Brave New World of Wine & Food

When you consider the innovations by creative chefs, there are new things to say about the marvelous interaction of wine with fine food.

Wine is what we celebrate in every issue of Wine Enthusiast—wine in all its delicious, complex glory. But wine’s true splendor can best be explored when enjoyed with food, and that is the subject of several of the articles in this issue. We encourage our readers to drink what they like and to be confident in their palates but at the same time to be willing to branch out, try something new, and nowhere is that willingness to bend and venture more important than when there’s fine food on the table. Say you’ve waited months to snag a reservation at the hottest restaurant in town; their poached salmon with dill is legendary. Then you discover there’s a well-priced Médoc grand cru on the wine list you’ve sought all your adult life. You know the wine is going to overwhelm the delicacy of the dish. What to do?

The matching of wine and food as an intellectual and sensual pursuit is nothing new, although it should be noted that Wine Enthusiast was among the first to make that exercise a regular part of its content. We instituted the Pairings column back in 1996, and in the intervening years have presented thousands of great recipes and wine suggestions, with clear explanations of why they work together. In 2008, we published the Wine Enthusiast Wine and Food Pairings Cookbook (Running Press), and it’s still selling. Our readers are familiar with many of the basics—that tannins, acids, sweetness and other factors can enhance the pleasure we take in enjoying certain dishes, or diminish it; likewise, that certain dishes can change the flavor and body of a great wine so dramatically it will make it taste like the harshest plonk—or the greater-than-greatest nectar ever sipped; that discussing the various permutations with a sommelier or server can enhance the restaurant experience. And there are very exciting new trends to report on. In “The Chef and Sommelier’s Guide to Wine and Food Pairings” (page 43), Janet Forman interviews some of the top chef-sommelier teams in some of the country’s great, innovative restaurants. The chefs are pushing the envelope in terms of food presentation while the sommeliers must adhere to the science of wine-food interaction. How they resolve these issues for their customers makes for some great reading. On page 68, Executive Editor Susan Kostrzewa presents a Pairings article I can confidently say is like no other you’ve seen recently, based on her experiences at South Africa’s safari game lodges: recipes using game meats like ostrich and springbok, paired with the fascinating wines of South Africa. If ostrich is not readily available at your local grocery, be assured that substitutions are offered.

On page 22, Sandy Block, MW, of Legal Seafoods, draws on his expertise training wine staff in advising readers on how to generate a useful dialogue so that the best wine for the dishes being ordered is brought to the table. On page 20, we present an interview with Anne-Sophie Pic, the great chef of a great French family of chefs. There are several other food-oriented articles in our Enth Degree section (starting on page 12) to whet your appetites.

Wine does just fine flying solo, of course, and this issue contains some great wine articles. Grenache is an undersung wine variety; it flies below many wine devotees’ radar even though it’s the most widely planted red variety in Spain (surprised?) and the star of some of the great wines of the world, including those of Châteauneuf-du- Pape. To be sure, Grenache is primarily the anchor of great blends from Australia, California and elsewhere—it’s the “G” in GSMs you are increasingly seeing at retail and on restaurant wine lists. There are some fine wine recommendations in our global take on Grenache (page 34).

On page 58, Paul Gregutt profiles the aromatic white wines of the Pacific Northwest—Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. The region shares many of the climate characteristics of the regions where these varieties produce world-class wines, such as Alsace, the Rheingau and the Northern Rhône. If you’re not familiar with these styles, you’ll find profiles and recommendations for wines with fruity, floral and spicy flavors and knife-edge acidity that will open a whole new world of flavor.

The emergence of such varieties and their growing acceptance is testament to the venturesome palates of American wine devotees. We live in an exciting time for wine. Restaurants are increasingly seeking out boutique wines and obscure varieties to spice up their wine lists, while their chefs are creating dishes that were undreamed of just a few years ago. Who’s for some roast chicken on edible paper?


Published on September 15, 2010