Friday, March 12, 2010

Wine and Food pairing -- what's the big deal?

Ask anyone in the wine industry, whatever their role, what question they are most often asked and the answer will be some variation of "What food goes with this wine?"

If a wine's back label says anything at all (beyond some gibberish about the glorious winery owner or the wonderful vineyard site) it will recommend food pairings.

Look at any winery's twitter stream and every other tweet will mention food and wine pairing.

We have two questions:

1. Are you, dear reader, interested in this sort of knowledge?
2. Why?

We don't mean to be snide. Rather, we feel that food and wine pairing is both incredibly subjective and relatively unimportant. There are a few no-brainers: most any steak will go well with most any red wine; most any crisp white will go well with shellfish, and some rich and fat whites will go well with some shellfish, Chardonnay and oysters, for instance.

But even those basics are disputed by some, and rightly so. What works for us may not work for you.

Or at least not as well. Because there are very few combinations that are disastrous to either wine or food. Artichokes are famous for making wine taste metallic, and peanut butter can make wine taste funny, too.

On the other hand there are very few combinations that make wine and food transcend themselves to become some magically wonderful taste sensation unlike any you have ever before experienced.

Which, come to think of it, is probably what people are asking for when they ask the question. But don't you think we'd tell you if we knew? And the answer probably isn't, "This wine pairs well with chicken, fish, roast meats, game and pizza," as you'll likely see on that back label.

In fact, the answer probably is not a particular pairing in the first place. Probably what makes some combinations so heavenly--and it does happen, dear reader. If not for you yet, we hope very much that it does soon--what makes some combinations so heavenly, we repeat, is the company.

The Jura (not where we were, though). Thanks, Modzzak.

Our most cherished wine memory involves a bottle of 1985 Burgundy (the cheap low-end stuff; we probably paid about $8) drunk in 1998 at a campsite in the Jura. We ate it with roast chicken and french fries we got from the servants' entrance of the nearby restaurant (for which we were impossibly underdressed), which was the only restaurant or grocery open on that lovely Sunday afternoon.

Chicken, but you knew that: / CC BY 2.0

We were in the middle of a wonderful journey together and were entranced by the high mountain meadows and the Jura's stunning peaks. By our humble tent amidst all the splendor, the wine, chicken and fries were transporting--not that we wanted to go anywhere. It seemed all was abloom and a radiant glow suffused everything--the food, the wine, us.
Nope, that wasn't the bottle. Thanks, Wine Label Readers.

Does that mean that chicken and fries is the perfect combination for cheap burgundy? Maybe.... But it's at least as likely that the best way to enjoy a cheap burgundy is to walk around a mountain lake before enjoying dinner in the late summer light with your beloved. Yeah, that seems the more likely pairing.

What do you think? We'd love to hear your tales of food/wine bliss. We'd also love to know why you ask that question, if you do, and what sort of answer satisfies.

1 comment:

  1. Okay, but if you do want to make a successful wine pairing, take a look at this thoughtful piece on pairing wines and cheeses, and all the hard work it entails:


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