As a restaurant, much of what we do revolves around pairing wine to the dishes that we serve. The idea really is quite simple… by finding a beverage (wine) that compliments what we’re eating; we try to create an experience that is even greater than the sum of its parts.
Imagine a delicately prepared sea bass with a light relish of lemon juice, shallots, cherry tomatoes, and a touch of freshly julienned mint. It’s a refreshing and light dish with vibrant accents and uplifting flavors… so if you pull out your Napa Valley cab for this dish, it will be like walking into a fistfight with a M-16. A battlefield in wreaking devastation on your poor, innocent taste-buds. The delicate flavors absolutely stand no chance.
Instead, we should seek to accentuate the positives of what we’re eating… do you like citrus flavors? A Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley of France will pull out the citrus notes of the dish and make them sing on your tongue. Want to bring out some earthiness and accentuate the flavors of the sea bass? Try a mineral driven Chablis (especially since the 2009 vintage is so good in Burgundy). Want to play off of the cherry tomatoes and not in the mood for a white wine? Think Provencal rose. The dry rose wine from the south of France will accentuate the sweetness of the tomatoes, the crispness of the lemon, and the delicious flavors of the fish itself.
There isn’t one answer. Each pairing will change the flavors of the dish, accent different elements, and create a different (and more holistic) dining experience. If you paired a wine (cabernet) filled with oak spices, blackberries, currants, and licorice, the flavors would compete with each other, instead of complement.
So when you’re at a restaurant, first choose what you will eat. When you know what flavors you are going to indulge yourself in, then look at the wine list. You will be better able to find a wine that will create a greater culinary experience. Food and wine pairings are really one of the few avenues where the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.
If you’re curious about what to pair with a specific dish, please feel free to email me at [email protected].
EDGAR POURESHAGH is a Certified Sommelier and the General Manager of the new wine bar 320 South on LaBrea (just south of the Yougurtland). 320 South is open for lunch and dinner every day with a tapas style/small plate menu designed for sharing. Wines can be experienced using the Enomatic Wine dispensing machines – designed to encourage wine exploration. 320 South at 320 South La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles 323-327-6146 www.320southwine.com
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