Are Wine Tastings A Farce?

Posted: Dec 11, 2019

There are two different forms of indefensible wine tastings: One is drinking individual glasses of wines with a long tasting menu in a restaurant; the other is enduring a tasting—blind or not—of a dozen or a score of wines in an antiseptic setting without any food whatsoever. Count me out of both.

The very idea of wine flights and long tastings makes my eyes glaze over and my appetite flag for so many reasons. In the first instance, let’s say you’ve chosen a chef’s eclectic prix fixe menu of foie gras terrine with pomegranates and hot piquillo peppers; followed by halibut with cockles in a barigoule flecked with chorizo; then a breast of duck with dried cherries in a reduction of Port and ginger, and finishing off with a dark chocolate cake with an oozing chocolate center, topped with raspberries and a gloss of balsamic vinegar—a mere four courses.

The inevitable choice of wines by a sommelier to go with such foods is almost always driven not by a reasonable match-up but by what the sommelier says is “something quite unusual for this course,” which might turn out to be a Kimoto-style sake, followed by an Austrian Grüner-Veltliner, a California charbono and a Canadian ice wine. Imagine if this were a twelve-course meal, which for most people is gluttonous excess and good reason to have a designated driver. After two or three courses can the palate be that discerning as to how well such beverages go with such involved recipes? Have you really learned anything about the wines worth using at your next dinner?

By John Mariani 
December 10, 2019
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