Wine before you dine

Posted on January 11, 2011

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So many wines, so little time

It’s a familiar scenario: going to a restaurant, choosing some food, then convincingly gazing at the wine list to pick something that goes beautifully with your selection (without having any real idea what you’re looking for) before taking a punt on one that has “a robust flavour, a strong nose and deep, seductive tones”.

Whatever that means.

One restaurant, though, is flipping the whole thing on its head. You don’t get a food menu at Il Vino d’Enrico Bernardo. You pick the wine, and the kitchen cooks you perfectly matched food.

Though I’m firmly in the learner category when it comes to vino – in fact, because I’m in the learner category – the whole idea really appeals to me. As no one’s willing to fly me out to Paris to try it for myself I can only imagine exactly what it’s like, but the Observer describes the ambience: “You’re not made to feel like an idiot if you haven’t got a clue and, conversely, if you start to get a little cocky, they’ll throw in something really obscure or start giving you your wine in opaque black glasses.”

The somaliers (no waiters) do check that you have no dislikes or allergies, so hopefully no terrible surprises. There are several ways to order, but you can plump for a taster’s selection or choose a wine for which the somalier will suggest the perfect dish.

It’s a great idea, both for food lovers and for people who’d like to learn a little more about wine. Clearly, it’s a wine buff’s idea of heaven, but there’s also an appeal for those who don’t really know how to match wine to food and would like to become versed in the art. Or at least give it a go.

Yes, it could be a bit stuffy and/or pretentious. But the concept’s good. I propose turning it down a notch on the snob-o-meter and replicating the idea with real ale and cider – get a great pub, choose the ale and have the waiter bring over some cracking home cooked fare that matches perfectly. Yum.

Image from emurray‘s photostream at Flickr.

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Posted in: cuisine