Wine X Staff
Wine X magazine Online Edition
If you haven’t read our first article on food and wine pairing, read it here to get a nice idea of how to start pairing your wines with food. However, if you’re a little more advanced, then continue on to read my take on why wine and food pairing can be simultaneously incredibly frustrating and also very invigorating and delicious.
Here’s the key takeaway if you’re not feeling like reading the whole article: wine and food pairing is awesome, TO AN EXTENT. It will not change your life. I have read so, so many articles where some wine industry pundit, writer, or personality has *that moment* where they tried this-wine and that-food and how it completely changed their mindset, or maybe even convinced them to get into wine in the first place. And I’m convinced that they are feeding us all a big ol’ spoonful of bullshit.
I have been to many, many highly rated restaurants (read: Michelin 3-star) and paid top dollar for wine-and-food pairings with beverage directors who are on point when it comes to serving customers delicious wines with their dishes. And you know what? I can’t remember a single truly sublime pairing. I’ve had amazing experiences, perfectly aged wines that tasted delicious, and foods that are beyond incredible. But I can’t tell you one single time where a wine and food pairing blew me away. And I think that’s because people put far too much stock, time, and effort into trying to create the perfect food and wine pairings.
Often, the argument that people have for why you should pair your food with wine is because that is what they do in the old world. Go to a bistro in France or a trattoria in Italy and wine has to be on the table, it’s just a part of life there. But what we (in high-end restaurants and wine publications anyway) fail to consider is that the wine they serve with your dinner in a trattoria in Tuscany is the same damn wine year-round, no matter what’s in season or what goes into the dish. The same regional red and/or white is on the table every time, whether you order Bolognese or artichokes on your pasta. Just because truffles aren’t in season doesn’t mean they switch from Barolo to Barbera, or heaven forbid start importing some Chianti.
With that in mind, here’s my advice on wine pairings. Like many things in life, KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. Ever heard that you should pair red meat with red wine and fish with white wine? Just stick to that. How about “what goes together grows together”? Do that too. Will you get that sublime pairing? No. Does it exist? Not if you buy into the premise of this article. Most of the “rules” when pairing food and wine exist because someone got burned at a dinner party trying to break the norms by pairing a Pinot with a Salmon Dish, and everyone thought it was weird and/or gross. Do you really want to be that person? I don’t.
That being said, am I saying Pinot can never pair with Salmon or that you shouldn’t experiment? Of course not, you can do whatever you want. But therein lies my next point. I pair just about every meal I drink wine with, and that means I pair a hell of a lot of wine and food. I also do it for a living when I work as a Sommelier for events. I don’t pick Sauvignon Blanc to have on Friday nights with my steak frites. I don’t lean towards pouring Amarone with a client’s salad Niçoise. I don’t tend to stray too far from what has always worked well, and you know what? I’m never disappointed, and neither are my clients.
And I never feel like I’m missing anything because I’ve paid $300 for a wine pairing and been disappointed by how boring it was. So as much as it pains me to say this, rules exist for a reason, and that is not always for them to be broken.
Sometimes, the rules exist because they are good rules, that should be followed.