Saturday, March 20, 2010

Do Food and Wine Pairings Matter?

At my good friend's site, Wine Unleashed, she poses the question that seems to be beyond asking.  And with some good empirical evidence to back up her assertions, concludes pairings matter.

I have a qualified, different opinion.  First, the qualification: the old rule about white wine with fish and big, hearty reds with beef, for the most part are founded on taste chemistry.  This is a good article in Wikipedia, and there is a good book on the subject too, Wine Taster's Logic by Pat Simon.  But don't worry too much about all that.

But here is my heretical view.  In the US, there is little left of regional cuisine.  Certainly there never was a regional wine that "goes with" the regional cuisines.  What do you pair with Carolina BBQ?  Texas BBQ? Pot roast?  You get the idea.  Contrast that with France, where terroir is everything.  In wine, in cheese, in produce, in preparation methods for locally caught fish.  For example, in the south of France, influenced by the hundreds of years of mideastern exposure, the spice profile used in cooking is a perfect foil for the lighter Lang d'Oc and Cote du Rhone wines.  And it gets even more micro than that.  Go up to Burgogne, and get really micro with the tiny vintners and the localized specialties of cheese, game, meat and produce.  Coupled with the French mania for gathering mushrooming and chestnuts, and the terroir becomes even more evident.  Now, what is the US equivalent?  No, I can't think of any either.

Remember, there are some really cool pairings that break the rules- a nice semi sweet Riesling with spicy asian food for example.  Adventure.  You won't really get hurt.

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