As you have probably gathered, we Carmel Valley-by-the-Glass bloggers have become fascinated with how to pair food and beverages. To help us along our way, I, LC, took a course at the Culinary Institute of America's St. Helena campus. It really opened my eyes--and nose and palate--to an adventurous, approachable way of looking at wine and food.
Chef and author John Ash was the teacher. He was knowledgeable, funny, entertaining, and very down to earth with his approach to describing wines.
Here are just a few tips from him:
~The most important consideration is to know what we like in a wine.
~The most important reason to learn some wine descriptors is to be able to order what we like in a restaurant or to buy what we'd like in a wine shop. Simple words will do: do we like our wines light, full, sweet, citrusy, buttery, fruity, peppery?
~Our nose is the most important part of the wine experience. He had each of us hold our nose, then eat a jelly bean and try to describe the taste. Almost impossible. Once we released our nose, then we could identify the taste. SO..."the nose knows" and can help us describe qualities of a wine. We need to keep training our nose.
~There is a Wine Aroma Wheel that is used in the wine industry to pinpoint the many aromas that exist in wines. Looking at it can be daunting at first, but ultimately it is helpful and educational.
And as for wine and food pairing, John Ash reminded us that...
~Wine and food pairing is very subjective.
~Wine and food pairing can be simple:
sometimes similarity works, e.g. a simple dish with a simple wine,
an acidic dish with an acidic wine; sometimes a contrast works, e.g. Stilton cheese with port wine.
~Or it can require a lot more study, which we intend to do.
To take a class with John Ash at the Culinary Institute was a special treat. It was a fun and informative introduction to the world of food and wine pairing. If you are interested in taking a similar class, check out the schedule at: "A Journey into Sensory Awareness: Food and Wine Pairing."
And in the meantime, let's all have some fun with pairings. Let us know what you discover and we'll do the same.