Food and wine pairing is an integral part of a Sommelier’s job and there is no doubt that it can be great when it works. I’ve had some fantastic food and wine pairings put together by those in the know. However, I remember when I was young my Dad telling me the advice he was given by a French quality wine maker: you don’t pair quality wine with food. You drink table wine when eating. Why would you want to sully a good wine with food, it should be appreciated on its own.
Fair enough, but I imagine a Michelin star chef may have a different take. They would no doubt be horrified if you sullied their perfect food with a low quality table wine.
Let’s be honest, most of us can’t afford either the top quality wines or to eat at a Michelin star restaurant every night. Also pairing your wine with food can be a bit difficult if you a white wine drinker who doesn’t like red or vice versa. So I subscribe to view of Rebecca Seal in this podcast by BBC Radio 4 (skip to 25mins 41sec). Another food & drink writer, rather than a wine expert, Rebecca agrees with my policy that you should drink what you enjoy.
She also refers to some interesting research by Professor Charles Spence at Oxford University on how our surroundings and mood can effect our taste. He talks about The Science of Food on this BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme.
To be honest it’s a little bit depressing to hear just how easily our human senses can be fooled. Don’t get me wrong I applaud the work they’re doing trying to trick us into eating more healthily and I totally agree that my surroundings have a huge effect on the enjoyment of the wine I’m drinking at the time. Wine always tastes better on holiday or when you’re having a good time.
This research lends new credence to the WSET guidelines for tasting wine, which frankly is in a very sterile environment. However it is only by assessing wines in such an environment that you can make a fair comparison. Reality dictates that this is unlikely to happen in my life and I will continue to taste wines in bars, restaurants, at home, on holiday, with and without food.
My tastings will never be a fair, just a snapshot of impressions of that wine at that time. Sorry folks it’s the best I can do and we amateurs will just have to muddle through as best we can.
Featured image Photo by Kamil Kalbarczyk on Unsplash.com