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WINE AND FOOD WEDNESDAY
08/10/2011
Wine and Food Wednesday
Did Someone Recommend Syrah With My Oysters?

By Stephen Eliot

I will try almost any wine and food combination, but do not, please, ask me to try my fresh-shucked oysters with a heavy, tannic Syrah. Being open-minded does not mean ignoring the lessons of experience.

One thing that is different about CGCW is that our reviews and descriptions about wine are never based on one person’s palate. We do not taste wines alone. We work with any number of experienced tasters, and we work hard to find consensus. That is not to say that there is always agreement, and there are times when consensus does not come, but the process is one of shared enjoyment, respect and thoughtful exchange. I similarly think that the great pleasures of pairing wine and food are rarely found in dining alone.

I often think that the table is the last refuge of civilization. I have long ago forgotten just who said it --Hemingway seems a good guess -- but the words “eating alone is like dying” have lingered quietly and indelibly for more years than I would like to admit. They still have the ring of truth. Oh, I can recall hiding from the world and sitting at a table for one and finding real serenity in washing down oysters with a half-bottle from Reims, and I do not need company to enjoy the right glass of Beaujolais with the perfect burger, but it is the shared moment, the communion of the table, if you will, where for me good wine most comes to life. And, while always respecting the notion of “to each his own”, I take very seriously the task of picking of wines to go with certain courses when charged with the privilege of looking after family and friends.

I commented in agreement last week on one blogger’s acceptance that there might be something to the idea that there are useful, general guidelines concerning how food and wine might match up. I realize that there are those who feel that such guidelines make the subject of wine more complex and thus drive folks away from even trying to pair up a good bottle with a good meal. I get the idea. I just do not agree.

I wonder, in fact, whether the task does not become more difficult when one has no guidelines at all, and I find it difficult believe that most consumers are bamboozled by notions about which wine does and does not work with which food and thus throw up their hands in frustration and drink beer or coca-cola with their beef stroganoff or seared duck breast.

While I agree without reservation with the idea that there is no absolute “good” nor absolute “bad” when it comes to taste, I have learned many things from a good many smart and experienced people over the years that have added immeasurably to my love and appreciation of food and wine.

I am not frozen and incapable of making my own decisions, but I am always open and ready to listen. I know of no prominent commentators who preach immutable truth on the topic, and, the voices I listen to and respect the most are those whose message comes by way of insightful suggestion. Moreover, I am not at all put off if some even go so far as to explain why. Yes, I do believe that there are wine-and-food matches that most of the people will like most of the time. And if you recommend that I try a food and wine combination that you found enjoyable, I will more often than not give that advice a try—unless, of course, you suggest a heavy, full-bodied, tannic Syrah with my oysters on the half shell.

I think we can all agree that there is a measure of “acquired taste” when it comes to appreciating fine wine, art, great music, good food and the like, and the journey of discovery that I began long ago goes on to this day. I may not take it on faith when someone claims that a precipitous cliff lies ahead, but I will not rush headlong into the abyss just to prove my individuality. I may not always agree with those who I meet on the way, but I am thankful for those writers, retailers, sommeliers and neighbors next door who are willing to share what has worked for them.


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Comments

No Subject
by David Price
Posted on:8/11/2011 1:39:08 PM

Stephen: 

To your list of acquired tastes and appreciation, we could add friends and lovers, could we not? 

I agree with your thoughts, even after I've read two books recently about food and wine pairing.  Frankly, I hardly ever eat much of the food described in the books and have found the basic advice I've absorbed over the years to work quite well.

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