Thursday, June 03, 2010

Food and Wine Pairing

Food and Wine
Wine goes with food. I know this sounds obvious, but not that long ago I got into a disagreement with a wine blogger about this very subject. Her point was that not all wine needs to be paired with food, some people enjoy wine without food. Well not me. If I want something to sip after dinner on it's own, I might choose a luxurious and sweet dessert wine such as Sauternes, Tokaji, Port or Madeira. As an aperitif I prefer something crisp and sparkling, Champagne perhaps. Or a cocktail.

There is a segment of the wine drinking public that has taken to drinking wine as if it were a cocktail. They want their wine big, bold, with little acid, plenty of tannin, and don't seem to mind if it's tremendously alcoholic (I mean over 14.5% alcohol). Again, not me. In Old World wine-producing countries there is a culture of drinking wine with meals. But in the New World that isn't always the way everyone is introduced to the pleasures of wine. So some people end up favoring wines that compete with sherry in terms of alcohol. Don't even get me started on the astronomical prices of some of these wines. By the bottle or the glass, I want wine I can actually afford to buy.

I remember once being told that in ballet the ballerina is the picture and her partner is the frame. I'd say the same thing is true about food and wine. Food is the picture, wine is the frame. A good frame can compliment a picture, but on it's own, it's just a frame. I used to attend a lot of wine tastings but I found I was comparing one wine to another and the wines I liked the best in tastings rarely impressed me as much when I tried them with food. So I stopped going to so many wine tastings. You might say I'm not sophisticated enough to appreciate wines on their own, but in my opinion, no wine can ever compete with the perfect pairing of food and wine.

While I don't entirely agree with experts and bloggers like Alder of Vinography who say that food and wine pairing is a scam, I do agree that "there are no right answers" and that ultimately you should drink what you like with whatever food you choose. I also believe there are pairings that are pure magic. Notice I said pairings, there is never just one good pair. The excellent guide book What to Drink with What You Eat shows many great pairs and is a constant source of inspiration for me, because finding those matches is something I strive for each and every time I open a bottle. For me the highest compliment I can pay a wine is that I find it "food friendly." But really, that is what every wine should be.