(Between Wine and Food)
Whenever I pour one of my delectable wines, our food-loving club members often ask me what food would best pair with this wine. In the following paragraphs I will outline a few of my ideas some of which may be quite different than what other people think about this subject. This is more of a philosophical discussion rather than a road map on how to pair food and wine.
Among wine drinking nations wine has always been an important part of the meal, where homemade dishes were consumed with locally produced wines. In our modern times food and wine pairing has been institutionalized with books and publications springing up and expounding the principles, guidelines and ideals of matching the perfect wine with the perfect food.
I read many of these publications and listened to various “experts” lecture on this subject. I don’t believe that it is possible to create a perfect pairing of wine and food unless the wine is perfect, or near perfect, to begin with. Thus before I would consider pairing a wine with a food I would have to like to drink the wine solo and derive a minimum level of pleasure. While my olfactory senses play the major role in my perception of this pleasure, my other senses or the circumstances that I am in may also participate in this pleasure. If I am in a company of people that I care for, or having an interesting conversation, or listening to music that I enjoy, or eating a food that I like, all of these will alter the intensity of this pleasure. Obviously the alcohol in the wine plays a role in getting me into a happy frame of mind which might enhance my sense of pleasure or….. blur it.
The big question is how do I establish this minimum level of pleasure? Unfortunately, the sense of pleasure like other emotional feelings such as anger and love are not objectively quantifiable. I decided to introduce the term Pleasure Index to subjectively quantify the level of pleasure derived by an individual when consuming wine. The scale for this index is 0 to 10 and the minimum Pleasure Index that I will accept for drinking a wine or pairing it with a food is 7. The attributes of a wine that determine the Pleasure Index are olfactory qualities such as the aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, finish and lack of flaws, all of which determine the “balance” of the wine. To me a wine that is overly alcoholic, sweet or oaky is flawed and consequently would be out of balance.
Some experts on the subject claim that when pairing food and wine what needs to be considered is the balance between the weight and intensity of the food with that of the wine. Thus a robust food is often paired with a comparably intense wine. This is referred to as “complementary pairing”. The more adventurist approach is matching a robust food with a light wine or vice versa. This kind of pairing is known as “contrasting”. Whether complementary or contrasting in a perfect pairing neither food nor wine dominate like conducting an enjoyable dialogue where both sides get a chance to speak and listen to each other. In my enthusiasm about the wine I did not discuss the food side of this partnership. While I am responsible to get a perfectly balanced wine with a Pleasure Index of 10, it behooves you to do as well in your food preparation.