Have you ever found a recipe you like that tells you to buy a specific wine to complement it? And you can’t find it? Join the crowd of countless people who have visited every wine store in their communities in search of some obscure wine recommended at the end of a recipe.
People can obsess over choosing the right wine to serve to company, and that is largely a result of cookbook authors who go too far in recommending a wine. A Sin Qua Non pinot noir would be great with that duck, but good luck finding it. And at $100 a bottle, is really that better than a $30 pinot noir?
We applaud cookbook authors who, for instance, recommend a zinfandel with pasta but don’t specifically send readers scurrying for a 2005 Quivira zinfandel. Although zinfandel is made in different styles, does it really matter which one a consumer chooses?
It’s certainly not something you need to lose sleep over, but I’d like to say that I don’t think people put ENOUGH emphasis on food and wine pairing. One way I like to get this concept across, is how I use food pairing as an example when attempting to get people into French wines:
“Do you think you might enjoy that Faugeres (Syrah) a little better with a beef stew or lamb casserole? Maybe the smoky/earthy/spicy quality of the wine would be tempered by the ingredients in the dish and rustic quality of the dish. I know you said you like Australian Shiraz, but don’t you think that would overpower this meal?” I’ll often say, as an example.
<They take another sip.>
The response is then usually along the lines of: “You know, you’re right! Why didn’t I think of that?”
Point proven. People typically don’t think about food with wine together. They just think about what’s happening right at that moment i.e. tasting wine by itself.
On the subject of the point where the author points out that wines: “…are made in different styles, does it really matter which one a consumer chooses?”
Errrrm, seriously? It ABSOLUTELY matters! Not enough to be a life or death decision; but all Californian Pinot Noirs, for example, are not created equally. The alcohol, acid, sugar and tannin levels vary greatly between wines, enough so that it could make or break a food pairing. Would it ruin the meal? Nope, but one California Pinot could certainly overpower a dish, whereas some could pair in perfect harmony.
When a recipe mentions a particular wine to pair with a recipe I don’t think you need to go to the ends of the earth to try and find that wine, instead you should take on-board the qualities (i.e. grape, alcohol level, place of origin, style etc.) of the wine and try to match it as closely as possible.