Tim Hanni, MWA (Master of Wine… with ATTITUDE!)
Tim Hanni is one of two Americans to first earn the title “Master of Wine”. He relentlessly writes, educates and pleads with wine lovers to reconsider the way they sip, swill, drink, eat, entertain & live with wine. In truth, he begs people to reconsider what they think they know about wine (which is why he is so perfectly suited to partner with us!). Expect to see more of Tim on the blog in coming months..
Time for a wine and food revolution…
Have they even tried it?
Enough is enough and it is time we launch a massive wine and food revolution. Almost all wine and food matching occurs in the fertile imagination of usually well-meaning and earnest wine and food enthusiasts and professionals. Wine and food “matchers” love to warn about the specter of “wine and food disasters” that are looming for unsuspecting consumer if they make the mistake of ordering or serving the wrong wine with the wrong food. Get over it – that is so old school and in most instances wine and food matching is simply the product of the overly-fertile imagination of the wine and food cognoscenti conjuring up the appropriate wine for combinations they have never even tried!
When people come to my house for lunch or dinner and I get the cursory, “What wine should I bring?” question I disclose the meal I have planned and ask them to bring a wine they love that will NOT go with the dish. The wine should be something they like but would be considered a ‘disaster’ with the food. Most often I love to serve a delicate fish dish, like sole or halibut (red snapper or flounder when I am in Florida) and the wines that are selected are the intense reds that are so hip with the in crowd these days. Not sorta red – really, really big and red. I will also usually serve lamb or steak dish to demonstrate how nicely delicate white or pink wines taste with the traditionally red oriented foods.
As a matter of fact just a couple of months back I had Alexis and Clarke Swanson, along with some of their team from the winery, over for lunch. We had the Alexis Oakville Cabernet and filet of sole a la bonne femme (paupiettes of sole – rolled up – poached in white wine and fish fumet with tarragon and mushrooms. This is about the most delicate fish dish imaginable and one of my early culinary triumphs when I was about 16 years old, growing up in Miami. The result? Fish is wonderful (Clarke said the best he ever had) and the wine was rich, smooth and sexy as ever!!
Yummy food, wonderful wine. The sole is delicious. Contrary to the words of the wine and food matching mavens (who I guarantee have never tried the combination) the wine does not overpower the food nor does the food do anything other than make the wine more rich and delectable. The wine and food ‘disaster’ is all in our heads. Not one of the hundreds of people I cook for over the years has EVER tried a delicate piece of fish a la meuniere with and intense red wine. EVER!
Same goes for steak and Viognier or lamb and Pinot Grigio. If the food is green and vegetal the imagination goes to Sauvignon Blanc. Oysters and Syrah? Ask winemaker Ken Brown – we spent an afternoon at Edna Valley Winery many years ago with a whole group of people slurping down fresh oyster and sucking down Syrah, Cabernet – anything close at hand that was supposed to ‘not go with’ oysters. If a slight metallic or bitter edge arose the tiniest bit of fresh lemon juice brought the wine back into wonderful balance. There were a lot of quizzical looks – turns out not one person in the very large group of very expert wine people had even tried the combination.
A couple of stipulations to ensure the Swanson wine you serve maintains its succulent flavors and fabulous balance:
1. The wine must be in the realm of a wine you would enjoy – if you hate tannic red wine, sweet wine or delicate wine it will probably suck with (or without) your food. Drink truly what you love, have some other wines on hand if you are entertaining and damn the torpedoes.
2. The more emotionally you are tied to wine and food matching the more likely it is the imaginary wine and food matches you conjure up will work together. This is a psychological phenomenon and self-fulfilling prophecy of wine and food matching, not an experiential reality. In that case let your imagination run wild! Just follow the simple rules of avoiding sweetness in your food (reacts like brushing teeth and drinking orange juice) and if the bitterness or astringency of the wine is piqued add a slight adjustment of lime or lemon and a tich more salt – problem will go away.
3. The more ‘Hypersensitive’ a Vinotype you are the more likely you are to get a bitter reaction from strong wines (high extract, higher alcohol) with foods with lots of umami – the tiny addition of lemon and salt will cure most negative reactions. And it is very likely you don’t tend to favor huge reds or oaky whites in the first place so stick to the more delicate wines you love the most.
4. The more ‘Tolerant’ Vinotypes will love big, extracted reds with whatever the hell they are eating. They are less likely you are to get any bitter reactions and just want big, red wines with whatever they are eating. You know who you are! A delicate Riesling with sushi is not in the cards for you so open up that bottle of Face Cabernet Sauvignon and enjoy your sushi.
5. If you love the metaphorical matchings, like serving heavy wines with heavy foods of making a confiture aux cerises to pair with the aromas of cherries in the Modern House Wine, have at it! You are searching for that orgasmic synergy when the wine and food elevate the experience to a whole new level, compliment and contrast the flavors and textures so you just keep on doing that. Just understand that the experience is personal, subjective and mostly all in your head.
It is time that to radically address the role of enjoying wine and food together – things are completely out of control and the misinformation, false premises and misunderstandinings are at an all-time high. Go ahead – spend a week diligently trying the WRONG wine with your food. You will be surprised at the success you will have finding delicious matches you never imagined. If you are in a restaurant and anyone looks at you that way (the disdainful evil-eye of the wine wonk) look dead at them and say, “You are so behind the times!” Go forth and laugh in the face of the wine and food demi-gods whilst waving a glass of your favorite Swanson wine at the heavens.