Drinking While Eating is Not Food and Wine Pairing

A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece entitled “Food and Wine Pairing is Junk Science” in which I attempted (some would say unsuccessfully) to argue the point that the so-called “rules” of wine and food pairing, and that the supposed “art” of making such combinations is a load of crap that actually makes wine harder for people to understand and appreciate.

In the weeks since, as is my usual habit, I have posted things on social media about what I’m eating and drinking. Several friends and followers have “pounced” on such posts with glee, exclaiming (some good-naturedly, some with just a whiff of spite) something along the lines of “SEE, so you DO believe in food and wine pairing.”

They’re missing the point, entirely.

Choosing a wine you want to share with your dining companions and drink with your dinner is one of the most natural and wonderful experiences afforded us as human beings, and something utterly fundamental. As far as I’m concerned, it’s practically why wine was invented in the first place.

But deciding what you want to drink with your meal is not the same thing as carefully matching a specific wine to an individual prepared dish of food with the idea that the wine plus the food will result in a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. This intention, and the supposed artistry and principles that underlie it are what produce the anxiety and hangups that infiltrate the average consumer’s understanding of what wine means.

Perhaps I should have said that I believe in merely combining wine and food, not matching them. We should all drink wine while we eat. We just shouldn’t worry about it, nor make it anything resembling an exercise of precision.

Choosing wine to go with a meal can easily have almost nothing to do with the food being served. Sometimes, for me at least, it’s simply about what I want to drink. The other night, I just wanted to drink Champagne. It didn’t matter to me in the slightest what I was going to be eating for dinner.

Of course, other times, what’s on the table does enter the picture, but not as a formula or an equation to be solved. It may sound like I’m headed towards the splitting of hairs here, but what I’m really getting to is the idea of intention.

If anything could be said to be the kernel of my rant it is this: deciding what to drink when you eat needs to be less about precision and more about pleasure. More about you and who you are eating with, and less about what someone else says is the right pairing or a set of principles about acidity and sweetness that you read in a book.

We should all have food and wine together. But we should be enjoying them, not pairing them.

Read my original rant.

The post Drinking While Eating is Not Food and Wine Pairing appeared first on Vinography: A Wine Blog.

Want To Taste Wine? Sign This Waiver

As Wine Country re-opens throughout California and visitors return to tasting rooms once again, beyond mask-wearing employees and lots of hand sanitizer, they may encounter something unusual before sipping and spitting: legal waivers to sign.

I chronicled my wine tasting experiences at newly reopened tasting rooms in both Napa and Sonoma in my monthly column for Jancis Robinson which was published yesterday, and one of the things I encountered in both places was the stipulation that I sign a legal waiver before being permitted to taste wine.

This, dear friends in the wine industry, is the opposite of hospitality, and a surpremely bad idea that should be halted immediately.

Why?

Because forcing customers to sign away their legal rights and make attestations as to their health before entering your facility and tasting your wine is not about keeping them safe, it’s about keeping YOU safe. And when you are in the hospitality business, and you find yourself forcing your customers to do something uncomfortable that is entirely for your benefit, you’re doing it wrong.

Just ask any of the restaurants who are opening up in your county. The idea of forcing someone to sign a legal document before sitting down to have a meal is patently absurd. I haven’t been out and about much since things started reopening, but when I recently sat down in a restaurant for the first time since the shelter-in-place began, I certainly wasn’t asked to legally attest to the fact that I had no symptoms of COVID-19 and agree that I wouldn’t sue the restaurant if I later became sick.

You want to take my temperature as I come in the door? Fine. You want to ask me to sanitize my hands? Great. Insist I wear a mask except when I’m eating and drinking? Great idea.

But don’t get the lawyers involved.

Here’s the way I see it: either you are comfortable enough with your ability to keep your customers safe and the risk of frivolous lawsuits (which by the way, could have happened before COVID-19, too) or you’re not.

If you’re not — if you’re truly frightened to death that there’s a significant likelihood that someone might catch the virus through no fault of yours and choose to sue you — then you should seriously consider whether you should be opening back up right now.

And lord knows, there are plenty enough signs that this re-opening may be too much too fast already. And there almost certainly will be a second wave.

I say this with the deepest compassion and empathy for business owners and their employees who are truly suffering right now. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have the government shut down your business and force you to furlough or terminate employees who, in this industry, probably feel like family. It’s heartbreaking, and I join many of my industry colleagues in demanding that the government take care of the hospitality business in the same way it has been taking care of the airlines and the banks and the country’s wealthiest corporations.

If you feel like you need some level of protection, work with your insurance companies and lawyers to find a way to do so in a way that does not impact the guest experience. For instance, here’s what I was greeted with when I pulled into Peju Province Winery’s parking lot last Wednesday:

Now I’m not a lawyer, and I assume this probably isn’t anywhere near as protective as a signed legal contract, but from a customer experience perspective, it’s miles better. Such signs have long been posted in wineries thanks to Proposition 65. There’s got to be an equivalent approach for COVID.

So I implore my industry colleagues in these trying times: don’t forget the principles of hospitality as you struggle to regain your footing. By all means, do what you need to to do keep everyone physically safe and healthy. That’s an important part of taking care of the guest. Forcing them to cover your ass legally most certainly is not.

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