Monday, February 25, 2019

A Different Sort of Wine Pairing

We are inundated with advices, articles, and even classes on how to pair wine with food. You know the drill.

White wine goes with white meat, and red wine goes with red meat. 

And if you want to get more specific.

Sauvignon Blanc goes with fresh oysters with tart mignonette sauce. Chardonnay pairs with poached salmon and beurre blanc. Cabernet Sauvignon can't get better than with the juiciest cut of steak, seared to perfection. And Champagne goes with everything!
Champagne goes with everything

Consider this. What if we pair wine with people rather than food? Would you be able to pick the right wine? Unlike the different rules in food and wine pairing, there is only one rule in picking the right wine for someone, but that doesn't make it easy. That rule is to know the person.

Riesling Rendezvous

Several years ago, I had a late dinner with a colleague after a long day at work. We ordered some hot wings to share. My friend, Ray, was about to order a glass of Merlot, when I asked him if he had tried Riesling. He sheepishly told me that he always ordered Merlot because he really didn't know much about wine and thought that was a safe bet. But he really would like to try something different.

That night Ray had wings with Riesling for the first time and absolutely loved it! The crisp citrus acidity cut through the fatty goodness of the wings while the tinge of sweetness balanced out the spiciness. A few days later, Ron texted me to tell me that he had Riesling again, this time with some Indian food. The man had inadvertently become quite the Riesling fiend.

What Zin?

When our nephew brought his then wife-to-be out to dinner with us, she ordered a glass of white Zin. I frowned and complained to my husband, "No self-respecting Leistner would drink white Zin!"

Sweet or dry rosé?

Of course I just set myself up for years of friendly trolling on social media with photos of white Zin. I had numerous failed attempts to seduce her with dryer Provençal rosés, culminating to a wedding gift bottle of Bandol Rosé from Domaine Tempier. It became clear to me that this Mrs. Leistner would be devoted to her white Zin. And I love her for who she is.

The Ultimate Pairing

In his book, Secrets of the Sommeliers, Rajat Parr wrote that a "sommelier needs to keep his or her enthusiasm and ego in check." If the table orders Château Latour to pair with the fresh oysters, you happily serve that. The goal is the happiness of the person who drinks the wine.

I can't say I am perfect at this, but whenever I pull something a bottle from my cellar as a gift to someone or to bring to dinner, I often pause and think what my friend or company would love. Nancy loves an oaked Chardonnay. Jeff adores a big red Cab. And Barolo makes Andy's heart sing.

After all, the ultimate pairing is that of the wine and he or she who enjoys it.