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Wine & Food Matching Rules are Bunk!

by Peter May
trust me, I'm an expert*

Wine and food matching rules are bunk. Don't worry about what wine to serve with dinner. Ignore the long lists detailing which wines to have with different foods. Wine reviewers who suggest matching recipes are to be pitied, because it's all bunk. At best food recommendations are a bit of fun, at worst they are a snobbish elitism that browbeats new wine drinkers.

    These rules range from high level ones - such as red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat, down to naming wines with specific recipes. If you intend roasting a sirloin of beef the advice will be to serve a red wine with it.

    But remember what you used to drink with dinner before you drank wine. Did you agonize over the menu, carefully considering whether Coca Cola or Pepsi Cola matches beef best, and did you change to a white Seven-Up with fish? Of course not. So why make a fuss about wine? If your favorite wine is white zinfandel drink white zinfandel with your beef. It doesn't matter what other people like, they're not eating your meal.

    The nonsense of wine and food rules becomes apparent when you consider vegetables. There are no similar rules to instruct which vegetables you should have. Yet the accompanying vegetables form a most important part of the dish. And their flavors are as individual as wines, just compare the taste of a brussel sprout with a carrot.

    And white wine with white meat is an absurdity. That implies chicken is a delicate dish that should be accompanied with white wine. Consider Coq au Vin, the classic French dish where chicken is casseroled in red wine. If it is cooked in red wine it can be accompanied by red wine. Compare the taste of supermarket chicken with corn fed free range chicken and think of all the different ways it can be cooked. There can be a wide range of flavors encountered. And is veal a red meat or a white meat? And what about game birds.

    So why is wine the focus of so much effort to match it with food? Well, it's not in old world wine producing regions, there only the local wine is served. It seems to be only an issue here. Perhaps its because so many people come to wine relatively late in life, Too many pundits have made wine drinking seem like an exclusive club in which you have to learn arcane rules. People are afraid to 'choose the wrong wine' in restaurants, which led to the success of wines such as Mateus Rose and Blue Nun which were advertised as suitable for all dishes.

    At the best, food and wine matching lists help people who know nothing about wine and want to impress others - for example when the boss comes to dinner. They can act as suggestions for wine drinkers to try something new. And there is a collected body of opinion that some wine and food matches are mutually satisfying. Some people find red wines give a metallic taste to some fish dishes, hence the advice to choose white. Of course very few people have tried red wine with fish themselves, instead relying on what they've read. And even the pundits say some fish, such as salmon, can make a good match with pinot noir.

   These rules should not be taken seriously; they are at most a gentle suggestion, but why not find out for yourself what suits you? Order the wines you like with the foods you like. And as you do you'll form your own ideas about which wines you prefer with various dishes. Remember, it's only a drink!

    If you have been, thanks for reading.

* Wine & Spirit Education Trust Certificate with Honours and Wine & Spirit Education Trust Higher Certificate with Honours

Any wine with food is better than no wine

© Copyright Peter May 2002.

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20 January 2002