I’m aware I might get some flak for this article, and rightly so. There are many logical reasons to listen to and order the sommelier’s recommendations when dining out at a restaurant. But more often than not, I tend to veer down my own path and without meaning to, end up completing ignoring traditional food and wine pairings. But why?
First off, there are so many pairing guidelines that it can be difficult to remember them all. For a quick and easy review, visit Wine Folly who does a great job of keeping them succinct.
When I’m considering a wine to drink and a dish to savour, I’m not thumbing my nose at the guidelines. However, there are things to consider above and beyond traditional pairings that I’m willing to prioritize. Here are 3 reasons to ignore restaurant food and wine pairings.
If You Like Sharing Dishes
My husband and I love ordering a few appetizers as our meal to share. We might throw in an entrée as well if there’s something that stands out, but for the most part – we love small plates. So how do you pick one wine when you’re trying to pair it with 3 or 4 different dishes?
The most obvious answer is to order more than one wine. This is why I love establishments that offer tasting flights of wine! It’s so much fun to try new wines with new food and discover new favourites.
If wine flights aren’t available, opt for versatility. Try to find something with both medium body and acidity – like a Pinot Gris or Chenin Blanc for a white wine. Or for red, try a Merlot or Sangiovese.
Sometimes the Best Pairing is Out of Budget
Risotto is rich, creamy, silky and buttery. It’s delicious and one of my favourite things to order. It pairs well with full-bodied white wines – often a Chardonnay or Viognier. But what if the sommelier insists the best pairing for my drool-worthy risotto is a Chard from Burgundy? A bottle can run well over $100 (you’ll rarely find white Bourgogne by the glass).
In a situation like this, we often revert to the limited by-the-glass selection resulting in a less than ideal pairing. And that’s ok! It doesn’t need to be perfect. Stick within your financial limits. Nothing hurts more than paying for something you know will bruise your bank account.
It’s Fun to Experiment
Tradition food and wine pairing guidelines exist for a reason – because they work. But that’s not to say there aren’t other flavour combinations that might float your boat. When it comes to the culinary world – be adventurous and courageous and think outside the box! You never know when something new will become a new go-to for you.