possible answers to a question that most people have likely never contemplated before - “Will milk and wine mix and should you drink them together?”
You can look at this question from different angles. You can take it literally, where the question means actually mixing milk and wine together in the same glass.
You can also take it to mean drinking a glass of wine and a glass of milk that are separate from each other, but you drink them at the same sitting.
To delve into this thought provoking question, let’s look at the characteristics of both wine and milk, and see if there are any similarities between the two that make them good partners.
Characteristics of Wine
As we explore the characteristics of wine, we need to look at the general tastes that we experience when we drink wine. While there are thousands of different wines available, the number of tastes we can experience is actually quite limited.
Obviously, one of the main tastes we notice is sweetness.
The sweetness factor is mainly due to the sugar content in the wine, which can be sweetness from actual sugar or from fruit. Alcohol itself is also a sweet liquid, so wines with higher levels of alcohol can also give a perception of a sweet taste.
Another taste that is experienced is that of acidity.
You may have tasted acidity in wine, but didn’t know what to call it. Acidity is what gives wine the fresh, tart taste in the mouth. As grapes ripen, their acid levels decrease, so wines made with grapes that are extremely ripe will have much less of an acidic taste.
Two other tastes that can be found with wine, though fairly rarely include bitterness and a salty taste.
Bitter tastes should be very limited, noticeable only in extremely young immature wines. Likewise, a salty taste should be rare, and this taste comes about from where the grapes are grown.
Grapes that are grown in an area subjected to sea spray may carry a salty taste into the wine.
Characteristics of Milk
While it can be relatively commonplace to hear people talking about how a certain wine tastes, when was the last time you overheard a conversation where people were discussing how their glass of milk tastes?
While there is much literature and information available on various wines, and the differences among them regarding taste, there is much less interest in how various types of milk tastes.
This is for good reason, as for the most part, it is children that enjoy a nice cold glass of milk, and children just accept that milk is milk.
As we found that wine has four general tastes that can be experienced (sweetness, acidity, bitterness, and sapidity), it is generally accepted that milk has two main tastes, sweet and salty.
These tastes are directly attributable to the lactose and milk salts present in the milk. The production, processing and storage practices of milk producers will profoundly affect milk quality, and as such, the dairy industry has been actively engaged in the development of methods for the measurement of milk flavor.
Overall, it is safe to say that milk is a very bland tasting drink, and as such, milk drinkers have a difficult time describing its taste attributes. As mentioned previously, processed milk that has a good flavor quality has a characteristic flavor, described by some as a slight salty-sweet taste.
While this flavor is most likely attributed to milk salts and lactose, the reason for this taste is actually fairly complicated and is outside of the scope of this article.
Now we know that milk and wine contain similar taste qualities, sweetness and saltiness, though the saltiness found in wines should be relatively rare. Now that we have looked at the taste characteristics of both milk and wine, let’s see if there are any common characteristics between the two when we look at the qualities of touch, or mouthfeel.
Body or “Mouthfeel” of Wine
The body of a wine is really a reference to its perceived weight. This is like comparing how a mouthful of water compares to a mouthful of olive oil. Wine novices have a misconception that the body directly corresponds to the alcohol content of wine, the higher the alcohol content, the heavier the body.
While this is not correct, it can be a contributing factor to the perception of weight. The weight is actually affected by compounds in the wine, the amount of sugar, and the alcohol content. Along these lines, wine is often described as being either a light bodied wine, a medium bodied wine, or a full bodied wine.
Light bodied wines include sparkling wines as well as very dry white wines. These have a mouthfeel that is described as watery and thin. European wines are primarily medium bodied wines, and they have this characteristic because of the climate that naturally lends itself to producing a wine of this mouthfeel.
When we look at the full bodied wines, we have to look to wines produced in France, Italy and Spain, such as oaked Chardonnays. These wines have a heavy weight to them in the mouth.
Body or “Mouthfeel” of Milk
Can milk be described in similar terms as they relate to mouthfeel? Actually, yes, it can. As we discussed the differences between light bodied, medium bodied and full bodied wines, different types of milk can also be placed into these three categories. Skim milk definitely can be placed into the light bodied category.
When you drink skim milk, especially if you have drank non-skim milk previously, you will notice that the skim milk takes on a very watery and thin mouthfeel. Milk that is referred to as 2% milk, which means that it contains 2% milk fat, can be neatly placed into the medium bodied category, and full-fat, or regular milk is generally considered to be full bodied.
So, as with the taste characteristics, we can also see that there are definitely similarities among milk and wine when it comes to mouthfeel characteristics. It looks like milk and wine are perhaps more comparable than thought. With that being said, we can now look into whether or not milk would enhance the taste of wine, or if it would make it worse.
Wine and Cheese
Before we look at the combination of milk and wine into one drink, or two separate drinks consumed at the same sitting, we have to see if there is any appreciable benchmark for combining wine with milk.
While there is not, a very common pairing with wine is cheese, a dairy product that contains milk. This is evident if you have ever attended a wine tasting event. Most, if not all wine tasting events pair wine with cheese, so there must be a reason that wine and cheese are often paired together.
As a general rule, wine makes the perfect companion for cheese, but you have to choose the right cheeses to go with the right wine. This is because enjoying a good wine and a good cheese can enhance the flavors and complexities of both, but not all cheeses and wines go together. A wine has to complement the flavors in the cheese.
For example, Brie, which is a soft cheese with a mild flavor and creamy texture should be paired with medium bodied red wines like Merlot, Shiraz or even some Spanish reds. If you like a semi-soft cheese like Muenster, it should be paired with sweet white wines like Riesling.
Popular cheeses such as Baby Swiss or Smoked Gouda, should be paired with fruity red wines, such as white zinfandel, Beaujolais, or Pinot Noir. Hard cheeses, such as Cheddar should also be paired with fruity red wines.
Wine and Milk?
Based on how well wine and cheese can go together, if paired correctly, it is not out of the realm of possibility that milk and wine could go well together. But would milk enhance the taste of wine, much like cheese does, or would it make it worse?
The answer to this question is obviously one of personal preference. There probably are not many circumstances or social situations where you would be required to drink milk and wine together.
In fact, if you were at a fine restaurant, they may ask you to leave if you asked for a glass of milk to go with your bottle of wine? We will just leave it at that, if you find that you enjoy milk and wine together, then by all means, enjoy it and try to convince others to see the benefits of drinking milk and wine together.
There are very few drinks that actually call for the combination of milk and wine. If milk and wine were meant to be paired together, by now, someone would have made it into a famous drink.
Milk and Wine Combination Through History
If you do a little bit of research, you can find the history of a drink called a Syllabub, which is an English sweet frothy drink that was popular from the 16th to 19th centuries.
Since the time that the drink ceased to be popular, a dessert based on the Syllabub developed, and is still eaten today.
The Syllabub was made of milk, which was curdled by the addition of wine, and then sweetened and flavored.
Other than the Syllabub, there is very little history of drinks being made with both wine and milk.
Most likely this is due to the reaction caused by mixing the two. The acidity of the wine will curdle the milk, and there are obviously more tempting drinks than that.
Marchelina, one of our readers, also made us aware of a Dalmatian (Croatian) drink that was common among workers.
It was called "Smutica" or "Bikla" and involved mixing red wine and milk (from a cow or goat) in a 1:1 ratio.
It was used medicinally and served in a wooden mug to the sick or to women after giving birth.
Thanks for that Marchelina!
Are There Benefits to Drinking Wine and Milk Separately?
So, while it is difficult to see how you can achieve a great deal of enjoyment from drinking milk and wine together, could there be any benefits to drinking milk with wine, if they are kept separate?
One speculated benefit of drinking milk before starting to drink wine is that the milk will line your stomach which will slow the amount of alcohol that is absorbed.
This may prevent the dreaded effects of a hangover, and if it works for you, may allow you to enjoy an extra glass of wine or two without suffering the consequences. Again, this is mostly speculation, as biologically speaking, there is no such thing as “lining your stomach.”
If there is any effect, it is likely through slowing the emptying of your stomach. Around twenty percent of alcohol is absorbed in the stomach and the remainder is absorbed in the intestines.
Based on this, it wouldn’t just have to be milk, but could be any food containing fat, protein, or to some extent, carbohydrates that delay your stomach from emptying that could have a modest effect on slowing down the absorption of alcohol.
Is There Any Downside to Drinking Milk and Wine Together?
Is there anything harmful that comes from drinking milk and wine together? Again, this is a question that does not have an answer that applies to everyone the same way.
While there is no evidence that the combination of milk and wine will cause a harmful or undesired effect, certain people may not tolerate the combination of alcohol and milk.
As with anything, certain foods and drinks affect everyone differently, and while a particular person may not have any ill effects from drinking wine alone, or drinking milk alone, the combination of the two could cause upset stomach or queasiness.
We have looked at the characteristics of wine and milk, how they taste and how they feel. There are some similarities between the two, but that does not mean that they necessarily should be paired together.
Throughout history, there have been a couple of drinks where the two have been partnered.
However, one fared better as a dessert and the other was thought to have medicinal properties.
Have you ever mixed the two? What was your experience like?