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Tired of "Wine Pairing"

p
pickypicky Nov 25, 2012 11:47 AM

Is anyone else tired of hearing about wine pairings? In the 1970's when I first started drinking wine, the few guides to food and wine I could find were gourmands like Richard Olney and Waverly Root. From their discussions of region and of classic combinations I learned a lot. But I think they'd be appalled now at the finicky (or even silly) matchings or laugh that anyone would turn down an excellent wine to drink something less good to "match" a dish-- which I've found many times on tasting menus. If I feel like drinking a great red with my fish course, I do. If I feel like drinking a great chardonnay with Chinese dumplings I do.

Just another time I'm happy to be old.

  1. t
    TombstoneShadow Dec 16, 2012 04:05 PM

    you can drink anything with anything of course....

    ...the question is whether the wine and food enhance each other OR if they are good despite the antagonism of the pairing.

    1. Bill Hunt Nov 27, 2012 07:43 PM

      In a word, NO.

      When we host a dinner, we work on the menu for at least a week before - both the recipes, and the wines. Of course, the selections are based on our palates, both with the food, and with the wine.

      To us, wine/food pairing is probably more art, than science, though we start with the "science," and work from there.

      For us, every course gets paired, including the cheese course. I want everything to be, as good as I can make it.

      Am I always 100% correct? Never, and that is one reason that I encourage my guests to hold a bit of each wine, to taste, and especially for the cheese course.

      I do the exact same, when we do the Chef's Tasting, and the Sommelier's Pairings. We often have 12 glasses of wine in front of us, and sample each, with each dish. This is not to "test" the sommelier, but to try different wines, with different dishes. Often, we find some unexpected, and amazing pairings, beyond the normal script, and we share those revelations with the sommelier.

      To me, food and wine pairings are a hobby, and one that I enjoy greatly. Along the way, I get great food, and great wines.

      Hunt

      1. k
        Klunco Nov 27, 2012 08:17 AM

        While I can definitely appreciate good pairings, do any of you feel that truly spectacular wines deserve to be served alone or perhaps with simply a little bread?

        Recently had a special bottle with a meal and it was great, but the next day I had it alone and it was spectacular and tasted much more complex (not competing with food flavors).

        6 Replies
        1. re: Klunco
          Chinon00 Nov 27, 2012 08:27 AM

          The more complex the wine the simpler the food (and vice versa) is a common way of thinking about it.

          1. re: Klunco
            s
            sedimental Nov 27, 2012 08:45 AM

            Absolutely. I had a variety of wines for thanksgiving last week. I opened several 1979 latours to be enjoyed before the apps. Then opened a few OR pinots with the apps, then different wines with the dinner for people to "make their own pairing". Everyone has different tastes but everyone needs a clean slate to fully enjoy a fine, complex wine to its fullest. I found that most of my guests enjoyed the latour so much alone that they naturally waited to hit the app table when it was Pinot time!

            1. re: Klunco
              JAB Nov 27, 2012 09:14 AM

              It may have "opened up" by the next day as well.

              1. re: JAB
                k
                Klunco Nov 27, 2012 09:26 AM

                Probably both of these things. We did decant it for 4 hours before consuming (it smelled awful at first) but I do think it was even better the next day.

                In the future though, complex wine with simple food definitely makes sense. I suppose Thanksgiving dinner is the worst time to open something special.

                I like your idea though sedimental, nice wine before apps.

                1. re: Klunco
                  p
                  pickypicky Nov 27, 2012 02:30 PM

                  Gosh, YES. There just is no wrong time to pour a 1979 Latour, as long as one person recognizes the significance. And I wish it were me. I think Thanksgiving is the perfect time for a biblical wine. What more important food day do we have?

              2. re: Klunco
                z
                zin1953 Nov 27, 2012 12:46 PM

                Generally speaking -- and I don't mean to sound like a recent contributor to this board -- it depends upon geography. ;^)

                I am much more likely to savor and enjoy a great California Cabernet alone then, say, an aged bottle of claret. So, too, for many an Australian Shiraz (or California "Shiraz"), versus a northern Rhône (or California Syrah).

                The distinction is not one of complexity -- although I do agree with Chinon that more complex wine pairs nicely with simpler far -- but when it comes to serving WITHOUT food, it becomes in my mind a question of opulence.

              3. Chinon00 Nov 27, 2012 06:25 AM

                I appreciate your passion. Those asking for pairing advice I believe often are more afraid of making the "wrong" choice; and thus gaining some approval rather than in the experience itself.
                Having said that for those who are genuinely passionate about pairing there's a stronger tendency to consider our food when selecting a wine. But by all means drink what you like;]

                1. hypomyces Nov 26, 2012 07:26 PM

                  I had the chance to work with a Chef in a "Bouchon' in Lyon, France. What he said to me still rings true today. "Drink what you like. Period"
                  The idea behind eating and drinking is the pleasure. If it is too complicated, there is no pleasure.
                  Although, there is that moment when your wine and food are in syncronicity. Magic

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: hypomyces
                    z
                    zin1953 Nov 26, 2012 10:14 PM

                    >>> I had the chance to work with a Chef in a "Bouchon' in Lyon, France. What he said to me still rings true today. "Drink what you like. Period" <<<

                    Amen!

                    1. re: zin1953
                      r
                      Ricardo Malocchio Nov 27, 2012 02:53 PM

                      Bring on the Barolo and oysters!

                      1. re: Ricardo Malocchio
                        z
                        zin1953 Nov 27, 2012 03:24 PM

                        Hey! If YOU like that pairing, I say "Go for it!"

                        Me, myself, and I will be drinking Champagne, or Muscadet, or Picpoul, or Chablis, or Alvarinho/Albariño, or Txokolina, or . . . ;^)

                    2. re: hypomyces
                      r
                      RicRios Nov 27, 2012 05:40 AM

                      "If it is too complicated, there is no pleasure"

                      È vero, e anche ben trovato!

                      1. re: RicRios
                        p
                        pickypicky Nov 27, 2012 02:28 PM

                        That's TWO translations you owe me, RR. Please.

                        1. re: pickypicky
                          r
                          RicRios Nov 28, 2012 07:53 AM

                          "Se non è vero è ben trovato" is a common Italian saying, loosely translated (by me) as: "a good discovery, even if it may not be true".

                          "È vero, e anche ben trovato" was just paraphrasing the above: "a good discovery, and even true".

                      2. re: hypomyces
                        maria lorraine Dec 1, 2012 01:19 AM

                        < If it is too complicated, there is no pleasure.>

                        No need to do it, or for wine pairing to be complicated or to cause anxiety.

                        Just learn a guideline one at a time, as you think of it as you go along. Just like you'd learn a new cooking technique as you go along in cooking, one at a time. No pressure. Have fun.

                      3. m
                        Maximilien Nov 26, 2012 10:11 AM

                        Is it possible that we are locked into the traditional wine pairings in regards to red/white meat and fish instead of how they are actually prepared ?

                        I think most people are told that if you eat fish, order white wine and meat, order red; without actually looking in more details at what is the actual preparation of the food which can change the wine served with the food.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Maximilien
                          z
                          zin1953 Nov 26, 2012 10:25 AM

                          I've always matched the specific wine to the specific meal. That is, I would serve Wine A with a Sirloin steak off the barbecue grill, but would serve Wine B with aSirloin that was accompanied with a green pepper sauce, or Nori-Crusted Sirloin with Shiitake and Wasabi.

                        2. RhonelyInsanediego Nov 26, 2012 10:11 AM

                          On the other hand some wine pairing menus can be inspirational, leading you to wines you haven't tried or tried together with a particular cuisine before. I for one have been inspired by various tastings to try some different combinations at home. That's the main value I see in specific tasting menus. It's always nice to see what the chef and sommelier are conceiving together as a final flavor profile. I find that occasionally it's a pleasant surprise with something that I haven't and probably wouldn't have tried or paired otherwise.

                          31 Replies
                          1. re: RhonelyInsanediego
                            RhonelyInsanediego Nov 26, 2012 02:02 PM

                            I went to a sushi tasting many years ago in which most of the courses were paired with champagne or other sparklers. I was so pleasantly surprised that I now do this pairing regularly. I think its the inherent yeastiness that pairs so well. Prior to this I was all about the sake. Still enjoy this, but champagne and sushi are a great combo that I continue to enjoy.

                            1. re: RhonelyInsanediego
                              p
                              pickypicky Nov 26, 2012 07:04 PM

                              Is there anything champagne doesn't go with?

                              1. re: pickypicky
                                z
                                zin1953 Nov 26, 2012 10:14 PM

                                Nothing I can think of off the top of my head . . . ;^)

                                1. re: zin1953
                                  p
                                  pickypicky Nov 27, 2012 02:27 PM

                                  Exactly my point! That solves the wine pairing dilemma perfectly!

                                  1. re: pickypicky
                                    z
                                    zin1953 Nov 27, 2012 03:24 PM

                                    LOL

                                2. re: pickypicky
                                  collioure1 Nov 27, 2012 03:23 PM

                                  Very spicy or very rich foods.

                                  1. re: collioure1
                                    RhonelyInsanediego Nov 28, 2012 09:54 AM

                                    I like sparklers with spicy Thai food especially!

                                    1. re: collioure1
                                      jlbwendt Nov 28, 2012 11:40 AM

                                      Champagne cuts right through the rich foods... Great pairing IMHO

                                      1. re: jlbwendt
                                        collioure1 Nov 28, 2012 11:48 AM

                                        But it is overwhelmed by VERY rich foods.

                                        1. re: collioure1
                                          jlbwendt Nov 28, 2012 03:14 PM

                                          Not in my experience. Besides, isn't champagne French? And isn't much French food very rich? Perfect match.

                                          1. re: jlbwendt
                                            collioure1 Nov 28, 2012 03:27 PM

                                            Once again not just a rich dish, but a VERY rich dish. Like Lobster Thermidor which I had on my birthday at Locke-Ober in Boston many years ago. Champagne is very versatile but IMO it has limits.

                                            Maybe if you had a really big Champagne such as a Krug, it would work. Others here can recommend what would work better than I. One surely needs a big wine for such a heavyweight encounter.

                                            1. re: collioure1
                                              jlbwendt Nov 28, 2012 03:50 PM

                                              So you don't know what would pair with lobster thermidor, but you know it's not champagne? Why?

                                              1. re: jlbwendt
                                                collioure1 Nov 28, 2012 04:01 PM

                                                Because they do not have enough body to match up. They'd be overwhelmed, washed out by a very rich dish.

                                                You need a big hitter - something like a Hermitage white, Chateauneuf-du-Pape blanc or a massive Chardonnay with good acids to deal with the very rich lobster + sauce IMO.

                                                Bill Hunt might know. I don't eat like that any more.

                                                1. re: collioure1
                                                  jlbwendt Nov 28, 2012 04:44 PM

                                                  Champagne doesn't have body? News to me.

                                                  1. re: jlbwendt
                                                    w
                                                    wally Nov 28, 2012 05:05 PM

                                                    Or good acid?

                                                    1. re: wally
                                                      jlbwendt Nov 28, 2012 05:09 PM

                                                      Exactly; the acidity to cut through fat and richness.

                                                  2. re: collioure1
                                                    g
                                                    goldangl95 Nov 28, 2012 05:38 PM

                                                    There is no right or wrong pairing. I will say as a fact, however, that champagne has plenty of acid. As to whether one should match rich foods with rich or full bodied wines I think is a matter of taste and debate. Some like the wine to act as a refreshing breather from the fattier foods...

                                                    Many actually do not like to pair ultra-heavy wines (Amarone or a low acidity Zinfandel springs to mind) with ultra-heavy foods (say steak floating in Bernaise).

                                                    I think there are cultural issues with pairing a "white" wine (e.g. champagne) with red meat, but no such issue should occur with lobster and I think actually it would work well...but that is a subjective opinion....

                                                    1. re: goldangl95
                                                      Bill Hunt Nov 28, 2012 08:00 PM

                                                      Good points.

                                                      Often I try to pair with "likes," but have found some great "counter-points," as well.

                                                      With that Bernaise, I would go for more acid, but still good body - maybe a Pinot Noir?

                                                      That is one reason that I rely on good sommeliers so often - they know what the chef is doing that day (or should), they know their cellar, and have likely tasted several wines, with each dish - or they should have.

                                                      Sometimes, a like mouth-feel, and body is right, for me, and sometimes I want to go the opposite way, and cut fat, offset heaviness, but still find something that goes well.

                                                      Now, a nice Amarone w/ a grilled beef steak normally gets MY attention.

                                                      Hunt

                                                    2. re: collioure1
                                                      z
                                                      zin1953 Nov 28, 2012 09:07 PM

                                                      I thought you said white Rhônes didn't really work well with food . . .

                                                      1. re: zin1953
                                                        collioure1 Nov 28, 2012 11:19 PM

                                                        I said I don't have much experience with them, Jason. I'm not confident when I offer them.

                                                        Now when I make paella, I serve one of two local Rhone-like whites (Roussanne/Marsanne or Marsanne/Viognier) that match very well but I am hesitant to pair these excellent wines with fish dishes. I understand they match well with sea scallops and crustaceans.

                                                        Returning to the subject at hand, I will repeat

                                                        A VERY rich dish. Well beyond Bearnaise, which is similar to Hollandaise. I buy Hollandaise in a little box now and put a teaspoon on our veggies several times a week. Since I started doing that, Odile suddently eats more than her usual four string beans. But that's not very rich at all.

                                                        1. re: collioure1
                                                          z
                                                          zin1953 Nov 29, 2012 06:54 AM

                                                          I'm surprised that -- with paella -- you don't stick with your regional/geographic/national predilection . . . no Spanish wine? You're close enough to the Spanish border that you *should* be able to find some, no?

                                                          1. re: zin1953
                                                            collioure1 Nov 29, 2012 08:14 AM

                                                            Paella is a Catalan dish. I live in French Catalonia. One wine Mas Cristine Blanc comes from a property in the hills between Argelès-sur-Mer and Collioure in French Catalonia. The other, the White Roses of Valmy, is produced about 3km away. So both are also geographically correct.

                                                            I think those south of the border here probably drink rosé with Paella. These wines are better.

                                                            I served Mas Cristine Blanc with Paella to Odile's extended family two years ago. They had arrived with some local rosé just in case. We never opened it.

                                                            BTW I don't match food and wine by country. I prepare an eclectic group of dishes with which I drink French wines plus Spanish Albarino and Ribero del Duero. I just want the right grape, no matter where it's from.

                                                  3. re: collioure1
                                                    Bill Hunt Nov 28, 2012 07:52 PM

                                                    While I might go with a St. Aubin, a Meursault, or even a Montrachet (richness with richness), I cannot imagine that dish overpowering a good Brut Champagne. I have had similar (different restaurants, so different preps, obviously), and the pairing went very well.

                                                    I think that it might just be a difference in our two palates.

                                                    Hunt

                                                    1. re: collioure1
                                                      z
                                                      zin1953 Nov 28, 2012 09:07 PM

                                                      Sadly, Krug is but a shadow of its former self . . . see http://www.alicefeiring.com/blog/2012...

                                                      1. re: zin1953
                                                        collioure1 Nov 28, 2012 11:53 PM

                                                        Thank you for the reference, Jason. I vaguely remember meeting Mireille a few times. My first wife was a Grande Dame too.

                                                        Krug down the tubes.

                                                  4. re: collioure1
                                                    Bill Hunt Nov 28, 2012 07:50 PM

                                                    My palate might differ here. I have had sparklers (mostly Champagnes), with many very rich, creme dishes, and they have gone well - at least to my tastes.

                                                    Hunt

                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                      sunshine842 Nov 28, 2012 11:09 PM

                                                      I'm with you, Bill.

                                                      1. re: sunshine842
                                                        maria lorraine Dec 1, 2012 01:17 AM

                                                        Me, too. I'd love to try the still wines Bill suggested but I'd sure like to try Lobster Thermidor with some great aged Rosé bubbly. A little bit of heft on it.

                                                        Aged bubbly in particular has both sparkles and heft. Oh baby oh.

                                                        Speaking of heft and delicious bubbly for rich foods: I've been loving the J. Schram lately too. 2003/4 bottlings drinking very fine. My favorite domestic bubbly at the moment.

                                                      2. re: Bill Hunt
                                                        j
                                                        jock Dec 1, 2012 08:42 AM

                                                        Just last night went to a terrific little Japanese BYO here in Phoenix. A 1999 Jean Veselle rocked with virtually everything we ate and our food choices were quite varied.

                                                2. re: pickypicky
                                                  RhonelyInsanediego Nov 28, 2012 09:55 AM

                                                  It may seem obvious now, but 20 years ago sushi + Champagne was a revelation (at least to me).

                                                  1. re: RhonelyInsanediego
                                                    Bill Hunt Nov 28, 2012 08:01 PM

                                                    And, I still find it a great pairing, in most cases.

                                                    With sushi (my normal choices), I really like a domestic (US) SB, like the Groth Napa. I also pair that particular wine with tempura too.

                                                    Hunt

                                            2. r
                                              redfish62 Nov 26, 2012 10:04 AM

                                              I don't think that being concerned with pairing wine comes off as very masculine, so I avoid being concerned with it.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: redfish62
                                                r
                                                RicRios Nov 26, 2012 10:14 AM

                                                Masculine or feminine: reminds me of Claudio, an old friend from Bolzano.
                                                When something approaching that subject came up, he would go: "Dante, Ricevente, me ne frega niente"

                                                1. re: redfish62
                                                  sunshine842 Nov 26, 2012 10:50 PM

                                                  and yet there are females of the species that find this a desirable trait.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842
                                                    JAB Nov 27, 2012 07:08 AM

                                                    Thankfully

                                                  2. re: redfish62
                                                    Chinon00 Nov 27, 2012 07:53 AM

                                                    Some people think drinking wine isn't masculine.

                                                  3. r
                                                    RicRios Nov 26, 2012 09:12 AM

                                                    Since the subject of "Wine Pairing" is at stake, and for whatever it might be worth (or unworth), here's the new elephant in the room: molecular pairings.

                                                    "Enter François Chartier, Quebecois sommelier on a mission to redefine not the way we pair, necessarily, but the way we look at pairing, one volatile aromatic molecule at a time."

                                                    http://starchefs.com/cook/features/fr...

                                                    [ Disclaimer: posted on the condition nobody will ask my opinion on the subject ]

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: RicRios
                                                      collioure1 Nov 26, 2012 09:45 AM

                                                      OK, I'll try to take it on.

                                                      I loved Ferran Adria's cooking when he was working (El Bulli is about 50 miles from here), and our favorite restaurant is that of one of his disciples in Olot.

                                                      But as much as I enjoy it, I don't understand molecular cuisine in the first place.

                                                      However, I do have a scientific mind.

                                                      1. re: RicRios
                                                        z
                                                        zin1953 Nov 26, 2012 09:50 AM

                                                        You may want to start a new thread on Chartier . . .

                                                        That said, I don't find this topic new. I find the major difference in Chartier to be the specific, scientific explanation of why X works with Y, but not -- in most cases -- that X works with Y. (In other words, few of his actual pairings I find surprising.)

                                                        1. re: zin1953
                                                          m
                                                          Maximilien Nov 26, 2012 10:18 AM

                                                          I don't like the Chartier personage, but his books are quite interesting to read.

                                                          I think it can be entertaining to use his findings to "Out of left field" type of pairing between spices and herbs that we do not think go well together and with such and such wine.

                                                          I agree with you that the finding are not that surprising

                                                        2. re: RicRios
                                                          maria lorraine Nov 26, 2012 01:24 PM

                                                          I've done/taught molecular pairings for many years, under the chapter heading "Chemical Mirroring." There are two types: flavor mirroring (guaiacol, lactones, etc) -- similar to the regular type of "flavor-bridge" parirings -- and invisible mirroring (subtle or "invisible" flavor elements that become recognizable when mirrored).

                                                          1. re: maria lorraine
                                                            z
                                                            zin1953 Nov 26, 2012 01:29 PM

                                                            That makes sense, ML. Obviously I was referring to the former. The idea of the latter is quite interesting . . .

                                                            1. re: maria lorraine
                                                              collioure1 Nov 26, 2012 01:37 PM

                                                              Maria, where does one learn about this topic, please?

                                                          2. maria lorraine Nov 25, 2012 02:19 PM

                                                            Sure, you can drink anything you want. I want a heightened experience, and what I've found and experienced with others, and taught, is that great food pairing changes the experience of flavor of both the food and the wine.

                                                            First, a good pairing magnifies the flavor in both the food and the wine. It's not just a small magnification, but an exponential one, so the flavor becomes far bigger and lasts much longer.

                                                            A good pairing can create a brand new third flavor, as is the case with Sauternes and blue cheese. This is mind-bending, completely thrilling, when you experience this, especially when you experience it for the first time.

                                                            Then, there are pairings that correct "flaws" in either the food or wine. Astringincy in wine fades with fat in foods. Bitterness in foods, like a radicchio, disappears when paired with certain wines, like Petite Sirah. Cracked black pepper can cut the tannin in wine. A grilled food can tame too much oak in a wine, like in a wine that was opened a bit young. And so forth.

                                                            So, for magnification/amplification of flavor, for the thrilling creation of third flavors that did not exist before the food and wine was combined in your mouth, and for correction of undesired flavors, you go to the effort of pairing.

                                                            And we're not talking work. There are basic rules, just like basic rules in cooking. They're easy to learn. Good pairings truly heighten the flavors of the meal. Good pairings aren't necessary, but once you've had a few mind-blowing great pairings -- ones that changed the entire experience of flavor -- you realize what they can do. Also, once you see how the addition of an ingredient to a food can improve the wine, you increase your enjoyment.

                                                            I look at learning pairing rules like learning good techniques that make baked goods turn out better. Making sure ingredients are at the proper temperature. Resting the dough. The use of cold in making biscuits or croissants. Vodka in a pie crust to inhibit gluten and thus form a more tender, flaky crust. Using a finishing sugar. Introduction of steam when baking. All these are commonly done, yet we had to learn each one. Learning wine pairing rules is no different: You simply desire improved results, like in baking.

                                                            16 Replies
                                                            1. re: maria lorraine
                                                              collioure1 Nov 25, 2012 02:43 PM

                                                              Beautifully and passionately written.

                                                              Thank you, Maria.

                                                              1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                p
                                                                pickypicky Nov 25, 2012 03:59 PM

                                                                Yes, but my pie crust has Crisco and comes from my great-grandmother's recipe. Or what if I don't want my oak or tannin tamed?

                                                                Your view of wine pairings is one view of wine drinking. Nothing will enhance a great wine more than enjoying it by itself and really paying attention to what it offers. Nothing will help a mediocre wine more than food.

                                                                I'm glad you have your passion of matching wine and food. I do not criticize it. However, it is simply one fashion of wine drinking and not the only one. This is exactly my point.

                                                                1. re: pickypicky
                                                                  maria lorraine Nov 25, 2012 04:08 PM

                                                                  You've misunderstood.

                                                                  I don't disagree at all with your method of not pairing wine. I've stated that expressly.

                                                                  You will find me in great agreement with you about focusing and "really paying attention" to what the wine offers. This is a direct path to experiencing more flavor.

                                                                  I've never said that wine pairing is the only way to enjoy wine. If done correctly, it does greatly enhance flavor.

                                                                  Wine pairing may not be for you, or you have been misguided into thinking that wine pairing is complicated or finicky or silly. But the reason for wine pairing is increased flavor and the incredible delight of new flavors formed by the pairing. Those phenomena are something to experience if you haven't done so already -- they create Aha! moments.

                                                                  P.S.: Your pie crust recipe is fine. I love the old pie crust recipes with Crisco or lard. No need for vodka. It does something wondrous chemically, though, if you're game to try it.

                                                                  1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                    p
                                                                    pickypicky Nov 25, 2012 05:48 PM

                                                                    Forgive me. You're absolutely right. And I fully understand the point of pairing. There is nothing better than d'Yquem and foie gras. (or d'Yquem and anything, really)

                                                                    My rant is more about pairing as the gimmick all restaurants use now. I am suspect of most suggestions of most pairing menus. They usually sound contrived and portentous, unless someone quite good is doing the work. Experiencing wine is a lifetime job, and there simply are no shortcuts.

                                                                    1. re: pickypicky
                                                                      maria lorraine Nov 25, 2012 05:53 PM

                                                                      Ah, I understand now. I agree with you. Wine pairings, as marketed by most restaurants, is done incompetently. No magic, just a grab at profits.

                                                                      1. re: pickypicky
                                                                        z
                                                                        zin1953 Nov 25, 2012 06:13 PM

                                                                        I, too, understand better now. Thank you.

                                                                        Case in point: my wife and I were in Las Vegas in October and dined at é -- the 8-seat restaurant of José Andres inside of Jaleo. The meal was superb, 24 courses. There were two offered wine pairing flights, a "regular" and a "premium" one. I thought the price was outrageous for the "premium" one, which -- of course -- was of more interest to me. So we opted for a bottle of white, followed by a half-bottle of aged Rioja Gran Reserva. IMHO, we drank better and for less . . .

                                                                        1. re: zin1953
                                                                          p
                                                                          pickypicky Nov 26, 2012 06:58 AM

                                                                          Yes, that really was my point. Thanks for waiting for me to express it. So often we've chosen the tasting menu and then been disappointed by the muddle of middling wines. When we could have had one bottle (or two) of something standout, that we could have relished as it unfolded through the meal! Or chosen something we can't get on our own or may never see again. . .

                                                                          I think the vogue in tasting menus gives novices the idea that matching wine to food is a science not an art, and that it takes lots of personal tasting. I've also felt that suppliers dump wines on restaurants at discounts that they then move through tasting menus. But I'm cynical.

                                                                          1. re: pickypicky
                                                                            b
                                                                            Brad Ballinger Nov 26, 2012 07:33 AM

                                                                            I, too, appreciate the clarification. And I'm glad the thread continued long enough for that to happen.

                                                                            I've done the wine pairing per course thing once. I know there's a thread on this board where the OP asked about sharing pourings. The one time I did the wine pairing, I had them do half pours. It was a kitchen table tasting menu dinner at Charlie Trotter's and the couple joining us wanted to do the wine pairing thing.

                                                                            Apart from that one experience, I've usually ordered one or two bottles of wine and extended them throughout the tasting menu. Also, on occasion, I've brought my own wine for tasting menus.

                                                                            I think your cynicism is well founded in some cases, but probably not all. But some diners prefer to have someone else make the wine choice because they are still too afraid of making a "wrong" choice.

                                                                            1. re: pickypicky
                                                                              z
                                                                              zin1953 Nov 26, 2012 07:44 AM

                                                                              I have no desire to "improve" upon Maria Lorraine's excellent post (see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8791...), but here is a quick version of my take:

                                                                              a) Drink what you like, with what you want -- not even the LAPD's infamous SWAT team will kick in your front door for serving (for example) a Riesling with a rib-eye.

                                                                              b) There is no ONE PERFECT match -- that is, there are always several different wines that will match up with any particular dish;

                                                                              c) HOWEVER, when one does match wine to food "successfully," there is a synergy that makes both the wine and the food taste better than either one would if you were serving only water; conversely, if it is an "unsuccessful" match, both the wine and the food will suffer.

                                                                              d) I have no doubt that the *idea* behind a sommelier selecting the wines for pairing with the Chef's Tasting Menu is a sound one, but I find little value there -- not only do costs have to be covered (for the wine that remains unsold and unserved), but so,too, do the profits. By definition, it means high prices and weak value-for-money. So even when the pairings "work," the cost will be excessive. (IMHO.

                                                                              )

                                                                              Cheers,
                                                                              Jason

                                                                              1. re: zin1953
                                                                                p
                                                                                pickypicky Nov 26, 2012 08:29 AM

                                                                                I apologize for not being specific in the title-- and not really knowing what I wanted to say. Really, I was reacting to restaurant tasting menus, but also the ripple-effect out into people's lives where they believe that's the only way to serve wine. I respect ML's beautiful and impassioned post, but those are the words of a learned, experienced, thoughtful wine drinker. I agree more with you, Jason, that the Chef's Tasting Menus with wine = money-making gimmicks in many cases. (PS. Thanks for sticking with me to the end.)

                                                                                1. re: zin1953
                                                                                  r
                                                                                  RicRios Nov 26, 2012 02:11 PM

                                                                                  "c) HOWEVER, when one does match wine to food "successfully," there is a synergy that makes both the wine and the food taste better than either one would if you were serving only water; conversely, if it is an "unsuccessful" match, both the wine and the food will suffer"

                                                                                  My question to you in this regard:

                                                                                  Is it possible that synergy is relative to the participating individuals?

                                                                                  Or in other words, have you ever witnessed a situation where one taster qualifies a pairing as a perfect match, while another taster qualifies same match as unsuccessful?

                                                                                  1. re: RicRios
                                                                                    maria lorraine Nov 26, 2012 03:32 PM

                                                                                    Not zin1953 here...but I'd like to respond.

                                                                                    I have not, ever, come across the extreme dichotomy that you have described -- a successful "wow" pairing by one person and another who declared the same pairing unsuccessful.

                                                                                    In pairings to overcome flaws, I have come across tasters who never detected the flaw in the food or in the wine in the first place, and thus were unsurprised by how the flaw was resolved.

                                                                                    Without question, tasters have different sensitivities and insensitivities, as a result of genetics, cultural exposure, training (or not), hormones, degree of hunger, etc

                                                                                    I have encountered tasters whose palates were not able to detect subtleties, and thus were unable to pick up on some of the enhancements from pairing. By the same token, other tasters were sometimes able to detect subtleties for the first time when the same flavor was mirrored in both the food and the wine -- the individual flavor was amplified enough for them to detect it.

                                                                                    Why do you ask, Ric? What's your experience?

                                                                                    1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                      r
                                                                                      RicRios Nov 26, 2012 04:01 PM

                                                                                      My concern was purely theorical, but with this malicious intent in mind: if "perfect" vs "unsuccessful" pairings were dependent, among other causes, on the taster, that would cause the "molecular pairings" theory (touched upon a few inches down in this same thread ) to fall apart.

                                                                                    2. re: RicRios
                                                                                      z
                                                                                      zin1953 Nov 26, 2012 05:38 PM

                                                                                      Ric, like Maria Lorraine, I cannot recall ever experiencing the extreme divergence of opinion such as you describe. Certainly there are times (virtually always!) when some people prefer (e.g.) the Bâtard-Montrachet from Sauzet while others prefer the Bâtard from Laflaive with ________________ (how's THAT for a reference???), or the Châteauneuf over the California Rhone-styled blend with the ___________ . . . or the Napa Valley Cabernet over the Napa Valley Merlot from the same vineyard when paired with __________ . . . or vice-versa. That sort of thing happens all the time. But, to the best of my recollection, I've not experienced the "ahhhh, this is a perfect match" versus "Yuck -- that $#|+ is gawd-awful with the __________!" sorts of reactions.

                                                                                      Cheers,
                                                                                      Jason

                                                                        2. re: maria lorraine
                                                                          Bill Hunt Nov 27, 2012 08:27 PM

                                                                          <<what I've found and experienced with others, and taught, is that great food pairing changes the experience of flavor of both the food and the wine.>>

                                                                          To me, that is the epitome of food and wine pairings. A synergy, that enhances both the food AND the wine. A wonderful thing, when it all comes together.

                                                                          Hunt

                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                            maria lorraine Dec 1, 2012 01:27 AM

                                                                            Thanks, Bill. Hope we're able to share a table in the new year.

                                                                        3. p
                                                                          pickypicky Nov 25, 2012 12:46 PM

                                                                          Yes. I was feeling cranky this morning. And of course, I can and have been doing exactly what I please for many years. However it saddens me to see so many requests on here about what goes with what. If one drinks wine with relish and thoughtfulness, then those questions answer themselves eventually with no need for rules or an authority's guidance. I worry that too many of the questions about pairing arise from fear about doing the wrong thing.

                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                          1. re: pickypicky
                                                                            z
                                                                            zin1953 Nov 25, 2012 12:55 PM

                                                                            Well, OF COURSE they do! Wine remains -- despite my best efforts -- a mysterious, intimidating, and even alien entity that defies understanding . . .

                                                                            It isn't, of course. It's actually very easy to get the basics, and taking to "the next level" isn't very difficult at all, requiring very little effort. But for some -- especially those who can be easily intimidated -- "Wine" can be an insurmountable challenge. (sigh)

                                                                            1. re: zin1953
                                                                              c
                                                                              chloebell Nov 25, 2012 01:39 PM

                                                                              Zin1953, yes!!! An insurmountable challenge for sure. I still "fear" French wines, lol - simply b/c it can be so overwhelming, the language, just everything. But, once I have a taste of something French, usually I'm going to like it. But to study it, can be daunting. But if studying requires tasting, then I'm all in. LOL!

                                                                              1. re: chloebell
                                                                                collioure1 Nov 25, 2012 01:41 PM

                                                                                They aren't that different. Same grapes, different climates and different names.

                                                                                You just need a conversion table.

                                                                                1. re: collioure1
                                                                                  Bill Hunt Nov 27, 2012 08:28 PM

                                                                                  Agree. If one does a "cheat sheet" of grape varietals, and a little bit of geography study, a vast, and wonderful (there's that word again) world of wine awaits. Were it not for FR wines, my life would never be so complete.

                                                                                  Fear not Chloebell.

                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                2. re: chloebell
                                                                                  z
                                                                                  zin1953 Nov 25, 2012 02:23 PM

                                                                                  Studying is easy . . . as FDR said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." If you continue to think French (or Italian or Spanish or German or ________ or _________) wines are a daunting prospect, then then *will* be. But only you accept that a) the labeling standards are simply different than those for American wines, and b) the labels on a French (or Italian or Spanish or German or ________ or _________) wine actually contain MORE information on them rather than less, it will all become much easier!

                                                                                3. re: zin1953
                                                                                  Bill Hunt Nov 27, 2012 08:21 PM

                                                                                  Jason,

                                                                                  You missed "wonderful," in that list of adjectives - at least for me.

                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                              2. b
                                                                                Brad Ballinger Nov 25, 2012 12:17 PM

                                                                                The wine to pair with any food is the wine you like to drink with that food. Period. The follow up issue is whether or not to settle for a "good enough" pairing, or to see if there is something that would work better for you.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: Brad Ballinger
                                                                                  Bill Hunt Nov 27, 2012 08:20 PM

                                                                                  I could not agree more.

                                                                                  My taste for pairings is much more eclectic, than my wife's is, but she also loves to experiment. With a "wine pairing," we often have many earlier wines, and sample - usually, they do not pair all that well, but there have been some notable exceptions, and we make not of them, plus share our observations with the sommelier. Ninety percent of the time, I expect to learn something from him/her, but 10% of the time, maybe I can add something to their "portfolio?"

                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                2. f
                                                                                  foodieX2 Nov 25, 2012 12:10 PM

                                                                                  Nope not all. Sometimes it's nice to have the work done for you, others times not. I have never been to restaurant that required you have the pairings so big deal if I decide to go my own route. To me it is just another nice option.

                                                                                  1. collioure1 Nov 25, 2012 11:54 AM

                                                                                    Each to his own.

                                                                                    The right wine can be/is the one you want to drink.

                                                                                    However, I really enjoy the challenge of matching wine to food almost every day.

                                                                                    (So maybe my handle should be pickypicky)

                                                                                    13 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: collioure1
                                                                                      c
                                                                                      chloebell Nov 25, 2012 12:13 PM

                                                                                      I think it might be that we are exposed to so much more wine & food these days. I think it can be a lot of fun, and does not have to be as snooty as it appeared to be years ago.

                                                                                      And if you want a red with fish, go for it.

                                                                                      To me, wine is like art - to each his own, you like what you like, and no one can argue that. I thoroughly enjoy wine pairings, and it's fun to discuss each aspect with your peers.

                                                                                      1. re: chloebell
                                                                                        c
                                                                                        Chefpaulo Nov 25, 2012 12:22 PM

                                                                                        Exactly, chloebelle. Hence the title of David Rosengarten and Josh Wesson's 1989 book, "Red Wine with Fish," and its superb recipes. Mix it up. Drink what you like and screw the effete pundits of propriety. And, yes, I sometimes like a little chill on my reds.
                                                                                        CP

                                                                                        1. re: Chefpaulo
                                                                                          collioure1 Nov 25, 2012 12:29 PM

                                                                                          Red wine with fish is not revolutionary. It's the correct choice with salmon, tuna and swordfish.

                                                                                          Moreover, when I have red wine open and white fish for dinner, I just make a sauce that calls for red wine - anchovy butter, beurre rouge . . .

                                                                                          1. re: collioure1
                                                                                            z
                                                                                            zin1953 Nov 25, 2012 12:47 PM

                                                                                            There is no "correct choice." There are suggestions/recommendations on the one hand, and there is what you the individual enjoy. Now while it *is* true that, for example, I *generally* prefer a Pinot Noir with salmon, there are certain preparations which have been served with white wine, or even sake, where I have been positively delighted.

                                                                                            1. re: zin1953
                                                                                              collioure1 Nov 25, 2012 12:51 PM

                                                                                              Jason, in general fishes such as salmon, tuna and swordfish demand acidic reds. Now it could be that the sauce will prefer white.

                                                                                              I've already noted above that the correct wine is the one you want to drink, but in terms of red wine being revolutionary with fish, it is not revolutionary with these omega-3 fishes. In general it is the preferred/recommended/correct choice.

                                                                                              OK?

                                                                                              1. re: collioure1
                                                                                                z
                                                                                                zin1953 Nov 25, 2012 01:10 PM

                                                                                                Well, clearly it's OK to (and for) you. And isn't that what counts?

                                                                                                That said, I'm with Brad, who wrote "The wine to pair with any food is the wine you like to drink with that food."

                                                                                                When I worked retail, one of the most common questions I would get, on a daily basis, was, "I'm serving __________ for dinner tonight. What wine should I serve?" In my experience, there is no "correct" answer to that. If there were, then you could go into your local supermarket and see aisle after aisle of wines like Château Lamb Chop, Domaine Rack of Lamb, Maison Merguez, Côtes-du-Rack of Lamb, etc., etc. Instead, my recommendations were always based upon the customer's likes-and-dislikes, as well as the entrée's preparation.

                                                                                                1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                  collioure1 Nov 25, 2012 01:28 PM

                                                                                                  re: Instead, my recommendations were always based upon the customer's likes-and-dislikes, as well as the entrée's preparation.

                                                                                                  So were mine in our restaurants.

                                                                                                  Nevertheless w.r.t. red wine being revolutionary with fish, it is not revolutionary with salmon, tuna and swordfish or with any sauce that complements red wine.

                                                                                                  1. re: collioure1
                                                                                                    Bill Hunt Nov 27, 2012 07:58 PM

                                                                                                    We do many reds, and with white fish. So very much depends on the prep, but our normal "go-to" reds are:

                                                                                                    PN
                                                                                                    Syrah/Shiraz (both Old World and New World)
                                                                                                    Cru BJ
                                                                                                    Rosé Champagne
                                                                                                    Rosé still wines
                                                                                                    Grenache/Ganarcha

                                                                                                    Hunt

                                                                                                2. re: collioure1
                                                                                                  Bill Hunt Nov 27, 2012 07:56 PM

                                                                                                  I have had many instances, where a wine list offered a wine, that I really wanted to drink. In those cases, I order my main course, to work with THAT wine.

                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                                3. re: zin1953
                                                                                                  Bill Hunt Nov 27, 2012 07:54 PM

                                                                                                  Jason,

                                                                                                  Like you, I first think of pairings that have worked for me in the past. Are they the ONLY ones? No way.

                                                                                                  Just had a salmon in a creamy white wine sauce, and the bigger FR Chardonnay, that I chose, worked well.

                                                                                                  Now, I seldom think of any white wine with a grilled steak, but as mentioned elsewhere, that has not kept me from sipping a half-dozen whites with that steak. Only a white Rioja has managed to really get my attention, and then there was a white Rhône (Northern - Hermitage), that did get my attention, unexpectedly.

                                                                                                  Let's say that I am sitting at Bern's, and have just ordered a grilled, dry-aged beef tenderloin, with no sauces, or similar. I have their wine list of 10,000 wines in my lap. About 2/3 are reds. If I do not rely on the sommelier, guess where I am likely to go, especially as I have probably already spent US $ 250, up to that point? I am going red, and probably at least one of the varietals, that I associate with grilled, dry-aged beef. I may go to the Rhône, to a Zinfandel, maybe a Malbec from the Mendoza Region in Argentina, a big Cab Franc, or perhaps a Bdx blend from either the New, or Old World. If I am hosting the table, then I will likely go with a wine, that I know will pair very well, to perfectly. If it's just the two of us, or we are out with wino friends, then I will go to something, that is not in my cellar. Maybe a 5th Growth Bdx, that I did not buy, but have heard good things about?

                                                                                                  I pair with what I think will work, am open to other varietals, Regions, and countries, so long as I am not hosting.

                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                    p
                                                                                                    plaidbowtie Dec 4, 2012 01:13 AM

                                                                                                    A Didier Dagueneau Blanc Fume with at least 10 years of age on it with a tenderloin could change your mind.

                                                                                                    1. re: plaidbowtie
                                                                                                      Bill Hunt Dec 18, 2012 07:16 PM

                                                                                                      Have never tried this pairing, but will keep my eyes peeled for it, on the list.

                                                                                                      As mentioned, I have encountered some surprising (at least to me) pairings, and always keep an open mind.

                                                                                                      Just did two diners, where grilled beef was the "main," and I sampled it with a half-dozen whites (in one restaurant), and at least four, in the other. None quite did IT for me. Still, those were only with about 10 different whites, so there is much room for experimentation.

                                                                                                      Thanks,

                                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                        k
                                                                                                        Klunco Dec 18, 2012 07:22 PM

                                                                                                        I had an oxidized Jura White with a roast lamb loin dish earlier this year that blew me away. Completely unexpected yet perfect pairing.

                                                                                                        Might be worth a shot if you're looking to find a white that works with red meat. Thinking about it again now, it makes me want to try an aged white Rioja with lamb.

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