As a wine educator and trainer, Raul Diaz, comes across the issue of food and wine and matching all the time. But by working closer with chefs and restaurants he has realised there is a real need for the trade to really simplify the whole message it is giving when talking about the right types of food that work with certain wines. He thinks the less is more approach works best.
Raul Diaz is quite happy to take on the contentious issue of food and wine matching as he believes it is time the trade looks at it far more from the point of view of the food first and wine second.
Today, we have so many different sources of information from TV shows, magazines, websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram that offer us unlimited options when it comes to food and wine matching combinations. But the main question still remains the same: why do we like to match a specific food with a particular wine?
Yes, I know you can find many articles about food and wine matching but I am confident that this piece will give you some relevant and practical information to share it with clients, friends and any food and wine lover. It’s so common now to hear people talking about what they have eaten, be it taking food and wine pictures while they are eating and sharing them on social media to even making notes of the wine or asking for a copy of the menu to take home.
When I started my career as a sommelier, 15 years ago, things were very different. People were still very much tied to the old fashioned rules around food and wine. They didn’t have enough information, and were not really free to decide anything different for themselves.
Picking a wine for a meal was a big deal and you didn’t want to make mistakes, or even want to experiment with a new wine style. The country of origin, mainly France, the price of the wine and a familiar dish or recipe were the main factors that most customers would use to choose which wine to order, without considering many other options.
But with the food and drink revolution on TV and the launch of the internet, everything has changed. Finally, consumers were emancipated from the old regime and they started to take risks based on modern recommendations. They also began to understand the use of different ingredients and cooking techniques which helped them a lot more in then deciding which type of wine might go with them.
Opening my own eyes
I know from my own experience how much my attitudes and understanding about food and wine has changes a lot since I was young and starting out in the trade. I really started to open my eyes to the possibilities there were with real food and wine matching by working with chefs at top Michelin starred restaurants.
However, I never forget my origins and they way we eat and drink in South America. Today, it’s about combining those experiences in order to help other people so they can start their own journey.
For example, I am teaching food and wine workshops at the Borough Kitchen Cook School in Chiswick and Hampstead. It has been a great experience. The response from the students has been amazing and you can see how much they enjoy the practical learning process about understanding food and wine matching better.
That said it can be a challenging time when working with chefs with food and wine. Most chefs know very little about wine. They literally have no time to learn about it. When they create a recipe, they think about the dish, rarely do they also consider what wine would best complement that recipe.
Working with chefs
That is why I am concentrating a lot of my time working with and training chefs about wine. When they have the time and space to do it then they love it. As long as you keep it simple and relevant without giving them tons of information.
For a chef is vital to understand wine as another ingredient. But they also have to know the basics of that “liquid” ingredient. I am talking about acidity, fruit character, body, the flavours in the wine. It can only be a good thing if more chefs become more involved in the wine concept of their restaurants, talking to their sommeliers, choosing wines themselves, even going to wine tastings.
With my own business, Winetutor.co.uk I am trying to offer simple ways to learn about food and wine matching. We are listening more to our customers, about what they like, what they eat and drink, and then creating workshops and practical classes that are suitable for them based on their own feedback.
It’s a new exciting collaboration that is constantly changing the more people you talk to. It is also helping me look at new ways to approach the food and wine matching challenge.
Going in to print
All of which has inspired me to write a book about food and wine matching. I have listened to my customers and students. A good friend of mine that also is a really talented Chef will join me. We want to create a practical/visual guide to wine and food matching.
Wine will be first because we want to create something different. We’ll have a selection of the most important grape varieties or styles of wine in one page with essential information in a simple format. On the next page, we’ll have a quick and delicious recipe (no more than 30 minutes to prepare) and the reasons why we choose it to complement the wine.
It would be great if readers of The Buyer are interested in the subject and would like to give suggestions or share their thoughts on what they think is the best approach to food and wine matching and what they think works best. Any ideas we can take onboard to help write the book will help more people buy better food and wine.
Food is the way forward
The future of wine is more and more entwined with food. It is quite clear that more people are super keen to taste a great variety of new food styles from different origins, using exotic ingredients and cooking techniques. Wine needs go with that flow. If you present wine in a simpler way, lots more consumers will be able to recognise and remember what they like. And they will also start to appreciate what “that” particular wine might be to go with their favourite food.
Wine as a drink can be delicious but wine with food is perfection.
I can see this new approach in practice with my students when I teach workshops at the Borough Kitchen Cook School. I am learning constantly from them. We all need to keep practising, and understanding wines and their interaction with food.
We also need to keep listening to people’s preferences so that we can get better ourselves at matching food and wine. At the end, it’s all about the cultural experience.
Finally, we are really happy to have a new location for our wine school. We have started a new partnership with the Margaux restaurant in Chelsea to host all our WSET classes, workshops and wine events at their site. Please get in touch if you would like to hear more at www.winetraining.co.uk.