Wine without Food? … Americans Developing a Wine Culture of our Own

Which one of these two main wine philosophies (or wine tasting marketing talking points) best woo you:

  1. The best wines perfectly pair with food and compliment a meal.
  2. It’s all about what YOU like, everyone prefers something different.

I’m not sure what it is about wine + food that throws me off or just doesn’t interest me. After six years in California, I can finally taste wine and know fairly well what I like.  However, when you add food to the equation or use the idea of a wine being perfect with a particular food, I lose interest.  Or, to be honest, is it that I lose discernment and my palate becomes prejudice? Or is it something else entirely?  Don’t get me wrong, the proper wine paired with food is important and tasty but why do I just not care about wine with food?

Wine lovers, sippers, and gulpers, CA visitors and residents … think back on recent wine tastings.  And yes, I know this conversation is laced in pretension and pretension seems to be the main marketing bent for wines.  The pretension is one aspect that would seem to hold the marketing of wine back in my book (along with the grogginess of the day after one has “tasted” too much of a good thing).  Because Americans have become the biggest consumers of wine in the world, maybe the pretension thing really does woo Americans.  BUT … have you heard some winemakers, *think serious indoor sophisticated voice*, discuss their wines as pairing with food and being low in alcohol as a marketing talking point? I have heard this quite often in wine tasting opening statements and we’ve had a lot guests this spring which equals a lot of wine tasting.  After hearing this the first few times, I started thinking, just to myself of course, “I don’t care about wine with food.”  Strongly recognizing that this thought was a no-no statement, because I know an attribute of French wines (or Old World wines in general) is that they are known for being very food friendly, made me keep this thought to myself.  However, I secretly wondered if I was alone in not caring much about wine with food?

The bigger isn’t always better concept in wines (bigger in flavor and alcohol) was partially described to me at Hillcrest Vineyards in Santa Cruz. One of the partners in the business told us that big California Cabernet was popular in the 1980’s and the oaky, buttery Chardonnay was the big thing in the 1990’s in the US.  I then read in an SF Gate article entitled “Ten food-friendly wines you can bring home to dinner,” that “Highly alcoholic, overly fruit-driven wines with an abundance of new oak are generally thought of as the antithesis of “food friendly (http://articles.sfgate.com/2006-06-15/wine/17297972_1_viura-caceres-spain-rioja-world-wines).” Ah dang it, those are the wines I like!  I’ve considered that my taste for the big and bold may have to do with dropping a decent amount of money on a good bottle of wine and wanting it to pack a punch (without being to tannin heavy).  This could also explain why I’m a wine saver/hoarder and don’t drink my stock until we have a justifiable special occasion (my brother claims we’ll have a great wine collection in the future or a hole in our closet floor, one of the two) so this also puts the pressure on wine to be extra bold and enjoyed on its own before or after a meal, I suppose you could even call IT a meal.  Then I found out, I’m not alone … on our Aunt and Uncle’s dining room table I spotted a recent article from the San Jose Mercury News entitled, “On Wine: With or without Food?” In the article it states that, “Recent research shows that nearly 60 percent of the wine consumed by avid U.S. wine drinkers does not accompany a meal. About one-quarter of the wine they drink is consumed on its own, in situations where food of any kind is a no-show. One-third of the wine is consumed with snacks or appetizers, or while the consumer is preparing a meal (http://www.mercurynews.com/top-stories/ci_17901771?nclick_check=1).”

The author from the San Jose Mercury article claims that the research of this new wine trend of wine being consumed without food may show that Americans are developing a wine culture of our own and that being a very good thing.  See US winemakers … I’m not alone.  With this in mind, we are apparently defying wines main purpose, to accompany food.  It sounds kind of dangerous for wine not to accompany food but maybe wines of our very own will be cultivated in the name creativity and new possibility.  You can pack a punch wine, go for it!

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