Wine pairing fascinates me. Perhaps because I develop recipes for a wine retailer, I take it very seriously. I approach it as a puzzle with more than one solution. I enjoy finding at least one way to answer the question “what goes with what.”
If you read any book or guide to wine pairing, you’ll often come across a bit of advice that says something to the effect–drink what like. After that disclaimer is issued, a listing and philosophy unfolds. There are a myriad of different ways people pair wines with food. I try not to view these lists and philosophies as rules, but as guidelines or instructive stories. I imagine the author telling me “hey, one time I tried this wine with this dish and it was delicious, you might like it too.”
This week over at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Paul Reidinger wrote an article titled Porn in Pairs The best pairings are food, wine, and connections to other people. In it he mocked the obsessive accounts that sometimes take place when recommending a certain wine with a certain dish.
"Although my subscription to Annals of Wine Pornography has lapsed, I still glean the occasional fetishistic detail from other press outlets -- in particular, obsessive accounts of how this vintage of that winemaker's reserve pinot noir pairs brilliantly with a particular kind of sheep's milk cheese, left at room temperature for an hour, then smeared over some kind of heirloom fig that's been grilled, cut side up, over a medium applewood fire for six to eight minutes while the grill chef recites poetry."
I get it, because I’ve read those descriptions as well. And perhaps we’ve gone a bit too far. Recently a friend pointed out recommendations in Saveur magazine for specific wines with different cuts of steak! Ultimately, I enjoy wine pairing because it helps me to identify the nuances in food and wine, but even that is irrelevant without the right company at the table. The ultimate food and wine pairing happens when the experience of being together is enhanced. I’ll try not to forget that as I go about suggesting yet another dish to serve with Cabernet Sauvignon…