Wine & Food is Art, Not Science


Wine should always be enjoyable and approachable. It’s an intimidating subject to many people, but it doesn’t have to be. So when it comes to pairing wine and food, I like to have fun with it. And if you love food and wine as much as I do, here are some general pointers to keep in mind when you’re ordering a bottle of wine at dinner, entertaining guests, or simply looking to pair your take-out dumplings and Netflix binge with a crisp glass of vino.
The first and most important rule is: eat and drink what you love, no matter what the rules say. Sometimes you’ll get a perfect pairing; sometimes you’ll get a neutral pairing, but very rarely are things horrible together. Think of it like decorating your home. Everyone’s got her or his own style. Sometimes you find the perfect accent piece to put above your rustic fireplace, sometimes you don’t have much to work with, so that Led Zeppelin poster above your desk will work until you find a replacement, and once in a while you walk past that abstract painting your boyfriend put up in the hallway and you think to yourself, “this really isn’t working.” Experiment. Taste. Figure out what you like and what you don’t like.

That being said, the ideal situation is one where the food enhances the wine and the wine enhances the food; a mutually beneficial relationship; a marriage where each bring out the best in one another.

What Works:

Acidity in wine paired with salty or fried foods is a great match. The acid cuts through and lowers the perception of the salt in the food, which, in turn, makes you want to drink more.  Try a dish like Champagne battered fish and potato chips with a glass of Savart Champagne NV.

Fat and tannins work well together. Tannins cut through the richness of fat while the fat softens the tannins in the wine. Try a dish like Pork Belly with fennel and Produttori del Barbaresco ’09 Barbaresco from Italy.

Lighter dishes pair better with lighter wines, and heavier dishes pair better with heavier wines. You don’t want the wine to overpower the food or visa-versa. Try a Kale and Apple salad with Hild Pinot Gris ’13 from Germany for a beautifully paired light option. If you’re looking for something on the heavier side, take a look at a Cotechino Sausage Sandwich with Aioli and Salsa Verde and compliment it with Pecina Reserva ’07 from Rioja, Spain.

Sweetness in wine takes away some of the spiciness in a dish - it cools and refreshes the palate with each sip.

What to Avoid:

Keep in mind that alcohol enhances spice, and spice brings out alcohol. In other words, a high-alcohol wine will make a spicy dish taste fierier. So, unless you like the tear-jerking feeling of being on the verge of breathing fire, stay away from spicy foods and high-alcohol wines.

Don’t over think it. I may love Moma’s Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition, and you may prefer Robert Gober: The Heart is Not a Metaphor. It’s subjective! Drink what you like, and use the guidelines an outline to your experiment. Sometimes it takes a couple trials and test-runs, but when it comes to food and wine, I have yet to hear a complaint.

Master Sommelier Laura Maniec is the face of Corkbuzz which has locations in Union Square, Chelsea Market and a highly anticipated opening of a third wine bar in Charlotte, NC. Maniec’s fresh approach to wine has made Corkbuzz a destination for expert and novice drinkers alike and earned her recognition as both a sommelier and entrepreneur. She directs every aspect of her businesses from scouting locations to design, development and construction and all the way to marketing, mentoring and teaching wine classes. Since opening Corkbuzz, The Wall Street Journal called Maniec the “It Girl” of the New York wine scene, Crain’s New York Business honored her as one of their “40 Under 40,” Food & Wine magazine named her one of 2013’s “Sommeliers of the Year” and Wine Enthusiast included her in their list of “Top 40 Tastemakers under 40.” In addition to her work at Corkbuzz, Maniec is on the board of directors for the Guild of Sommeliers and the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas, and is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier’s New York chapter. She regularly sits on The New York Times tasting panel and also contributes to industry publications, including Food & Wine and Sommelier Journal.

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