Archive for the ‘Food and Wine pairing’ Category

Simplifying Wine and Food Pairing this Thanksgiving

As the holidays approach here in the US, we reach peak wine season.  It’s the time when everyone starts thinking about which wines to serve for family gatherings and what to order for parties and celebrations.  It’s also the time of year when wine journalists devote their column inches to what to serve for Thanksgiving.

This year, the common theme running through these articles appears to be to – relax, take it easy, and don’t stress out. There are too many flavors at work in a Thanksgiving meal, too many family complications, you don’t want your wine choices to become overly burdensome. As long as your guests are happy then everything is a success. I agree with many of these sentiments, too much time and effort can be spent over-analyzing the perfect Thanksgiving wine and food pairings. The vast array of food served at Thanksgiving runs the whole spectrum of dominant characteristics, virtually ensuring that there is no one perfect wine to pair if you aim to sample all the available dishes. A picky eater that sticks to one dish is a pairing slam dunk, but realistically we all like the feast.

People who don’t tipple much during the rest of the year can be struck with fear at the prospect of providing suitable refreshments for the Holidays. As Tom Wark over at Fermentation recently remarked, don’t scare the wine drinkers. I don’t think we should be totally blasé about wine selections, but we don’t need to go full art/science/little bit of magic complexity either. As Trish Rogers points out at the beginning of her ZiNG! workshops, we are all born with all the necessary equipment to taste and evaluate food and wine. There is little complexity beyond noticing the effects of wine and food in your mouth.

Now there is good science relating to wine and food pairing – both are composed of chemicals and they come together in an environment that can evaluate their interaction. A good reaction will trigger pleasure in your brain, saying “I want more of that”. A bad reaction will cause us to screw our face up and say “ugh! no more of that”. Knowing, appreciating, and being guided on those reactions should be an aim for everyone.

So what’s the wine solution to Thanksgiving? Personally, I think enough wine to go around and plenty of variety! Now this may cause a stemware problem, but there is nothing that says you cannot have several different glasses going at the same time. There are many food dishes on the table, so why not several wine bottles?

If you are still looking for some inspiration, then we’ve published a Thanksgiving food collection for you to subscribe to. Just open the Taste ZiNG! app and search for a subscription with the code UPUGYY or the name Thanksgiving.

Happy Holidays.

The Fear of Wine

The recent discussion on wine lists continues with Eric Asimov at the New York Times positing “Should a wine list educate or merely flatter you?”. The food in restaurants generally follow the underlying concept or theme of the restaurant and most of us understand that going in. But should the wine list follow the same pattern in staying true to concept? Should a Greek restaurant only serve Greek wine, or should their wine list offer some safer, household wines that anyone can retreat to?

The problem, and beauty, with wine is that there are hundreds and thousands of choices and every one, even if they are made from the same varietal in the same general region, is different. So to the vast majority of us, wine lists are pretty incomprehensible, often made up of wines that we’ve never heard of, never mind tasted. Some wine lists will offer clues as to the region, some might list varietals, but others, as W. Blake Gray pointed out really are nothing more than price lists. On a list like Sotto’s, the names might as well say “blah, blah, blah” for all that most people will understand.

These kind of wine lists are either lazy or arrogant. If wine bloggers, who are in the top 0.1% of wine drinkers in the USA, don’t recognize any of the wines, don’t feel comfortable ordering wine there’s no hope for the regular diner. Instead they will grouch at the prices and order a beer or a coke. As Eric Asimov notes, this leads to a fear of wine.

So how do we remove that fear and educate would be wine drinkers?

wine informationMore flowery words won’t help. Instead we need to look at a wine from the inside out. If we can identify the dominant features of wines and show how those characteristics match the dish in front of me we can begin the education. If we can take a list and determine a subset of wines that will lead to a more pleasurable experience then diners will have the confidence to order a suitable wine at their price point knowing that they have selected a winner.

This “inside out” approach is what ZiNG! is all about. By characterizing wines based on their acidity, viscosity, fruitiness, sweetness, alcohol and tannin levels then we have the basis for food and wine pairing. It doesn’t matter if it is a well known label or an obscure one, if those elements are aligned with the dominant elements in your food then there will be a match and if they don’t align there is literally a bad taste in your mouth.

ZiNG! takes away the fear, the fear of making the wrong choice, the fear of spending too much money on the wrong choice, the fear of missing out on a good choice.

Welcome to ZiNG!

This week the ZiNG! app has finally made it to the app store.

Then today comes this article in the NY Post by Steve Cuozzo (“Sour Grapes”) all about how hard it is to navigate wine lists where you have no familiarity with any of the wines or grapes. Dr. Vino jumps in and asks what do you do when you encounter a wine list dominated by wines you don’t know much about? There are some undoubtedly some nice wines on those lists, and if they are related to the type of cuisine then there are probably many great matches. But how do you know what they are?

food and wine orderWell this is exactly the type of problem that the ZiNG! app sets out to solve. If a restaurant entered their menu and wine list into the app and published it through ZiNG! then diners can use that information to see what wines would match with the dishes they want to eat.

ZiNG! is based on chemistry and can determine great pairings (“zings”) from the dominant elements in food and wine. It is different from other wine/food pairing approaches in that it deals with specifics and not generics. This specific Pinot Gris is going to pair excellently with this specific salad based on the dominant elements in the dish. A chef could tweak those elements and you match completely different wines.

The ZiNG! app plays the role of not only helping diners navigate wine lists, giving them the ability to order with confidence, but also helps restaurants actually sell their carefully curated lists because people are not throwing up their arms in dispair and ordering a beer instead.