Artisan Wine Review
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Pairing Wine with Food

Can you imagine a high-end restaurant where the chef and his entire kitchen staff use only one style of knife to prepare all their dishes?
How about a golfer who uses only one club while playing eighteen holes?
Would you bring your car to a mechanic who only used a pair of pliers for all repairs?

Yes, they might eventually succeed, but they probably wouldn't be very efficient.
It kind of feels like the same thing to us when it comes to the national wine, "brands" recommending foods to pair with their wines.   It just seems that whenever we read one of those information cards that hang underneath the wine bottles on retailer's shelves, the winery is proclaiming that their wines go great with; "chicken, or beef, or fish", as if one flavor profile fits all culinary situations.
Typical of the large producers, such food pairing generalities are meant to over-simplify gastronomic thinking in an effort to sell bottles to every single wine buyer out there.
We believe that modern cuisine has not become so utterly generic that one wine can be counted on to pair brilliantly with everything.
To back up that statement, we will attempt to use a simple chicken dinner to illustrate the many variables encountered when pairing wine with food:

  • The chicken itself can be broiled, sautéed, baked, fried, braised, grilled, steamed, breaded, marinated, pounded, smoked, dry rubbed, or even stuffed.
  • The dish may have no sauce at all, or it may have a butter sauce, a red sauce, green sauce, cheese sauce, brown sauce, fruit sauce, mole sauce, satay sauce, barbecue sauce, honey-mustard sauce, or dozens of other culinary options.
  • The sauce used can be made fairly mild or extra spicy.   It may be relatively light in body or super rich.   It can also be silky smooth or delightfully chunky in style.
  • Then there is the matter of the rest of the plate.   What if the chef decided to serve that same chicken with sautéed green leafy vegetables, or fresh fruit compote?   How about an accompaniment of marinated artichokes, or grilled baby fennel, or some pickled beets, or wasabi coleslaw, or a helping of honey glazed carrots, or mashed potatoes seasoned with shaved black truffles?   Then again, the chef may opt to serve corn on the cob dripping with butter and sprinkled with Cajun spices.
You can probably see where we are going here.   A tall glass of chocolate milk night be absolutely delicious when served with a slice of coconut cream pie, but we are quite certain that chocolate milk would not be our first choice if we were about to dine on rack of lamb, or a pastrami sandwich, or a bowl of linguini with white clam sauce.

So how then does on learn the basic rules of pairing food and wine?
  • You can try reading one of the many books written on the subject.
  • You may also choose to watch a few videos on the art of wine pairing.
  • You could attend some of the food and wine pairing events offered at nearby restaurants.
  • You should always make it a point to ask your local wine professionals for their advice when choosing a bottle of wine to serve with dinner.
  • Finally, try going with three other people to a neighborhood bistro that has a good selection of wines by the glass.   Have everyone order the same dish, and then ask your server to bring four glasses of different wines that they feel would best complement the meal being served.   Once the food arrives, start by having one person sniff the wine in glass #1, then have that person taste their food, followed by a sip of wine#1. Next, have that person pass the wine in glass #1 to the another person so that they can repeat this tasting procedure.   Continue passing the glass to the other two members of your party.   When completed, have everyone comment on their impressions of wine #1 and how well it paired with the dish.   The next step is to have someone else begin the process, this time with the wine in glass #2.   After that glass has been passed around and everyone has sniffed and tasted the wine with their meal, have each person comment on their thoughts on how well that particular combination worked out.   Then have everyone repeat this tasting procedure with the wine in glass #3 and finally with wineglass #4.
Do not be surprised if after a few weeks of these wine pairing luncheons, you and your friends become hooked on this new "educational hobby" and start to develop a feel for which wines will work well in different culinary situations.
You will soon find that the topic really isn't nearly as mysterious and confusing as you may have first thought.   In fact, most wine lovers that use this system pick up the fundamentals of beverage-matching fairly quickly.

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