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Wine and Food Trends: The Complexities of Pairing

Barcelona has a lot of very good restaurants. Two of the best are Moo and Comerç 24. The two are similar in many respects, but where they...

Joris Peels
Joris Peels on June 30, 2009.

Roger says that in order for it to be paired well a wine “needs clear aroma and clear structure.” He likes “classic wines, aged more than 12 years” as these are typically “easier to match” and make for “a better match.” As an example of how the pairing process works he mentions a dish with roses, curry and licorice whose aroma pairs well with a Riesling. For “hunter food” such as hare he looks toward the Medoc and the “aroma of the animals and leather.” The pairing process is a painstaking search in aroma for him and his team – and they look to pair every dish. He concedes that “not all wines are suitable for pairing” and that “a complex wine will be difficult to match” but they try all the same.

Contrast this approach with that of Antonio Lopo, the excellent & amicable sommelier of Comerç 24. Besieged by the 23 different & tiny dishes in the Festival de Tapas menu at his restaurant and all the explosive, fun and exciting flavors therein, he believes in “a good glass of wine.” In some cases they have tried wine pairing but the “difficult magical flavors” of the food are “a barrier.” He also thinks that “wine pairing can be subjective” and prefers to advise wines that fit a palette. He likes surprising customers with new and unexpected wines. He sees a diner as being able to “enjoy the two styles, that of the food and that of the wine.”

These are two fundamentally different approaches. Both stem from the same general trends affecting the molecular, deconstruction & conceptual fine dining restaurants. With more dishes, more taste, more surprise, more fruit, more “what is that exactly”, more ‘wow’ & more innovation, the sommelier’s job is becoming increasingly difficult. The two contrasting approaches of Moo and Comerç 24 are the only way out for the sommelier. Either the sommelier has to take a short stroll into the kitchen and get involved in food creation as is Roger’s approach or he becomes the ultimate listener and discoverer as Antonio is trying to be. If a restaurant is not able to do either well the patron’s experience would be confusing at best.

I asked both men what the biggest trends in wine were. Roger spoke of the “full bodied red wines, such as cabarnets” with “thick flavors and lots of oak”, whereas the food and fine dining restaurants had increasingly “thin flavors, thin aromas.” He also mentioned “sherry wines that are light on the mouth.” Antonio focused on “aftertaste, it has to be fresh, it has to leave you fresh.”

With regards to the biggest single trend in their business both sommeliers were unanimous: wine by the glass. Both are seeing wine by the glass becoming much more common. Roger thinks it is partially because of “shorter lunches” and that people want to be perceived as healthy and so are buying less bottles. Both agree that people want to taste and experience many more different wines and that this is the main driver for the trend.

How long before we see one of those Enomatic machines in all the fine dining restaurants?

Joris is 31, lives in Amsterdam and loves to read, build, hack things, cook and talk to people. He is the Community Manager for Shapeways, the world’s only 3D printing community and marketplace. You can read more by Joris on the Shapeways blog or his twitter.

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