The History of Wine & Food Pairing.
And God tried the white, and it was good. And God divided the white from the red, and God was pleased when Robert Parker rated them both 90 points.
And God formed Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden.
And Adam said unto Eve, “God has blessed us with both white and red. Hast thou chosen one to compliment this apple?”
“Thy yonder slithering-sommelier suggests Zinfandel,” said Eve.
“That’s original, Zin!” cried Adam.
And so it began, the age-old debate over which wine to serve with dinner. To guide the perplexed people through this culinary quandary, rule-makers stepped forward and created The Rule. They righteously preached that wine and food pairing is done with your eyes and not your mouth, for they looked at wine and decreed; White wine with fish. Red wine with meat!
Moses first chiseled The Rule in stone after being served an abysmal pairing of gefilte fish and Merlot. During a weekend bender of biblical proportions he misplaced the stone tablet, leaving us with only Ten Commandments and no divine direction regarding culinary combinations.
In 1215, England’s feudal barons forced King John to endorse The Rule in a document famously named after the double-sized bottles of wine that were consumed at the ceremony. This historical document is known as the Magnum Carta.
In early drafts of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson reportedly wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that white wine shall accompany fish and red wine shall accompany meat.” Representatives from the beer producing states succeeded in replacing this language with something about “life, liberty and the pursuit of hoppy-ness.”
For eons, The Rule has separated man from the animals. Let’s face it, monkeys will drink white wine with anything. I don’t want to knock The Rule, that steadfast sentinel that has guarded our palates from unsavory food and wine pairings for so many centuries, but come on already – rules are made to be broken! I’ve paired red wine with fish hundreds of times and I haven’t suffered any biblical repercussions or been struck down by lightning. Well, there was this one time when I got a nasty carpet shock.
Of course a light-bodied white wine pairs beautifully with white fish, but today when you order fish in a restaurant it may come smothered in loganberries. This raises two important questions. First, is a one-size-fits-all rule really adequate for today’s complex cuisine and second, what the heck is a loganberry?
Back in the day our basic American fare was created from familiar ingredients but today your local food market may stock a slew of unique ingredients from exotic locations like the Pacific Rim, the Mediterranean, Latin America, and New Jersey.
We now dine in restaurants featuring curious cuisine from around the world. Fusion cooking with its unique preparation techniques, inspired combinations, and exotic ingredients has created new and exciting food and wine pairing possibilities, as well as new and exciting food and antacid pairing possibilities.
Food and wine pairing has become more challenging not only because of the changes in our diets, but also because of the increasing choices we have when selecting wine. Your local wine merchant probably stocks wines from dozens of international wine regions and wines made from scores of different grape varieties. Take a stroll through the aisles of your local fine wine store and you’re likely to find wines made from little known grape varieties like Aligoté, Carmenère, Müller-Thurgau, and Cariňena, and those are just the ones with cute accents. All of this adds to the complex task of picking the one wine that will not only compliment your meal, but whose name you can pronounce.
The genesis of your food and wine pairing knowledge begins when you decide to lose your innocence and disobey The Rule. The next time you serve fish you might as well put a bottle of red wine on the table because you’ve got nothing to lose now that eternal life in paradise is off the table.
This post was inspired by the tale of Noah’snArk. Noah was an early expert on pairing.