Saturday night. Guests are coming for dinner and as the perfect host, the menu has been well-thought out and determined since a couple of weeks. The shopping list has been reviewed again and again to be sure not to miss a thing for the D-Day. The lady of the house has spent the afternoon in the kitchen, cooking and plating the courses.
Everything seems to move forward smoothly, despite the slight tension that hangs in the air.
Vegetables are chopped, the meat is in the oven, and the chocolate is slowly melting au ‘bain marie’… The lady of the house decides to allow herself a few minutes of rest, with a glass of Chardonnay … ‘Et là, c’est le drame !’.
Desperately looking for that soothing glass, she suddenly realizes that the social host of the evening is missing. There is no wine to match the dinner. Food and wine, the magic couple, has once again declared a divorce… at least for a few minutes.
Taking her purse, she runs to the supermarket and buys the first bottle with a name that seems to be a sure thing and an classy looking label. Merlot, Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon? Well, whatever. It can’t be bad… and it was on sales anyway. A few hours later, everybody seems to be enjoying the good food with a glass of wine. Nothing worthwhile but, after all, wine is wine, right?
Yes, it is wine but it’s not just wine.
It is days and days looking for the right ‘terroir’ with the right balance between the height, the humidity and the amount of sun that goes with the type of earth.
It is years of studying the natural chemical balance to obtain the perfect grape, which will ferment just so in the perfect conditions and produce a rich and round red or a crisp and dry white.
It is years of nurturing the vines, more valuable than the most precious metal in the eyes of its winemaker.
It is the stress of a bad winter or a rainy summer.
It is people scraping their hands and pulling their backs to reap the grapes.
It is hours and hours of discussion with the heavyweights and strongmen, negotiating shelf space while securing a good margin and sifting through the never-ending regulations and paperwork to get the right classification.
It is a couple of minutes laughing at the joke: How do you make a small fortune? You take a large fortune and you buy a vineyard.
So, yes, it’s wine. But just as food, the choice of a wine takes as much consideration as choosing the rest of the menu for that important night.
As part of the shopping list, wine shouldn’t come at the bottom, but as an integral part of the ingredients, as one of the components that will not only make the evening a success, but a delight. And just like the lady of the house would choose her meat or fish at the best butcher or fishmonger, it is important to develop a good relationship with the local wine merchant.
It is easy of course to let ourselves be seduced by a nice label, an award, an offer of the month. But behind the unforgiving rules of the market and laws of supply and demand, wine is a passion, a way of life, a way of thinking, breathing and of course eating. Ask someone passionate about wine what he would choose on a menu and the answer would be: ‘it depends on what is on the wine list’.
In the respect of their work, it is time to teach our palates how to make the difference between the different grapes, the different regions, the different national specificities. Not too far away from our homes or offices, there are wine classes mastered by passionate experts who will teach you more about wine in two hours than in a decade of self-education.
Make the effort, take the course, learn your wines. If it isn’t for yourselves, then let it be for your next dinner guests. And to honour your signature dish.
And as a good opportunity to start learning about wine, The Wine Gang is organising the first consumer wine event, the Christmas Wine Fair, on November 7th at Vinopolis. Some wine and food bloggers will also attend the event and share with you their passion and point of view about wine, supported by Wine Conversation.