Sunday, April 27, 2008

Choosing the Wine First (Sometimes)

Via Rockss & Fruit, it seems that a new restaurant in Paris has you select the wine, then they select the food. Sort of a Memento approach to food-wine pairings. Nice.

I confess that, as a geek, I often do this on my own. I agree with those who say that pairings need not be fussy — drink and eat what you like — but if something on the wine list excites or interests me, I might plan my meal around it, or at least ensure the food won't kill the wine. This also has the side benefit of acting as a tiebreaker when two or more dishes look equally fetching.

Of course, going Memento rarely works if you're splitting a bottle with a non-geek. Most of my friends don't find wine intimidating per se, but plop 'em into a restaurant and that's when they start shifting in their seat, if they've gotten the message that there are "right" and "wrong" pairings to be made. That's when I most enjoy playing sommelier, when I can tell people that their taste is paramount, expert pairings be damned. So I first ask my dinner companion what s/he wants, and as my taste is catholic, I can work with what they like.

And then there are those times you just have to fly blind. Last week my friend Alex and I went to Posada Margherita, an Italian restaurant on the beach at Tulum, but as he tolerates wine more than he likes it, I had to choose something that would both go with our seafood-oriented dishes and not be too strong. I overrode the waiter's recommendation of an Argentinean Chardonnay — I feared oakiness — and opted instead for an Italian Pinot Grigio, even if, and actually because, I suspected that it would be bland and neutral and therefore tolerable to each of us. I don't remember the producer, but it was actually pretty decent, with a bit of that spice that is more typical of an Oregon Pinot Gris. Both of our meals were slightly overcooked, but at least the wine was not.

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