It's about as fleeting as the lifespan of a boy band. Or a girl band. Or, if you really want to get down to it, a boy-girl band.
For those of you old enough or young enough to remember S CLUB 7, you will obviously know what I am talking about and are already resenting it. But there's something to be taken from this semi-recent moment in time. Something very interesting...
The perfect pairing. It's the calling card of influencers and sommeliers and wannabes and magazines and wine clubs and tasting notes and people jerking off all over the wine community.
Two in a million.
I, personally, do not believe in the perfect match. And it's not because I believe that nothing is perfect. I actually do believe in perfection. I think the common definition of the word is severely flawed and overly influenced by religion (let's leave it at that), but I do believe in perfection, yes. The reason I said I don't believe in a perfect match, well, I think I really meant that I don't believe in one perfect match. I'm a fan of the alternate.
There are a few marked moments in my time that I can recall distinctly a pairing of wine and food that was literally fucking perfect to me. Some examples? Why not.
Krauthaker Chardonnay 'Rosenberg' 2009. It's grown in Slavonia, coincidentally home to oak forests that produce a great deal of the wine barrels used by the European industry. Drank on a stage-like patio in the middle of a park at a Zagreb restaurant called Prasac. The dish was fresh mackerel served with a potato hash with some kind of horseradish something. Fuck me. The chardonnay tasted like Burgundy. It was generous but balanced, restrained appropriately. I love this kind of chardonnay with potatoes, and Croatians in the inland are good at growing them and good at preparing them. They love them. The mackerel tastes better over there, too.
Ridge Lytton Estate Petite Sirah 2014 alongside baked brie topped with a dried berry spiced compote. This sounds douchey and basic, I know, but I am just saying that I remember it. I served it as the final course of a wine dinner I hosted one time with Ridge Vineyards. This particular match stuck out to me, probably because I have a hardcore nostalgia for 1990s & 2000s culture, which to me includes baked brie. Probably from Best of Bridge™ or Company's Coming™.
The grandaddy of all of these anecdotal pairings happened to me before I kinda tried getting serious about wine. I know the producer was St. Urbans-Hof from the Mosel in Germany. And that's where it gets a little foggy. Riesling, obviously. I cannot in good faith say more about what it was. I've enjoyed many wines from St. Urbans-Hof since. That post I made yesterday about taking a picture of every bottle would have come in very handy. Alas, a friend of mine brought over this bottle of Riesling, a small log of fresh goat cheese, and a little jar of pepper jelly. Who the fuck brings a jar of pepper jelly?
My new best friend. That's who.
Jesus fucking Christ. Listen, I'm really not an expert on the science of pairing or culinary technique. I like things in their deconstructed form. I would rather have a hunk of meat that was cooked in front of me on a live fire that have the same hunk of meat done in a sous-vide baggy-condom-thingy and have it come out more tender. Some things just work on a fundamental level, and you don't have to think too hard about them.
I will break this Riesling-Fresh Goat Cheese-Pepper Jelly pairing down very simply for you, even though I hate talking about technical shit. But this is why it works:
Acid. Riesling is high in acid, so is fresh goat's cheese. It's tangy. Acid goes with acid. If you have high acid food and low acid wine, sometimes the wine comes off as flabby, so they say. I've never seen a bottle as flabby as myself, so I won't go there, but you catch my drift. Flabby would mean something along the lines of "not exactly refreshing or cleansing". You follow? But acid on acid somehow is the perfect homosexuality of wine and food. It works most of the time very nicely.
Sweetness. Spice. Now for the perfect heterosexuality of wine and food. See, if you just drink the Riesling, it tastes sweet. And if you just have a mouthful of the pepper jelly, it also tastes a tiny bit sweet, but it's got a very latent heat to it. It gets spicy. Now, for some reason, sweetness, or sugar, seems to combat the effects of spicy heat. Don't ask me why, it just works that way. Wine pairing seems to work best when the wine does one of the jobs that your mouth was otherwise going to try to take care of. For example, tannins take care of fat and protein. All of a sudden, the tannins attack the steak and not the walls of your mouth, and the wine tastes better. The steak allows your tastebuds to absorb other flavours of the wine without being overwhelmed by the tannins. Well, when the pepper jelly starts to hit and the heat gets heavy, the sweetness of the Riesling takes care of that for your mouth, and instead of just tasting sweetness from the Riesling, or just heat from the pepper jelly, you get a whole new spectrum of flavour, because your mouth can now focus on other subtle aspects of the food and wine, because the two have come together to balance each other and make it easier for you.
What magic. What FUCKING magic. I swear to the god that I swear to god doesn't exist.
Now, these are unicorn situations. These are the situations that merely felt like perfection to me, personally. I failed to mention that the Petite Sirah and baked brie fiasco occurred at the dish pit behind the scenes and involved me and a few waiters scarfing cheese out of a lukewarm tiny cast iron dish and glugging wine like it was shots of tequila.
But the perfect pairing.
There are few. Port and stilton come to mind. Maybe a drizzle of honey on there. I keep hearing that "perfect" is the enemy of "good enough", and if you've noticed the grammatical errors and general lackadaisical nature of some of these blog posts, you might sense that this idea is trending on my hamster wheel. But I'm serious. I am doing my damnedest to let it flow, to not worry about perfection. Of course, I am the biggest hypocrite. I had a friend text me a picture of a nice bottle of Alvarinho this evening and of course I had to confirm with him that there were either olives, mackerel toast, sardine toast, or some other kind of briny invention involved.
There were olives. Case closed.
They say that Champagne pairs with everything. Well, technically, if you could enjoy yourself drinking anything with anything, it's a perfect pairing. That's a bit of a conversation killer, you know, the idea that "everyone's tastes are different". Fuck off. I obviously love Champagne because I love every single wine ever except for the ones I hate and even I have drank a certain Champagne with a certain type of east coast North American oysters and combined it tasted like raw gun metal. It wasn't that nice, but I would have rather had the bottle with a double Quarter Pounder™. With cheese. In case you're wondering or appreciating the humour, on a Macbook™, you can hit (OPTION/alt) > 2/@ to get the ™ sign. Thanks, Steve.
I could go on about this all night. It's rather exhausting. Though. If I was you, I'd make my way to the nearest provisioners and grab myself a bottle of something from Nik Weis St. Urbans-Hof along with a jar of hot pepper jelly and a tiny log of fresh goat cheese.
Three in a million.