I tried, I really did, to taste the wines and the oysters as requested, chew up the oyster to coat my palate, then take a sip of the wine, no swirling and smelling first, just wash down the oyster. The object was to find the best match, not the best wine. That raised some philosophical issues for me, but I gave it my best shot.
It may not be quite so revolutionary as it once was to suggest wine with spicy cuisines such as Indian and Mexican, but picking a good one can still flummox someone nurtured on traditional wine-friendly dishes. I did my part for the wine element in a presentation called "Mainstreaming Global Flavors: Seasoning the American Palate," part of a three-day event in Napa Valley presented by FoodArts (one of Wine Spectator's sister magazines). The event, for an audience of people who run corporate hotels, restaurants and cruise ships, was held at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone in Saint Helena.
Rosemount Estate Diamond Label Shiraz ignited a boom in Australia wine when its rich, fruit-forward, easy-drinking style hit our shores in the late 1980s. It was an under-$10 wine that tasted like something that should cost two or three times as much.
Since then what was once a family winery has become a big-volume brand in the Foster's Group portfolio. But the brand was missing in action as I finished up tastings for my upcoming annual tasting report on Australia. I got curious about why I had not seen any Rosemount wines in more than a year.
Turns out, Rosemount is retrenching. And they aren't the only ones.
As fascinated as I am with the glorious things that can happen when wine and food make a seamless match, I have always argued that we need to prevent it from dominating our wine choices. In particular, we all need to keep in mind that most of us drink most of our wine without benefit of food. Therefore, my first rule of wine-and-food pairing is this: "Drink what you like with food you like. All the rest is fine-tuning."
A survey of core wine drinkers reports that we drink 60 percent of all wine apart from mealtime. Even more if you focus on over-$15 wines. This has implications for food-and-wine pairing.