Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out

Wine and Food


									Wine and Food
Sarah Scott
Executive Chef, Robert Mondavi Winery

“I’m having salmon tonight. What wine would you pair with that?”

“What foods go with Zinfandel?”

“I love sushi, but I only like red wines. What do I do?”

Eight years ago, I would have given pat answers. “A chardonnay with that salmon. The

richness of the wine will match the richness of the fish. Or a pinot noir. Especially if you

use mushrooms in the dish. They will bring out the earthiness in the pinot noir. Of course

you have a peppery steak with the zinfandel. It will pair with the spiciness in the wine. As

for sushi and red wine, why don’t you try a gewurztraminer or a riesling? The fruitiness

and slight residual sugars will work better with the sushi and wasabi. Red wine and sushi

just won’t work.”

Today, I can no longer give recommendations like that. They simply aren’t true. Those

“pairings” are no more likely to work than any choice of wine and food. But, it took a

few years of “un-learning” before I fully understood and grasped the principles that have

changed the way I work with wine and food. Principles that are deceptively simple, but

give me the ability to prepare food that allows wine to taste the way it is meant to taste,

every time.

I learned to cook in the Napa Valley. One of my first jobs was in Napa at The Wine and

Culinary Center in 1980. It was everything about wine and food under one roof –
restaurant, wine bar, wine store, cooking school, gourmet foods and kitchenware.

Winemakers and grapegrowers ate daily, drinking their wines and others. The joy of the

table was evident, but, in retrospect, I realize something. There was no discussion of wine

and food pairing. The only rules I had heard about at that time were: Red wine with red

meat and white wine with fish and poultry. We would cook with wine, But, further up

the road, at what was then Inglenook Winery, the exploration was underway.

Chef/educator Barbara Lange was conducting tastings with herbs, proteins, vegetables

and cheeses to determine which wines paired best with these foods. Shirley Sarvis was a

pioneer in writing about wine and food pairing. Harvey Steiman. In a 1984 issue of the

Wine Spectator dedicated to wine and food, Steiman says “Wineries Rediscover

Centuries-Old Link With Food; Turn It Into Tasty Promotions.” Wineries were hiring

chefs and entertaining clients, distributors, restauranteurs and hoteliers. A new language

was needed to talk about what was happening. As more and more wineries realized that

marketing food and wine together was a winning combination, they began to create charts

and matrixes and wheels and guides to help the consumer figure it all out.

A daunting set of rules came out of this:

You must match the “weight” of the food with the “weight” of the food

You must serve soft stemmed herbs with white wines and woody stemmed herbs with red


You must never have asparagus, artichokes, eggs, soup, spinach or salad with wine

You must match the aromas in the wine with the aromas in the food – an herbal

sauvingon blanc needs a light fish with an herb sauce; a mushroomy pinot noir needs a
dish with mushrooms; a hint of vanilla in the chardonnay calls for a hint of vanilla in the

lobster sauce.

You must never serve acidic foods with wine

You must serve sweeter wines with spicy foods

You must complement or contrat the flavors in the food and wine – find the opposites or

the similarities and pair them

To top