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Wine With Friends

Stephen Asprinio talks perfect pairing.

I was browsing through some of the comments from last week’s blog, and noticed a question that lead me into this week’s blog, “Wine with Friends”. The question was on the ever-debated subject of whether or not red wine can be paired with seafood. I don’t want to get too much into the subtleties of this question, as they pertain to specific wine pairing details, which I will discuss further in subsequent postings. Several answers to this question do exist though.

One answer is “yes”, in a case such as grilled salmon with huckleberries paired with an Oregon Pinot Noir. Another answer is surely “no” when it comes to pairing any Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, or Merlot-based wine with oysters, clams, caviar, or other such delicate items from the sea. The other answer, which is the basis for this blog, is “maybe”. The term holds some significance in the discussion of “Wine with Friends”, because the majority of our wine consumption throughout our lives is exactly that, drinking wine with friends. “Maybe” leaves the door open to interpretation, no one gets offended, and everything’s cool in the end.

When a dinner guest and his or her significant other arrive to your home with a bottle of Bordeaux in hand, specially picked for the evening’s meal, are you really going to tell them, “Oh so sorry, but that Bordeaux is not really going to pair to well with the Cornish game hens I’m preparing tonight. If only you would have brought some Burgundy. Maybe next time.” Of course you’re not. Will the Bordeaux pair perfectly? No, it won’t. Will it suffice? Maybe. And will it work with the game hen, enough to the point where everyone’s happy? Yes, most definitely.

Point being, there are two ways to drink wine with food, and one way to enjoy it. You can drink wine while observing every detail, looking for flaws as well as strengths, and deciphering whether or not it pairs well with the respective dish at hand, or you can simply tilt your glass and let it flow. Either way, your level of enjoyment is based upon your willingness to accept the wine for what it is.

I was sitting with two friends of mine the other evening, chatting about my new restaurant that I’m opening in South Florida. My two friends, Zach Bell and Jennifer Reed, are the husband and wife team (Chef and Pastry Chef respectively) at Café Boulud in Palm Beach. We were sipping a bottle of 2002 Louis Latour Grand Cru Chevalier-Montrachet “Les Demoiselles” from Burgundy, and needed something to eat alongside this magnificent wine.

What to have? The perfect pairing? Hell, no. We wanted something that tasted good, something that we could put together “Quickfire-style”, and wouldn’t overpower the wine. The wine rocked on its own, and needed no further elevation. Zach had some killer pork pate that we sandwiched between a buttered baguette with cornichons, whole grain mustard and gruyere, and put it in the panini press. It was a no-nonsense snack, and not the ultimate pairing by any means. It worked, and that’s what matters.

Both the food and the wine were amazing in their own right, and in the end, added value to our self-made experience. We were talking business, not holding a food and wine-pairing seminar.

Come back next Thursday when I discuss Hallowine: The Scary Stuff.

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