Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I Hate Wine and Food Pairing

As I sat at the Father's Day dinner table, enjoying my barbequed ribs with a side of sauce for even more smoky-BBQ flavor, I noticed that I was drinking Vinho Verde. Why, you may ask, would I make such a bizarre pairing? Simple, I reply - I don't care. I was finishing a bottle of VV that Mrs. Vini and I had opened earlier in the evening and it wasn't gone yet. Thus, I drank it and it was good.

Did the wine elevate the food to divine levels?

Did I look around to see if anyone noticed my gaffe?

Did I rush to find a spicy Zinfandel or a rustic Rhone?

No, no and no.

Why? Simple, the wine tasted good and the food tasted good - 'nuff said. Further, I also had three other dishes to contend with. Would a big Syrah have gone well with my fruit salad? Unlikely, but if that's what I was drinking, I wouldn't have stopped to crack open a new bottle of something else.

You see, this whole wine and food pairing thing is getting out of hand. I recognize, and I think most other wine drinkers do too, that there are several fundamental problems with the process:

1) Wine tastes differently as it evolves, ages or declines so what the person who wrote the suggested tasting note got from the wine may be completely different for you.

2) Recipes tend to come out differently as well - we've all had times when a favorite food just wasn't quite the same.

3) People's individual tastes and preferences vary. If you like dry wines, there might not be any workable pairing for you involving off-dry Riesling, so don't worry about it!

4) Most people drink wine with a multi-course dinner served at once. If you're at the French Laundry, then by all means get a bottle with each course, but when at home how can you match salad, starch and meat with a single wine....?

What obviously irks me is that this whole pairing thing just makes it more difficult for people to serve, drink and enjoy wine:

"What should we serve with the salmon ravioli?"

"I don't know, let's just have beer"

The proper answer to this question is, "Whatever you like" but people get hung up on having the "right" wine with their food and they feel intimidated. Screw that!

Don't get hung up on these silly notions of wines and food being required to go perfectly together. Open a bottle of something tasty and drink up!


Blogger Greg said...

I agree. I also think that wine/food pairing leads to anxiety. People go to restaurants or the supermarket and feel that they need to pick the "perfect" wine to go with a meal. Some people end up leaving without even getting wine. I think that there is a place for food/wine pairing, but for most meals, people shouldn't worry. Just eat and drink what makes you happy.

June 19, 2007 2:31 PM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

Hear, hear, Greg.

Oddly, after I posted this, I read a column in the Wine Enthusiast's July edition from Steve Heimoff who says basically the same thing. I love this quote from him "Back in the 19th century, the British served Sauternes with beef, and somehow, England survived."


June 19, 2007 3:30 PM  
Blogger caveman said...

So, so slack. While it is nothing to lose sleep over, some things do work better than others, and if you took a poll of 10 people, I bet that Asparagus and Riesling would be a clear winner over Asparagus and Chardonnay. There is a relationship between fat and tannin, how complememnatry flavours work together. I hate to be a bummer, but I taste food and wine together for a living, and, well, you coudl do better than Vinho Verde and Meat.

It is just a matter putting a LITTLE EFFORT into it. Hell, you took the time to marinate your ribs, not just boiling them... was it a homemade sauce?

Sure, drink whatever, but if you put on your mensa cap and devote a just a bit of your massive brain power, you might find that the little bit of effort pays back tasty dividends.

Hope summer is treating you well and all those nasty bugs aren't getting you down.


June 21, 2007 4:18 AM  
Blogger St. Vini said...


Less than .00001% of the population gets to taste wine and food for a living. For those who do, your comments are right on. For the remaining 99.9999% of us, we should get over this silliness.

So I open a bottle of Riesling for my asparagus and then another bottle for my main course? That just makes an already luxury item farther out of reach for most. Why blow $20-30 on a home-prepared meal for your BEVERAGE?!?

If I polled 10 people and 7 agreed with you, are the remaining 3 SOL?

And when you say Chardonnay doesn't go with asparagus, are you talking about oaked or unoaked? ML or no? Lean or fat? Fruity or French? Chilean or South African? Which vintage?

When you say asparagus are you talking broiled or grilled? White or green? Pan-fried or steamed? Sauced? What kind? Salt? Pepper?

Frankly, its simplistic generalities like that that got me started in the first place. ;)

Drink what you like.

Here's to Grenache and artichokes,

June 21, 2007 9:37 AM  
Blogger caveman said...

Hey Vin,

Obviously if you don't care then well, you don't care. But if you have opened a bottle of your favorite fatty, oaked Australian Chard...and then took a bite of yoru steamed asparagus, and then thew ine tastes chalky and weird...woudln't that suck? Especially when could have opened the Riesling...

Why make the effort to source out good ingredients, different ingredients and then just drink anything? Hey Vini..here's a nice bowl of fresh strawberries... what you have no cream, only ketchup? Cool... squirt it on .

you see my point.

The whole idea is that IF you want to make the effort to understand how food and wine works, there are people like me who can steer you in the right direction. Its not silly, it is about getting the most out of your wine..like not serving your whites too cold, or reds too hot, or how long to caraffe it.

Its about going deeper and nobody is forcing that on anybody...but there are more and more peopel out there who do understand it and want to understand it.

And as a sacrifice to the collective body of knowledge of pairing food and wine.. I iwll drink Grenache with Artichokes...marinated, steamed and grilled..

I'll let you know.


June 21, 2007 10:36 AM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

Bill: I can always count on you to take the logical extreme and work from there. You're just being silly with the strawberries and ketchup - nowhere did I say that food and wine can't be sublime together. Reread my original post and comments. The point is that if you like strawberries and ketchup, then don't let the foodie police tell you you're wrong, enjoy!

And you're still didn't really address my fundamental gripe, and that is - why do I want to open a bottle of wine just for a single pairing. It can be wonderful, no doubt, but if it doesn't happen (as with my BBQ and VV), then no big deal - that's my whole point. Hell, I'll drink sparkling wine with just about anything. And if you find a sublime pairing, bully for you! If you don't, that's still great, no doubt the food and wine were both quite tasty.

And, for what its worth, I like my asparagus with fresh cracked black pepper, grated Parmigiana Reggiano, and a sprinkle of good olive oil. Broil under tender and finish with a spritz of real balsalmic. If there's no Riesling, I'll eat that with a glass of whatever is open, thanks.


June 21, 2007 10:55 AM  
Blogger caveman said...


Boy i have missed this,

Hey if starwbs and ketchup is your thing go for it...

There are no foody police. Just foodies and choices that will make the whole experience better or worse. I am a fanatic, I like to construct my meals around my wines..in as much as I choose what spices to use..it just makes it better..which is my point.If you can have better, why not? But if you want to drink yoru Napa Cab with yoru lobster..go for it, but you wont taste your lobster, and the wine wont be as good as it coudl be. Its just a fact, I am not being a snob. And i bet most people, if they were offered an opportunity to choose between what 'experts' say is a good match and what they say is a bad match..will go for the good match.

I had some oysters the other day, and had a bottle open of german Riesling in teh fridge...so we drank it and well, it wasnt any good...coudlnt taste the oysters.. so i put the cork back in the bottle and opened up a Muscadet (bio-d cuvee Granite 2002 from L'Ecu), and bingo..superb.

My point is that if you can, drink an appropriate wine. Simple.

And sparkling does kinda go with everything.

And i like my asparagus liek that too..though the wife is big on gently steamed.


June 21, 2007 11:27 AM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

"Napa Cab with yoru(sic) lobster"

Bill: Dick Cheney would be proud. Good luck with your pairings.


June 21, 2007 11:46 AM  
Anonymous Stuart said...

I don't get the Cheney reference...is it about powering over everything in it's surroundings regardless of effect?

Anyways, I think that the reaction most people have to food & wine pairings is one of fear - of opening the "wrong" wine and having everyone gossiping about how terrible a combination it was. there's alot of anxiety about that, and I agree that taking it to the "drink whatever" stage would really help people de-stress.

There are some helpful hints though when looking into "what to open" if you don't already have a bottle in mind: try slightly sweet (off-dry) wines with foods that have a slight sweetness or spiciness to them; and more intense wines with more intense cooking (BBQ, smoking,etc) or heavier sauces; finally, a more acid wine with foods that have acids (eg, lemon sauces, etc) so they don't appear too out of whack when going from the food to the wine.

But having said that, I'll point out that there are many wines which are not too tannic, sweet, or too intense so that they won't pair decently with quite a range of foods - and that should be the goal of most people for the day to day experience. Greg's right, some people get hung up on it and just skip the wine all together. Reduce the anxiety over what wine to drink and bring them back to the fold.

June 22, 2007 7:57 AM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

The Cheney reference was because Bill likes to take the illogical extreme ("Talking about that emboldens our enemies" is about as helpful as his "Cabernet and Lobster" comment). Were I to come from his extremes, I would say "okay, I will never eat food without the perfect pairing again." but that (too) would be absurd.

Of course I'm not talking about pairing antagonistic things (tannic reds and light-weight foods). I'm just pointing out that a surprising amount of people feel intimidated when it comes to pairings and that often makes them skip the wine altogether - not a good thing.

Bill, maybe because this is his vocation, feels differently and that people are being a bit lazy by not putting out effort to maximize every dining experience.

For what its worth, last night I had venison with a pepper/bourbon/cream sauce, steamed artichokes with mayo and raviolis with pesto - no kidding! So, I opened a cheap Alexander Valley Cabernet and it was good.


June 22, 2007 9:08 AM  
Anonymous Tina said...

I kinda like the game of finding a good wine match for whatever I'm eating, but I'm not obsessive about it. (I use the word "game" because sometimes the pairing I think will be great bombs, and sometimes the one I'm sure will never work ends up blowing me away.) My husband is always asking me what kind of wine he should bust open with our dinner, and my answer is often, "Whatever you feel like opening." That tends to frustrate him, because he doesn't want to make the "wrong" choice. I can't be bothered to think about it that much most of the time.

June 22, 2007 2:15 PM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

Reassure your husband that if the wine works for him, it was the right choice.

Part of the problem for most people is that they think of trying to find one wine which will please EVERYONE, which if you think about the differences in individual tastes, perceptive abilities, etc, which will just lead to frustration.

June 23, 2007 9:40 AM  
Blogger vargas said...

I enjoy reading your blog. You take the intimidation out of wine tasting and wine pairings.

Now I don't have to feel bad for preferring to Gewurztraminer with grilled ribeye.

Or even drinking wine with artichokes!

June 25, 2007 3:14 PM  
Blogger St. Vini said...


Many thanks for the compliment. If you enjoy Gewurztraminer and Ribeye, then that's all that really matters isn't it? Someone's implication that there's something better out there just makes you enjoy your meal less and why should you do that?!?

Thanks for reading,

June 26, 2007 1:26 PM  
Blogger The Wino Club said...

All right. I understand that there are chemical reactions and that people really do take pairings seriously. I agree that a properly paired wine can be amazing. Occasionally I will drink wine with dinner but I personally don't care to eat and drink at the same time unless it's a nice cold beer. Food tends to wreck my wine. (I actually heard gasps from the other side of cyberspace on that comment). When I reach for that white Burgundy I want to smell the toffee and taste the chardonnay. I don't want that experience to be ruined by even the most delicious asparagus (your recipe sounds delectable). Sorry for those out there that take the pairings seriously who will come back and say that properly paired foods and wine will enhance your experience of both. I like to enjoy my pleasures separately. I pick wines I can just sit and drink rather than wines I can eat with. I multitask all day long. It’s nice to once in a while enjoy just one thing at a time.

June 28, 2007 6:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I think that food and wine pairing is needed!

December 07, 2007 7:19 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home