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Coffee and Wine—More Alike Than You Might Think

It may seem that wine and coffee are complete opposites, potentially working as bookend beverages for your day. As it turns out, more similarities exist between coffee and wine than you might originally think. Although some folks may purport that it’s necessary to choose between the two, we think that both of these beverages have their places. While we obviously have an overflowing love for coffee, we see that wine has its merits as well. Let’s talk about why:

Consumption for Pleasure
Although many might argue that they “need” their cup of coffee in the morning to get through the day, or they “need” a glass of wine at the end of difficult day, the reality is that coffee and wine are both consumed for pleasure. This could be because of the fact that they both contain mind-altering drugs. Alcohol in wine and caffeine in coffee are both substances that offer mild adjustments to the brain. Wine typically brings on an effect of relaxation; coffee inspires and energizes. Both have their place in the world of beverages and in both cases they should be consumed in moderation. The good news is that you can’t get pulled over on the highway for having had too many cups of coffee.

Proficiency: Tasting Vs. Cupping
One reason that wine may have historically been preferred over coffee is the sense of refinement that comes along with wine. Until now. For years wine tastings have been considered premier social events. Now the opportunity for cupping has greatly developed and it is quickly turning into an “event” in its own right. Just like wine tasting, cupping is a learned skill which refines the palette and provides a joyful experience throughout the process.

Grades of Quality
Let’s face it, anyone who is comparing Folger’s Crystals with a bottle of Two Buck Chuck is probably going to be disappointed on all fronts. However, both coffee and wine offer varying ranges of quality which, when properly executed, allow for an experience of tasteful satisfaction. While coffee may not get into the high price ranges that wine does, up and coming specialty coffees allow the taste buds to experience something grand and elite.

Similar Agricultural Roots
As agricultural products, wine and coffee both originate from fruit. Both sweet, small, and round fruits, coffee beans and grapes may not have similar tastes, but they do ultimately produce a beverage through various means. The origin and variety of the fruits certainly affect the final product, which is best when it is harvested completely ripe. Coffee growers, however, use the seed and discard the fruit from the outside; while wine makers discard the seed/skin and use the juices from the fruit to make their beverage.

Similar Cultural Roots
Humans are funny. Often we discover and perfect something from nature, such as wine or coffee, and then we begin to wonder if it is really good for us after all. Both coffee and wine have had their moments in history when they have been banned either legally or for religious reasons. Although wine was on the list of no-no’s in the United States during prohibition (which lasted from 1920 until 1933), coffee has never been outlawed in the United States. The most recent ban on coffee (i.e. caffeine) happened in the early 1700s, by King Frederick the Great of Prussia, for political and economic reasons. Both beverages have a rich history of sitting on the bad-guy list, which makes them both much more interesting—in a rebellious, renegade kind of way.

Complexity of Flavors
Growing regions, harvesting, preparation and other factors all influence the way a cup of coffee or glass of wine tastes. And those who drink their coffee without milk and sweetener have access to an even fuller taste profile which can be compared to that of wine. Depending on the quality of the fruit, the way it is processed, the way it is bottled (for wine) or roasted (for coffee), both beverages seek to attain a high quality of complex flavors which delight the senses.

Tasting Language
Some words from wine tasting overlap into coffee tasting, which makes a lot of sense which you consider that they both originate from fruits. In fact, the official dictionary for coffee, Le Nez du Café, was developed through the influence of Le Nez du Vin, the reputed wine tasting dictionary.
Words that are used in both coffee cupping and wine tasting include: bold, fruity, acidic, aromatic, bright, buttery, complex, and earthy. Other words that are completely independent and used only for wine, such as: dry, charcoal, dense, and oaked. Words in the coffee dictionary that are not necessarily used for wine include: light, dark, nutty, grassy, and herbal.

The Aroma Experience
We all know that the olfactory system and the sense of taste are inextricably intertwined. In both coffee and wine, the way that the beverage smells carries a critical part of the experience for the one drinking it. Many people who don’t even enjoy drinking coffee admit that they like the aroma of it. During wine tastings and coffee cuppings, the aroma (or bouquet—in wine terms) offers a “warm-up” in preparation for the sampling and may significantly influence the taste.

Good and Good for You
Even after being banned in various regions of the world over the years, both coffee and wine often gain recommendations from doctors as beneficial to human health. Obviously, over-use of either of these beverages may lead to abuse and could be a detriment to the health. However, when consumed in moderation (1 to 2 glasses of wine per day/ 3 to 4 cups of coffee per day), both coffee and wine may provide a potential for lower risk of heart problems and diabetes. Coffee may also lower the risk of some liver cancer and gallstones, while wine may reduce the chance of stroke.

Just as with any analogy, the comparison between coffee and wine will eventually break down to begin revealing some of the differences between the two beverages. And that’s to be expected. In fact, that’s why we love both coffee and wine. Because, although they are similar in many respects, both coffee and wine have their own merits which make them uniquely appreciated and enjoyable aspect of our lives.