We are all well aware of the recent worldwide culinary explosion and the resulting snowball effect it has had on food and wine pairings. In our little Stellenbosch district alone you can now not only attend wine pairings with the usual suspects like cheese, chocolate, olives or biltong, but with new – and sometimes slightly strange – pairings with meringues, pizza, cupcakes and ice cream (?!) So I sat down for a while to try and understand what the hype is all about.
Before beginning, I should probably mention that I consider myself to be quite the foodie. And as I find myself working in the wine industry, I couldn’t help but marry these two great passions of mine. It all started the first time I used wine in my food while preparing some spaghetti bolognaise. That is when I realized that wine is not always just for drinking on its own or pairing with an array of food items, but it can be used to literally fuse the two into something spectacular. The addition of wine to a dish just brings flavours together in a way that not many other ingredients can.
The fusion of food and wine can of course also be observed from a scientific point of view. The internet and countless books are overloaded with charts and diagrams explaining what to pair with what and why exactly Riesling pairs well with rosemary etc. Some say it all comes down to the molecules and the pairing of similar flavour compounds, others believe it is about mouth feel or the balancing of astringency with fattiness. For the home cook and casual wine drinker all these terms and concepts might seem a bit daunting or even far-fetched, but there are some interesting and easy to apply flavour combinations out there. Just remember that pairing your favourite wine with offal is not going to help you to suddenly like it more, no matter what the science says about the similar aromatic compounds.
Personally, I think food and wine go together so well, because they both have an unique way of bringing people together. The incredible success of food & wine festivals are surely a testament to that. There is something nostalgic about sitting down with family and friends around a great big table filled with all the gloriously glazed food you can think of, and uncorking a bottle of your favourite vino, filling everyone’s glasses and being merry. And it’s no surprise as this is certainly not a new concept- the accompaniment of wine with food has come along since, possibly, the dawn of time and there is absolutely no sign that the tradition will fade away any time soon. We drink red wine and eat chocolates or ice cream out of the tub in front of the TV when we’re sad; we drink wine (or MCC) and eat canapés when we are celebrating a special event- and we hardly ever do these things on our own. There is always that best friend that will cry (and drink) with you, and be it your colleagues or closest friends, they will share in your joy and raise a toast to your accomplishments.
People of all shapes and sizes and different cultural backgrounds are excited by food and a good bottle of wine and enjoying it with great company makes the experience just that much more memorable. And as I always say, having wine with your food makes it a meal.