deVine Thoughts

July 18, 2008

The Futility of Food & Wine

Filed under: deVine's Daily Blog Article — Mel @ 5:14 pm

cheezies-and-wine.JPGAuthor: Melissa Priestley

Far too much ink has been spilled on the subject of food and wine pairing. While a good match may enhance your enjoyment of a meal, a bad match won’t ruin everything. Be realistic. Is it really worthwhile to stress out, spend an hour in the wine store, try to envision one hundred different wines with your future meal, then go home, discover that the wine doesn’t really match at all, spend the entire night bemoaning the failure, and only later wonder why your partner went to bed so early?

Think about the actual mechanics involved in eating and drinking. Does the food and wine actually end up in your mouth at the same time? Hopefully not, as you’ll likely be left with some unsavory floaties in your glass. Or worse, you’ll choke.

In reality, we eat a bite of food, swallow, and then take a sip of wine. The lingering flavours of the food have maybe a minute to intermingle with the wine and work its magic (or mayhem) – and then a second sip will override all but the most pungent of dishes and it won’t have mattered what you just ate.

Speaking of those very strong-tasting dishes – they don’t really pair with any kind of wine, anyways, despite what you may have heard. You can try to follow the rules, such as pairing a sweeter white with spicy food – but five-alarm chicken wings are going to destroy your tastebuds, and any kind of liquid that’s not a soothing, creamy dairy product will feel like you’re scrubbing your mouth with sandpaper.

The great thing about living in a multi-cultural nation is that different international cuisines are available everywhere. I, for one, couldn’t live in a place where I couldn’t get veggie pakoras or ginger beef any day of the week. But many of these dishes come from places where wine is not traditionally consumed, let alone made. Compounding this problem is the popularity of fusion, east-meets-west cuisine. While this can make for some truly inspired meals, why don’t we have a similar approach to the wine? Instead of just serving plain old wine, we should experiment with mixing different types of beverages and see what happens. It just doesn’t make sense to force these foods to partner with a foreign bedfellow, and then despair when the pairing fails.

Good pairings are pretty hard to come by, anyways – most of the time we have to be happy with something that’s just ok. Let’s face it: wine is a complex substance with so many things happening on a cellular level that food and wine pairing is better left to the biochemists.

Ultimately, I simply encourage everyone to take a more light-hearted approach to this whole food and wine pairing business. Be yourself and pick a wine that you want to drink; worry about the food later (or not at all). Sure, the die-hards will tell you it’s a complete travesty to pair Cabernet Sauvignon with halibut, but if that’s what you want, don’t let convention hold you back. Trust me, the fish doesn’t care what you’re drinking.


  1. Let’s talk about something called “mouth feel”. I unfortuately, lost my sense of smell years ago due to chronic allerigies. But, surprisingly, I enjoy wine in a very different way from most people. I am sensitive to what is called “mouth feel”, where I can focus on tannins.
    This opens up a whole new way of tasting. For instance, we opened a bottle of Burgundy (Louis Latour 2005 Pinot Noir), and had rack of lamb for dinner. The first sip on its own after decanting had a hit of tannin. But have a mouthful of fatty lamb, and the wine tannins just disappear. And that wine took on a very different personality with the food.
    So, the next time you eat and drink wine, think about the way things feel on the tongue. You may be in for a very pleasant surprise.

    Comment by lmarkin — July 19, 2008 @ 8:11 pm

  2. This is a very interesting point, and one I totally agree with. A friend of mine recently mentioned that one of her former colleagues won a blind tasting competition because of mouth feel – even though she was uncertain of the aromas and flavours, she remembered how the wine felt in her mouth, and decided to go for it.

    Plugging your nose while you’re tasting can help you concentrate on the mouth feel, as you won’t be bombarded with all the aromas and flavours. Of course, you might look a little weird if you do this in public.

    Comment by Mel — July 21, 2008 @ 9:39 am

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