With La Motte being awarded as Best Food and Wine Matching Experience by Drinks International Wine Tourism Awards 2013, I remembered wine blogger, Jamie Goode’s article How important is food and wine matching?
Being so involved with winemaking and restaurants, to me food and wine are part of every day - of work and relaxation. It is an interest and a passion and how they combine and bring out the best in each other is of real importance to me and usually also to the company I am in.
A large portion of our energy and focus go into having the best quality wine and the best quality cuisine and matching them to create a wonderful taste sensation. And although everyone has to eat and drink (I would like to think drink wine!), it is of course not such an important part of everyone’s life.
So, I had a look at a few opinions on the importance of food and wine pairing:
Jamie Goode’s article categorise people according to their perceptions and he sees himself as a pragmatist: “The pragmatist: few really bad matches, few really good ones Surprise, surprise! This is the position I'm going to speak out for. I think there are some guiding principles in food and wine matching that act as helpful foundations. For example, white wines are generally better with fish, and red wines pair best with red meats. You know the sort of thing. “
Wine writer, Natasha Hughes writes on Tim Atkin's site: “Many of my wine writing colleagues aren’t terribly interested in precision pairing and remain content with rough and ready matches based on harmonious flavours and a balancing of the structure of both drink and food. There’s little wrong with that, other than the fact that they may miss out on some truly sublime pairings by employing the rule-of-thumb approach.”
But Wine blogger Adler Yarrow has a different opinion: "People get so stressed out by choosing the right type of wine to drink with their food, they get paralyzed with fear. Frankly, you should just drink what you like."
And award-winning food and wine writer, Fiona Beckett says: “Although I make my living writing about how food can enhance wine - and vice versa - I would never want to be dogmatic about it and freely admit that there are occasions when it matters less than others”
and she lists them:
• “When the wines are great. When the wine is REALLY good you’ll enjoy it anyway pretty much whatever you drink it with. Use common sense here, obviously. I wouldn’t have fancied a high octane Syrah with a piece of seabass or a delicate risotto primavera but there would be no point in agonising whether they’d go better with beef, pork or lamb. What makes this easier is if the wines are superbly well-balanced.
• When the food is simple. The more complicated food gets in the way of sauces and accompaniments the more potential there is for a flavour mismatch.
• When the food is shared, family style. The bigger the range of dishes and flavours the harder it is to find a precise match. There’s something about a big table that’s also quite loud and boisterous and doesn’t make for thoughtful contemplation of the finer nuances of food and wine pairing. What one’s looking for are generous, easy-going bottles that will take you through a meal or a section of a meal. There are moods to be taken account of with food and wine matching just as there are with food or wine on its own. Sometimes you want to strive for a knock-out effect and sometimes you just want to sit back and enjoy the experience . . .”
While food and wine surely is something to enjoy rather than over-complicate, I agree that the occasion and the mood will call for the amount of effort in making your match. Having said that, why would one ever destroy either your meal or your wine with a very poor match? Rather use some guidelines and give your palate the chance to experience both food and wine at its best and then sometimes, treat yourself to an exceptional match, one that you will probably remember for ever.
Three quick guidelines:
1. The weight of a dish is the most important consideration. Aim to balance the weight of the food with the weight of the wine, so that neither overwhelms the other: rich, robust food with rich, robust wine (game with a full-bodied Shiraz, for example); medium-weight food with medium-bodied wine (roast chicken with an oaked Chardonnay or a young, fruity red); light food with light-weight wine (poached fish or shellfish with a delicate, minerally white wine).
2. Match the flavour intensity of your food with the flavour intensity of your wine. A dish can be light, but powerfully flavoured. Thai food, for example, is often very flavourful, but it is rarely heavy.
3. Think about the five primary taste sensations in the mouth: sweetness, acidity, salt, bitterness and umami. Also consider the impact of the texture of some food (like fattiness or creaminess) on wine.
And to conclude in the words of South African Food and Wine Pairing guru, Katinka van Niekerk: “You chose the very best wine and an exquisite dish - and somehow your best effort fell flat. The two weren’t paired. Perfect pairings are possible.”