Goûts et terroirs, an excellent fair
The more wine tastings, competitions and other events that I attend with wine professionals, the more uncomfortable I am with that wines are almost always rated at tasting sessions without food – out of the context in which people generally drink them.
Yesterday I read, on Vivino, an assessment of a wine by a Master of Wine that described the nose in great detail, listing brambles topped off by eucalyptus, and telling me that this wine is still alive at age 10. Brambles? Do you conjure up that smell readily? How will it go with my fish? Eucalyptus, if you’re not from Australia, is familiar mainly from cough drops.
I had a younger vintage of the wine with my dinner and frankly I didn’t find that it bore much relation to the description I’d read.
Wine brings out the best in food if you get it right, and vice versa. So a gorgeous Sardinian Cannonau (Garnacha), with big tannins, won’t taste very good with sauerkraut, and the wine won’t do anything for that dish, either.
There is an obvious reason for the disassociation of wine from its spouse, food, when judging or noting wines. The problem is glossed over by wine writers who of course do believe in eating and drinking: the global wine business needs points and complex descriptions by people who are supposed to know their stuff, in order to sell wine. But the number of wines we can judge while eating meals is clearly limited. And you don’t want to be charmed into buying a wine by someone who eats 20 meals a day, right? So wines are judged on their own, often rapidly and alongside scores of others.
The learning curve for matching food and wine
Most people who drink the stuff really just want a nice wine, I believe, and they don’t want the baggage of knowing more than is necessary, or than they can enjoy, about how it’s made. Enter a good sommelier, whose job is to know how to pair food and wine, matchmaking at its best. But we can’t always have a sommelier along.
There is nothing quite like learning for yourself what works with what, and the only real way to do that is to taste. Check out the options we had Friday in Bulle! (catalogue)
Switzerland has a great annual fair that focuses firmly on wine and food together, Goûts et terroirs, held in Bulle, near Bern in canton Fribourg. I went for the first time this year and loved the fact that by the time I’d seen just a small portion of the stands I was already impressed by Switzerland’s local and regional food specialties, all of which can be sampled at the fair. Ditto for the wines.
The restaurants, which are part of the walk-through, make it very easy to sample food and wine together.
Our Ticino grotto lunch of one risotto and a gorgonzola polenta were accompanied by two different Merlots from the region, so we could experiment a bit. Afterwards, we sampled sommelier Paolo Basso’s own-brand wines, including his Merlot, so we were able to compare and discuss styles and vintages and ask him questions.
Special guests this year were Slow Foods and the Sierre/Val d’Anniviers region in Valais.
Among my personal food favourites: Zermatt’s mountain guide “breads” which are like rich fruit and nut cakes, the Val d’Anniviers dried meat stand, a cheese stand from the same valley where we could compare different mountain versus alpine cheeses, and a new chocolate-lovers club created by three excellent chocolatiers from Fribourg – they will be adding other chocolate artisans in coming months. I was reminded that I want to visit two wineries in Salgesch, near Sierre – Gregor Kuonen and Cave du Rhodan, both of which have some beautiful new products.
On your calendar: Goûts et terroirs, Bulle 31 October-4 November 2018. Easy to reach with public transport –
- 1 hour from Bern, direct train
- under an hour from Vevey: bus to Châtel St Denis, then train to Bulle (very scenic trip)
- great to combine with visits to Bern and Gruyère if you have more than a day