Yesterday, you read about the food and wine argument. Honestly, I thought there would be many more of the food guys than there were. It seems to be more of chemistry, get it right, and it will work. Still, the artist inside of each of the following winemakers will show glimmers of food thoughts along the way…
Paul Draper ~ Ridge Vineyards (owner | winemaker)
I’ve never thought about making a wine to be ‘food friendly,’ just as I’ve never thought about making a wine to please Bob Parker or the Wine Spectator or for that matter the ‘Market’ what ever that might be. Since wine is food it should complement the other foods with which it is served.
I’ve tried to find vineyards that produce grapes that bring distinctive character to the wine and to guide the process to make what I think and our vineyard and winery team thinks are fine wine. Perhaps we’ve been lucky, but our public has bought us out of these wines that we’ve made based on our own opinion of what is fine wine.
Great question. Honestly when a new vintage rolls in my thoughts, inspiration always go towards making my best wine ever! Whatever it takes.
It comes down to taking all the grapes have to offer. If the wine is made the right way it will be a good food wine- what else is there? I understand your question, but in general all great wines are great food wines as well- it is just a matter of finding the perfect match.
Jeff Miller ~ Artisan Family of Wines (owner | winemaker)
I would say that the grapes you get from the vineyard largely dictate the wine you’re going to end up with. They to a certain extent have a destiny, and while there’s things you can do to tweak the final wine, you’re very constrained by the grapes you’re working with. From that it follows that I just make the best wine I can without giving too much thought to how it will go with food. I do like to maintain acid levels that are probably a little higher than most winemakers, and, since acidity tends to produce wines that go well with foods, I would say our wines tend to be food-friendly to that extent. Even if a wine isn’t the epitome of what we think of as food friendly, it will probably go with something. You just have to find the right pairing. As an example, we make a Petite Sirah, which would only go well with a fairly big food (think game, prime rib). I don’t think there’s much I could do to make that wine pair well with lighter foods, and I certainly don’t try to do that. We also make a Montepulciano, which is a more middle-weight, high acid, wine, and it will go with pretty much any food except something like fish (or other dishes that really pair best with white wines).
So the short answer to your question is that I, personally, do not think about making my wine food-friendly.
For me it is more about making the wine drinkable on its own. I’m not to concerned about making it food-friendly necessarily. Though I know, that for the most part it will be anyway, as long as I’m making the wine to be “varietal correct.” This can vary drastically from varietal to varietal, ie. Gewurztraminer can be real sweet or ultra dry.
It would be great to stand in my lab/office and sample food as I’m doing my blending trails but it does not happen that way. I have to make a wine that I think is going to be liked by the general public that we see here at David Hill. Now if I were at a different winery for instance where the clientele might demand more of a drier style then I would adjust some of my winemaking practices to do so. It really comes down to the customer for me and what I think they would prefer plus just a little bit of what I like. So I always ask myself: What do I see them drinking and how can I achieve that in my wine? Of course it always starts with the fruit and in order to make the wine we want to make we must first bring in good clean fruit. Had to say that!
Jim Brady ~ Roadrunner Ridge Winery (owner | winemaker)
Our motto is “Go Home or Go Big.” We try to pick our fruit at the ultimate ripeness and let the wine speak for itself. Our wines need food but are not over-oaked…With some we just let the fruit come forward.
Aaron Jackson ~ Aaron Wines (winemaker)
When I produce a wine, my goal is to make a balanced wine that best showcases the flavors of the vineyards that I produce it from and the stylistic expression of myself as a winemaker. I’m not so much concerned about food friendliness as much as I’m concerned with overall drinkability, which in actuality is a large component of food-friendliness in a wine. At the end of the day, most balanced wines will be food friendly to at least some kind of cuisine or dish. But a harsh, imbalanced, or fundamentally flawed wine may never be friendly to any food and is best being drunk by itself or not at all! In Paso Robles, we make very concentrated and extracted wines, oftentimes which reach pretty high alcohol contents. Personally, I don’t care so much about what the final alcohol is, but more so if all the flavors and wine characteristics are interwoven into a seamless package. And given that I focus on Petite Sirah, it’s imperative that the tannins are ripe enough and treated properly in the cellar to avoid creating a massively tannic monster of a wine that is unfriendly to any food. If the alcohol pokes out in the wine, it’s going to impair the drinkability of the wine somewhat, and the same goes for having harsh, aggressive tannins. These factors (which are just an example of what we commonly face with Petite Sirah) are going to have a negative effect on how well the wine pairs with food.
But as a general rule, I don’t consider food pairing much at all when making wine. Once my own stylistic expression of the wine I am making is achieved, then I’ll move to thinking about what foods will work with that wine
Shauna Rosenblum ~ Rock Wall Wine Company (winemaker )
When I am making a wine, I am doing my best to bring out all the flavors and nuances that the terroir and grapes offer, and make a wonderfully balanced wine. Am I directly thinking about the wine being food friendly? No. I am thinking about Glucose/fructose, TA pH, YAN count, flavor, aroma, yeast selection, barrel selection, aging potential, tannin management, and ultimately the finished product, the beautiful wine. That said, if a wine is in balance, then it is a winner, as far as being able to straddle the fence of being either a cocktail wine, or a food-paired wine. I do make 42 different wines, so when I am making a wine like Tannat, Petit Verdot or Petite Sirah, I am always striving for tannin management. That is because I want to enjoy my wines a few months after I bottle them, not have to wait 4 years for the tannins to mellow out. I actually prefer to do food pairings based on the completed product, the wine. Sometimes wines are so different from their fermentative state to their bottle state, that it would be counterproductive to anticipate the final flavors, aromas, acids, etc. I like to do wine pairings based on more everyday type of foods, because I don’t always have time to whip up a steak au poivre. Thus my pairings are based on more everyday type of foods, and snack foods.
For example… At our Grenache Rose’ release party we paired the rose with chili covered mango lollipops, jalapenjo kettle chips (just a wee bit spicy), or angel food cake. Simple and delicious!
My fave Viognier pairing is celery with peanut butter. (Really, anything peanut based, think Vietnamese peanut sauce).
My fave Petite Sirah pairing is plain and simple… BACON! The fancier and more expensive the bacon, the better. If you want to get crazy, drizzle or dip the bacon in a dark chocolate to get a truly outrageous pairing experience.
Dan Teldeschi ~ F. Teldeschi Winery (owner | winemaker)
When I make wine, I do not have the food and wine connection in mind. I try to make a well balanced wine that has the ability to age at least ten years depending on the varietal. Amazingly enough, they almost always turn out to be very food compatible. I don’t make fruit bombs, or as I like to call them, cocktail wines.
Chris Carlberg ~ Christoper Bridge Cellars & Satori Springs Estate (owner | winemaker)
I try to make my wine as the most authentic expression of our vineyard: a wine which is well-balanced, full-flavored and elegant in its finish. I believe that by achieving this, the wine will be a superb compliment to food and a delight to drink alone as well.
Brent Amos ~ Fenestra Winery (winemaker)
Excellent question. Basically when making any wine, I strive for balance and complexity, which I think results in a wine that is both food friendly, and enjoyable by itself. Acid, tannin, alcohol, flavors etc. need to be in balance with each other regardless of the region, varietal, or vintage. A wine should be food friendly and enjoyable by itself, as long as it is balanced, whether 12 percent alcohol or 16 percent alcohol. Ultimately, it comes down to consumers and how they want to enjoy the wine; if the wine is balanced, they can enjoy it with or without food.