Enough with the wine and food pairings already, because you’re not helping the cause

wine and food pairings

Since you don’t have any cheese, I assume you don’t have any wine pairings either?

The Wine Curmudgeon’s thoughts about pairing wine and food have evolved significantly over the past decade. I still think pairings are important, but if you don’t like big red wine, what’s the point of telling you to drink big red wine with certain food? All I ask is that you’re open-minded enough to consider pairings and don’t dismiss them as more wine foolishness.

Having said that, it’s not easy for wine drinkers — and even the most experienced among us — to keep an open mind. That’s because the wine business insists on overwhelming us with pairings that are at best impractical and at worst silly. How can we be expected to take pairings seriously when so many suggestions have so little relevance to what we really eat?

For example (all taken from fact sheets and back labels):

? A $10 Chilean pinot noir with paella. This is not to denigrate the Spanish classic (though I’ve never been able to master it), but to note that most of us will never taste paella. So why would anyone suggest it as a pairing, and especially for an every day wine?

? A high-end Napa Valley sauvignon blanc with “any fresh well-made cuisine.” Because, of course, the alternative is so appealing: Pairing a wine with any stale, poorly-made cuisine.

? A $10 Argentine cabernet sauvignon with “of course, our traditional Argentine asado.” I do this for a living, and I had to look up asado (which is lots of beef grilled outdoors over a wood fire). So how is anyone else supposed to know what it is?

The best way to do this? Keep it simple, like Gallo did with its 50th anniversary $7 Hearty Burgundy: chili. Which would work, by the way. Or even, as Rodney Strong does, leave them out, since no suggestions are better than silly ones.

More on wine and food pairings:
? The myth of of wine and food pairings
? Pairing wine with fast food
? Wine and food pairings: Do they matter?

9 thoughts on “Enough with the wine and food pairings already, because you’re not helping the cause

  • By Brian B - Reply

    I often am asked to pick a wine to go with an entree, and my first question is, “what wine do you typically enjoy” After they tell me, I suggest that they go with what they know.

  • By Gary Millman - Reply

    Years ago, at a wonderful restaurant in Paris, we had turbot swimming in a Chiroubles reduction sauce. Yeah, a delicate white fish in a deep purple red wine sauce. It was delicious. And yeah they recommended a red wine with it. Taught me that most food & wine pairings are nonsense. A great wine will go with anything.

    • By Wine Curmudgeon - Reply

      Thanks, Gary. That’s the whole point of what we do here, to get people to enjoy wine without the foolishness.

  • By Jeff C - Reply

    Thank you! I loathe the over-specific, gourmet cuisine suggestions on the back of bottles intensely. Though my favorite ever: pairs well with sauteed gizzards! It was a Croation wine, so maybe it was just cultural difference, but I still laugh over that one.

  • By gdfo - Reply

    Wine labels? They can put anything they want to on them concerning food and their wine. They are SELLING not only the wine but the IDEA of the food and the wine.

    As far as pairing wine and an Entree, what about the other things on the plate? Asparagus? Broccoli? Green Beans??

    Pairing a wine with food is not just about hooves and fish and fowl. It is also about onions and garlic and spices and sauces and the possible vegetable combinations. What about Vinagrette dressings and (ulp) the super tangy aged Italian vinagar that people use to totally ruin a dish when they pour it on.

    Pairing wine and food is a challenge. OK eat what you like and drink what you like. If your asparagus drenched in aged Italian vinegar tastes funny when you sip your Oregon Riesling, there you go. Have some marshmellows with chocolate syrup for dessert to clear your palate.

    • By Wine Curmudgeon - Reply

      That producers are selling the “idea of food and wine” is something that has long made me crazy, gdfo, and intimidates the ordinary consumer. Why don’t we sell the idea of wine first, and then we can worry about the rest?

  • By gdfo - Reply

    I am not condoning the misleading designs or words on wine labels. Before I worry about a winerys food pairing I worry about the where the wine is from, what the alc is and what grapes were used.

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  • By Corked Club - Reply

    I have found suggestions to be just that, suggestions! But, a thoughtful suggestion, if you are truly seeking advice on a pairing, will lend potential couplings one never imagined. Perhaps a well seasoned porterhouse with a Gewurztraminer. Flavors all around!
    Good luck and good dining!

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