Favorite Dish(es) and what they say about Wine Preferences
I know this is a bit of an odd question and I'm going to have to phrase it properly, *however* a friend and I were discussing the connection between styles of cooking we prefer and wines we prefer.
While I appreciate many different styles of cooking, my favorites are rustic, often braised, red meats and things that really taste of the earth. Osso Bucco, braised lamb shanks, beef bourguignon, cassoulet, rosted wild mushrooms, etc... my favorite veggies are roasted root veggies or brussel sprouts. And this corresponds exactly to my favorite types of wines -- Rhones, Burgundies, and Piedmonts. Not only are these the reginal wines where many ofthese dishes come from and pair exceptionally well with thes foods, but to me, they also have those same rustic qualities -- at least the best ones.
I've noticed that often, people whose food preferences are either more simple (steaks, for example) or people who prefer more modern, complex or "Fusion" cooking tend to go for other wines first -- Often Bordeaux varietals or Shiraz or something else that will often have more overt fruit.
I wonder, first, has anyone else noticed this? Second, what do you think the cause is? I think it is great than that these wines simply pair well with these dishes. I think it actually may have to do wth what people look for when they are eating and drinking and the types of flavors they enjoy. But I'm not certain.
I am curious if anyone else has ever noticed this and what your thoughts on the matter are.
The flavors you've described are gutsy, developed and complex. You've listed a number of gutsy, peasant one-pot meals, and what they all have in common is lip-smacking satiety.
[And by the way, the case easily could be made that the gutsy-flavored peasant dishes of the world are, on the whole, the best eating there is.]
What I think your enjoyment of these dishes speaks to is your enjoyment of developed flavors, and your own threshold for what I call (and teach) "flavor satiety." You enjoy (or even need or require) a certain level of taste and smell physiological stimulation for your sense of satiety to kick in.
This isn't physiological satiety, but something more akin to sensory satiety or psychological satiety. You need to register a certain level of pleasure or enjoyment when eating -- and those dishes go the distance for you.
Lots of other contributory factors:
You obviously love to cook and know how to use a variety of ingredients to create a collective whole -- a large taste experience. You understand the architecture or structure of cooking, perhaps even its exponential aspect (ingredients can potentiate each other).
The other thing is perception. You have the taste and smell acuity to perceive all those indivdual flavors in a dish, to apprehend all that big-ness. Because of that acuity, you may actually sense or experience more pleasure than other people.
Additionally, since you have a terrific wine palate, you know that complexity in wine generally means excellence. Perhaps you apply that same concept to food: Complexity in food means excellence. Gutsy and robust means good. I'm with ya, by the way.
Take the example of chocolate -- very high quality "chateau" or estate chocolate. It's only chocolate, mind you, and some sugar, but it has flavors of berries, caramel, many different dried fruits, coffee, brandy -- a lot of complexity for a single substance. That chocolate is probably a more stimulating experience for you than another chocolate that's not as complex. You like taste stimulation, man.
Getting back to flavor satiety and an individual's threshold:
This is an important concept to those folks who are trying to drop a few pounds. If low-calorie foods are eaten but they're boring or bland, they're not stimulating enough to register flavor satiety. Even when physiological satiety has been reached, the eater may feel deprived of pleasure and then seek it in high-calorie foods just to scratch that itch. That's where gourmet low-calorie cooking techniques come in play -- their job is create flavor without calories. That's usually through the use of fresh herbs, lots of different citrus (zest and juice), and cooking techniques like roasting, grilling, reductions, concentrations, additions of acid or air or texture (crunch). All are sensory-enhancing strategies that can contribute to flavor satiety. And each person has his/her own threshold. That's what I've learned, taught, experienced, heard to be true from others...
OK, that's my thinking before I go fold the laundry...
I had never really thought about it, but I think there is certainly something in what you say. Also, in places with a long history of wine production and fine food, each have co-evolved. So, the food of Burgundy "goes" with the wines of Burgundy. So, if you have a taste for these foods, you often will find a taste for the wines, and vice-versa. Here in the states, wine is a fairly recent addition to our lives (and cuisines), and we have (or get, depending on your point of view) to gradually evolve a cuisine that goes with the wines we drink. But unlike more traditional regions, the world has become very global, so we all have access to almost all cuisines and foods at the same time. I am guessing that we will never have the codified food and wine pairings that have developed in more historic wine regions.
So, when we decide what to eat and drink, we can very much choose from a really wide range of possibilities. Tremendous fun, but it can be a little overwhelming. Personally, beyond seasonality, I find a huge emotional component to what I eat/drink on any one day. Feeling needy? Comfort food and Zinfandel. Feeling adventurous? Indian food and Portuguese Alvarinho. After the season, the primary determinant in what we decide to eat on any given day is my mood.
i've always wondered if you knew people's food preferences, whether you'd be able to predict what wines they'll prefer and which ones they'd really dislike.
It's not exactly a rustic food preference matched to rustic wine preference, but i've noticed flavor preferences can be consistent across beverages. For instance, there's an medicinal herb flavor in certain soups from northern china and korea that is found in chartreuse. So I like chartreuse. And I've always liked oolong and jasmine tea growing up (tea is almost like a food to me), so white wines with the same kind of scent profile are a plus -- tea, jasmine, white flowers --- which single estate coffees from Panama tend to have as well. I'm fond of smoked anything or slightly toasty food and that slight toast is easy to find in red wine, I love toasted almonds, hazelnuts, cheeses with nutty tastes like gruyere, so sherry and other nutty flavored beverages are naturally a favorite.
There might be wine counterparts to other preferences....roasted sesame, roasted seaweed, the meaty beefy kimchi chigae. Squid, fresh rockfish with ginger and soy, slightly bitter asian sauteed greens, soybean sprouts and shredded daikon, the fermented beans and pork in traditional zhajiang, shanzha (sour fruit), black zhejiang vinegar, toasty rice.
I'd consider a lot of these preferences to be earthy flavors but they aren't traditional wine-earthy flavors if that makes any sense. Despite liking these earthier, rustic flavors in food, I generally like fruit forward wine. But that could be because my food experience and wine experience has been largely disconnected.
I think you are definitely headed in the right direction with your thinking. But I think it is more complex than that.
Dishes you like and wines you like are definitely tied together. It all relates back to your own personal hormone levels. For example, take Jancis Robinson, in one of her books she basically admits (not really) to cheating on the MW for she was PREGNANT. Sorry men, I can't begin to explain how sensitive your nose and palate are when you are pregnant. Think about teenagers and all the “white” foods they eat. Anytime your hormones are raging you typically cannot think about eating anything intense. As you grow older, hormones start to mellow as does the palate. You can handle bitter foods, such as broccoli rabe, when your hormones are in calmer waters.
There are many other influencers upon taste. But I firmly believe if you start with hormones you can then start to target preferences.
The other big influencer is.... can the person cook and what is their STYLE. If they can cook what types of things do they prepare and do they vary? I have one friend…she is fabulous at making traditional meals (prime rib, filet mignon). She excels at this style of “steak house” feasting. Her and husband have very traditional tastes when it comes to wine. She likes her Chardonnay and he likes his big fruit forward California red wine. There is nothing wrong with this scenario. They know what they like and like to have it over and over.
Alternatively, another friend, again a phenomenal cook but varies cuisine and is always UP for trying something new. You could pour her ANY type of wine and she would offer an opinion and drink it. She has no favorite style of food or wine. She likes it all. She has a very discerning palate and is open minded.
Then think about the person who doesn’t cook and is a picky eater. They typically don’t drink (yea, more for us) or they have ONE beverage of choice. Think about their personality…. Do they travel, are they pretty set in their ways, are they controlling? (sorry, I digressed, I was thinking about someone in particular with the last one).
So, I would venture to say there are scientific reasons as well as social influencers. All in all, a topic I find continually fascinating. Thanks for posting.
I think you are right about people's palates becoming more refined as they grow older. I have always enjoyed food but I really began to enjoy wine when I was about 20, I worked in a restaurant that had a very expansive wine list and I had to learn about it of find another another job.
I thimk I am pretty typical, I started out only enjoying white wines; reisling, sauv. blanc, viognier. As I sampled more and more wines I found a few reds that I really liked. This took a couple of years but I eventually found myself drinking primarily merlot and syrah. I tried more and more wines and now I find myself enjoying cabernet most. Lately I have even started to enjoy Pinot Noir, I find it to be more complex and delicate than any cab could ever be. But if I am eating one of mr favorite dishes like grilled steak I would never reach for the Pinot, that would certainly be a cab night.
From my own observations, I think you're spot on.
I've also recently been observing a bunch of younger professionals who are just getting into wine, and are drinking Cali Cabs -- the bigger the better! -- with just about everything! Hopefully their tastes will mature as they age (along with their wine -- pun intended).
My favorite dishes normally involve grilled red meat or some kind of pungent stinky cheese. My all time favorite dish is a grilled rib-eye steak with some bleu cheese melted on top. I guess it comes as no surprise that my favorite wines are ones that can stand up to such a meal, I usually drink a big California cabernet with a steak like that. Or a petite sirah, or possibly a zinfandel.