When it comes to food, is your wine destined to be a loner or a socialite?

Roast Chicken with a savory, silky sauce...
Roast Chicken with a savory, silky sauce..

Often when I write about a particular wine and include a pairing recipe the responses are varied. Some are seeking out info on where to purchase the exact wine mentioned, others are just interested in trying a new wine from a grape or region they haven’t explored before with a dish to complement it. Regardless, based on search terms used to direct readers to my little corner of the blogosphere it seems that interest in exploring new flavors and food and wine culture is growing.

A recent post by wine writer Robert Joseph got me thinking about how the general population perceives food and wine matching in relation to wine sales. Pictures depicting wine and food together are rare in print ads, wine guides and shelf talkers. More often than not instead of conjuring up images of enjoying wine with a splendid meal and friends the visuals include steel tanks, sexy babes or lush, green, rolling vineyards. Considering that wine is still served with both lunch and dinner in many cultures I find this puzzling. Do vintners and their marketing teams think the image of food will compete with product branding or confuse the consumer? With many people still intimidated by merely selecting a wine wouldn’t the helpful suggestion on what to serve it with be a better choice than half naked women?

It can be hard to nudge someone out of a wine rut, fear has kept many drinkers more comfortable to just purchase that old stand by. Why not take a leap and help them out with a more user friendly approach?  It doesn’t have to be a suggestion that requires an arsinal of exotic spices, a sous chef or fine china. Traditional or regional pairing suggestions/recipes have been around for centuries, many feature basic techniques that could lead to creative culinary exploration! A little guidance never hurt anyone.

Vintage Peche Advertisement
Vintage Peche Advertisement

In many cultures, not so long ago, even children would be served a small taste of a regional wine with dinner. When I was training as a chef two of my mentors were old school Europeans, one from Northern Italy the other a Frenchman who included as much wine into his recipes as he drank daily. Routinely they argued over what wine to serve with each dish but one belief they both shared was that wine was in fact as much a part of the meal as the meal itself. They even went so far as to suggest that wine was food, thinking of it like a finishing sauce that tied together the delicious flavors and aromas of each meal they prepared. For me a major part of wine enjoyment is inexplicably tied to food, sure I enjoy certain wines on their own but the sage advise of these two culinary curmudgeons, reluctant to show a women  around the kitchen will always stay with me.

So, I ask you? Does the average home cook seek guidance on recreating food and wine matchings for their daily meal or is it something reserved for special evenings? When shopping in your local wine store are you more likely to try a new wine if photos of pairing suggestions or recipes to pair with a fairly easy meal were provided? Are there any factors in relation to food that would sway your decision when making a wine selection or do you just wing it?

Below are some vintage ads I found in my culinary collection. It seems wines featuring food suggestions are most often illustrations.



California Wine Commission
California Wine Commission


Bolla wine and food 1970's
Bolla wine and food 1970’s



    • Robert,
      This is a subject near and dear to my heart. These days it’s mainly small production artisan cheese suggestions offered up instead of actual meals but this can be just as challenging.
      Wine and food pairing shouldn’t be thought of as an elitist pleasure. It’s something to be enjoyed, savored and shared.


  1. Hi Wendy

    I actually think people retain little and enjoy a lot.
    People (most that is) go to wine tastings and wine dinners and pairing seminars cause they are fun. Wine is fun. Alcohol is a social wonder.

    Do they learn how to pair? Do they have a list of wines with what foods? I don’t think so and educating the world can be a fun process but not a business usually once typified as education.

    Most people remember what they like and learn to like a few wines and simply drink them with food.

    At restaurants we have some fun, ask for some advice and it layers on the enjoyment. I even think the really positive trend towards slate-board wine lists, less but good choices make wine more of what it should be, that is an ingredient of the evening.


    • Arnold,

      Totally agree that wine is a social wonder, on its own or with the addition of food to heighten the enjoyment. Here in NYC we are lucky to have so many helpful and informed staff members in many wine shops to guide us whether we are looking for a great pizza wine or something to serve with a special dinner we are preparing. One shop in the Flatiron even had an under $20 selection devoted to take out pairings with local menus posted so you could afford-ably have a bit of fun and possibly discover a style of wine or grape you wouldn’t think of as a go to for certain foods.

      For many people looking for guidance is not that easy. Wine dinners, wine bars, informative staff or even restaurants with a sommelier on staff aren’t available to many people living outside big cities in the US. We cannot deny that having the ability to source new and interesting wines, artisan spirits and exotic spices by simply walking a few blocks can be part of the lore of city living. The door to the flavors of most any foreign culture is a short subway ride away. Others may not have the resources to afford that $12 glass of wine paired with a delicious dish recommended, they may be looking for an affordable way to heighten the enjoyment of an everyday wine on a budget.

      For the average person (with a bit of curiosity on the subject) approaching a wine professional for suggestions can even be a bit intimidating. My thoughts are by simply adding a bit of guidance in terms of a visual, links on your website, recipes, etc could be an effective, fun, user friendly tool that could be accessible to everyone from the casual drinker to the informed wine consumer. A few years back the Alsatian wine board accomplished this cool, non-stuffy, concept by suggesting Asian dishes to accompany many of their wines http://creative.toptable.com/images/June2012/WOA_Header.jpg

      Regardless, wine, whether enjoyed on its own, with pizza, a 4 star meal or just over conversation with a friend is one of the most enjoyable pleasures on the planet. A delicious social lubricant that can transport you to far away places, or, just make a day brown bagging it at the park with a hot dog a celebration!


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