As wine connoisseurship evolves, I look toward developing ways to express the aspects of wine I love the most. I recognize that wine is a product of nature and science; my goal is as natural as can be: to help make the connection between joy of taste and the bountiful pleasures of life.”

Saturday, October 31, 2009

making it come alive

If you’re passionate about wine, you’re bound to be passionate about food. Right?

The primary and overriding rule is flavor and enjoyment. If you want to find true wine and food harmony and that’s the goal, the journey will be about balancing the flavors of both the food and the wine so that you may taste them both equally. Above and beyond everything else that could be said about a pairing there is one golden standard. A qualifier of sorts. If the wine is either too delicate or too bold in comparison to a particular food, then it will do little to support the food and will either overpower or undermine the food’s character. The white wine with white meats and red wine with red meats philosophy has its place; yet a contrast can be attractive and quite complementary in its own way. For example, Salmon is oily and fatty and a Riesling is crisp with citrusy flavors and would provide a suitable contrast to the fish. A Chardonnay, however, may not complement the Salmon, as it might (style depending) add an unnecessary dollop of fattiness to the fish yielding a mush of richness without flavor delineation. The bottom line is trial and error, see what combinations appeal to your palate and go from there.

A matter of personal preference: If you enjoy both red and white wines you may find that lighter foods like poached or grilled fish, soups and vegetables actually do work better with white wines and that the more robust nature of red wines compliment red meats and dishes with heartier sauces and accoutrement. But if your preference is just red, and you always choose a red, some lighter reds do in fact pair well with fish, like salmon and Tuna, or even a simple roasted chicken. Remember, there will always be someone that just loves the idea of a full bodied red wine even when paired with the most delicate scallop! Regardless what any magazine or critic or wine store buyer says, the most important thing to remember is that you really enjoy the wine and food all at once. The experience isn’t necessarily about an intellectual adventure. It’s about enjoyment!
Remember, follow your own tastes and don’t be afraid to experiment.

Intensity for Intensity: if you find yourself strolling the grocery aisles pondering a really classic or proper pairing, I would say that the most important contemplation to make would be to consider the “body” or intensity of the preparation your planning to create or wine you crave and then once either the wine or the cuisine is determined, pair it with a partner of comparable intensity. This comparative can go both ways …a big full bodied structured white wine with richness, high acidity and complexity may just as well pair with something you might normally pair with a lighter red say,.. a pasta preparation with mushrooms, chicken & rosemary. In this example, what matters more than the color of the wine in relationship to the preparation is their relative intensity of flavor.
Another example of a situation where you could default to this rule would be while shaping a pairing for a white fleshed fish like swordfish. Typically, most people think white wine with Swordfish but wait!,…what happens when the swordfish is prepared with oven roasted garlicky chick peas and spicy Spanish chorizo? Suddenly, the default white wine (color) pairing becomes an option rather than an absolute. Another thing to remember, moreso than the fish or center of plate itself, the sauce, or componentry of the preparation is often the focus and element that’s intensity is considered when choosing the wine. This idea of matching intensity is what is meant when a wine is said to “stand up to” and balance a culinary preparation. So, remember, ask yourself how big the flavors are for both the wine and the food, then make the choice. You’ll find it’ll end up being less about region, or varietal and more about intensity for intensity!

Supporting or Contrasting: without question, there are some wines that really work well with “specific” elements of a given preparation because the wine either supports or contrasts the preparation. This is a slightly more cerebral approach than the “intensity for intensity” model though with a little extra thought and some experimentation getting this technique down will put you on the fast track to being a wine pairing pro. So here goes,. It is possible to “support” an existing flavor element or profile of a culinary preparation using a wine just as simply as it is possible to find harmony through “contrasting” and “opposing” that same element. For instance, a cream sauce with a richly roasted feathered game could be “supported” by a rich, buttery oak-aged chardonnay and could also benefit from a wine with a more refreshing profile and higher acidity. Using a leaner, brighter, drier white, the dryness of the wine synergizes with the salts, and the acidity cuts through the cream sauce, in this instance, a unique and refreshing balance can be found through “contrasting” the richness. Look for peppery notes in food to match or support the pepperyness in a wine, look for plumy round plush fruit flavors in a wine to counter the spiciness of a tomato barbeque sauce on grilled pork ribs. Use bright acidic whites to support acidic pickles, and vinaigrette on a salad. Use minerality in a wine to support the chalky minerality of a freshly shucked oyster.

Begin your journey to understanding wine and food with an open mind, eschew absolutes and choose pairings based on flavor rather than varietal or region. Remember first and foremost to keep it simple and focus on enjoyment and the raw pleasures of flavor. Keep in mind that contentment and its catalysts are subjective and that while there is science and there are the classic rules of engagement, in the end it’ll be up to you and you alone. After all.. it is not wine that commands your attention but rather rewards it!”

No comments: