Updated 2009-08-03 14:36:08 ID=449:0

© 2009 The Romantic Table
©2009 The Romantic Table 2009-02-17 09:52:55:123
©2009 The Romantic Table

Larry McGourty writes about wine and food

Simpler is Better.


If you are looking for a wine to serve with Mediterranean style food, a 98 point California fruit bomb is not the best choice. Look for softer tannins, good crisp acidly, low alcohol and more on the dry side than not.

It has been a busy couple of weeks at the old ranch house. We just just finished a Sangiovese Summit at our vineyard for the winemakers who buy our fruit, and the friends of the vineyard. We were fortunate to have Dr. Giovanni Mattii give us a presentation on Sangiovese Viticulture. Dr. Mattii is from Tuscany and is one of the world's leading authorities on Viticulture and Sangiovese Grapes in particular. He and his family dropped in for a visit while touring the US and we managed to persuade him (more like shanghaied him), to give us a talk.

All the winemakers brought bottles of their wine. As part of the presentation, the cooks of the Romantic Table prepared a sampling of Sangiovese friendly dishes --the recipes right out of our growing online cookbook. Pairing the great wines the winemakers brought with the food that developed along side it over thousands of years really highlighted what is so special about Sangiovese wine.

In our conversations with Dr. Mattii he mentioned how much he felt that the Paso Robles westside especially had the feel and look of his native Tuscany. He also mentioned that he liked the Central Coast Style of wine more than the Napa-Sonoma style. Which is not too surprising. For someone like Dr. Mattii from a Food and Wine culture --and in that exact order, the wine must be first enjoyable to serve with a meal.

The idea for the food and wine pairing was to illustrate to the winemakers the benefit of producing food friendly wines with softer tannins, good crisp acidly, low alcohol and more on the dry side than not. This style of wine pairs very well with the Mediterranean style of food we served, with lots of vegetables and olive oil of course. We also pointed out that this style of cooking is typical of the kind of foods the Millennials --the next big wave of customers, were more likely to eat and look for wines that accompany it well.

Let's face it, most wine drinkers sit down to enjoy a meal first accompanied by a good bottle of wine --usually not the other way around. Most of us have had the experience of "discovering" a really great wine at a good restaurant, then when we buy the same wine and try it at home it is just not the same experience. Wine with a good meal is a perfect example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

Now, there is nothing wrong with the "Big" style of wine. But it is just one style, probably more suited to social drinking, which admittedly I do not especially enjoy. Describing the "Big Wine" Napa wine scene, Dunn Vineyard's Randy Dunn in the video "Robert Parker's Bitch" www.vimeo.com had a great line: the upper high end wines are made to "taste and spit." Meaning of course they were made more to impress a couple of influential wine critics than to to enjoy with a meal --the alleged primary purpose of wine. A 98 point high alcohol fruit bomb is likely to be as welcome with a great meal as an obnoxious telemarketer interrupting your dinner.

The conclusion was the traditional Napa styles of a few decades back are more suited to serving with a meal. We really like what the wineries are doing on the Central Coast.

But then again, neither style should diminish the other. There is a time and place for everything.




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A tip from Sue!

If rushed, prepare your ingredients in advance.

If you know you’ll be rushed at cooking time, pre-measure out as many of the ingredients as you can, and arrange them by the cooking order of the recipe.

If it’s going to be more than several minutes before you actually start making the dinner, be sure to cover the perishable ingredients with plastic wrap or place in containers and put them back in the refrigerator to hold until you are ready.