Culture and Society

Should you always pair red wine with meat and white wine with fish?
Answered by Larry Stone
  • Larry Stone

    Larry Stone

  1. Larry Stone Master Sommelier, President Evening Land Vineyards


    Absolutely not -- I think the beautiful thing that I did once with Charlie Trotter is we did a seminar for the Wine Spectator. He came up with the idea. He said, "Let's do a red and --" He knew we already worked it there. You didn't need a red or white. You could do fish with a red wine and meat with a white wine, no problem, as long as you respected the chemistry of it, and you could come up with matches. So we did all sorts of things. We did really awful-tasting red wines on their own that would be improved by the food, and make the food actually taste really good and the wine taste really good, so we did things like that.

    For example, we did a foie gras dish. With the one dish we did two wines, so we did a red wine and a white one with four courses for the Wine Spectator. People got to vote on what they preferred, and we tried to make it so that people would vote 50 percent equally for each wine, so it would be a split, so they could see, "Hey, there's actually a way to do this that works."

    For the one dish, Charlie really favored the white wine, and he told people to vote. I voted out on the red, but I think that everyone agreed that the red wine was improved. We did foie gras with a Burgundy from a really bad vintage that was very tannic and very acid. The foie gras without wine was just -- it made the wine brilliant, because the foie gras, the fattiness cuts down the astringency of the tannin, so it brought the sweet, you know, cherry fruit right out of the wine, and it was brilliant. The acid was good too because it helped to round out the foie gras. There was a little, like a streak, to match with that acid, and he put a sauce on it, which was highly acid, so that brought the chemistry in balance with the wine.

    At the same time we did another wine, which was an Alsatian Pinot gris, late harvest, vendange tardive, and of course, that was a very different experience because it was very rich. It enriched the foie gras and made it a much richer, heavier kind of a sensation, but it worked beautifully as well, again because you had the balance of acid and sugar to balance out the foie gras. I think that kind of thing is really amazing.

    You can do all sorts of things with wine and food. You shouldn't follow some rule, because inevitably they're wrong. You can follow charts that have elaborate -- if you have this kind of chicken dish, like cacciatore, you have to have Chianti or whatever. But you know, if you add a little bit of salt to that dish, more than the chef who wrote the recipe, you might be able to have that dish with a Brunello or with a Bordeaux, because you're changing the acid by buffering it. By adding salt, you're raising the pH or lowering the apparent acid of the dish.

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