Tim Hanni MW: Food and wine pairing is bullsh*t

While food and wine matching is one of the most important roles of the sommelier, Master of Wine Tim Hanni has dismissed the concept as “bullsh*t”.

Master of Wine Tim Hanni has dismissed the concept of food and wine matching, and doesn’t believe a perfect pairing exists

Speaking at the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Celebration in Marlborough last month, Hanni spoke passionately about the need to completely rethink the concept of food and wine pairing.

“A perfect wine pairing doesn’t exist. We’re doing a lot of damage the way we’re matching wine and categorising it. We need to start a campaign to stop wine and food pairing as we’ve created a lot of bullsh*t around the idea.

Tim Hanni MW would like to put an end to food and wine pairing

“A lot of people enjoy being arrogant about wine and consider entry-level wines as being unsophisticated. We need to educate the trade to better serve the personal interests of wine lovers.

“We need to celebrate the diversity of consumers, not make them feel stupid. You can serve Sauvignon Blanc with steak – why not?”

Echoing Sarah Heller MW’s opinion, Hanni warned that those who believe food and wine pairing has potential in China will be in for an unpleasant surprise.

“Thinking wine and food pairing will work in China will cause one of the biggest disasters in the wine industry we’ve ever seen,” he said.

Hanni also controversially said that France has “no history of food and wine matching” – “we made that up”, he said.

“We need to get over the notion that food and wine grew up together. Food and wine matching is pseudo science full of metaphors and misunderstandings,” he said.

He also pointed out that many of the revered French wines enjoyed today used to taste very different. “Montrachet used to be sweet and Cheval Blanc 1947 has 30g/l of sugar in it.”

With regards to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Hanni stressed the need for the different styles of the variety to be made clearer to consumers to avoid confusion.

“Otherwise it will all become noise and people will go back to beer and cocktails. Riesling has threatened to be the next big thing since the 1960s, but it never happened because there are too many different styles,” Hanni said.

50 Responses to “Tim Hanni MW: Food and wine pairing is bullsh*t”

  1. I know what my friend Tim Hanni is trying to say and to some extent I agree. However, I think he missed the point of wine and food pairing. Any wine can be paired with any food perfectly enjoyably. However, a great food and wine pairing is one which improves the experience of both the food and the wine, indeed, creating a new gustatory experience which isn’t accomplished with either one on its own. Mature Vintage Port and Stilton cheese is a perfect example. Or, as Julia Child once told me right before we were about to conduct a Madeira tasting together: “Bananas, we must have bananas! The greatest food and wine pairing in the world is Madeira with bananas.”

  2. David Bird MW says:

    I agree with Tim: it’s all about personal taste. I am doing some lectures for a sommeliers’ association and they spend hours on this subject, as if there is only one possible right combination. They were shocked when I told them I drink Sancerre with roast lamb! It’s perfect!

  3. nicholas BAIGENT says:

    I would have thought that the issue was amenable to research trials.

  4. Stamatis Iseris says:

    If you read between the lines you may understand that Mr. Hanni has a point to make and definitely a perfect pairing does not exist! Also, Kudos to the point he is making about the arrogant Sommeliers! Yet, generalising that the concept of food and wine pairing is bullsh**t only to impress is dangerous and also shows complete ignorance to what real and genuine pairing means! I urge Mr. Hanni to make a research as to why people in different wine regions in the Mediterranean for instance pair their traditional cuisine with specific wines regardless of colour! Culture and tradition plays important role and China never had that up until now! The example he is using is at least unsuccessful.

  5. Jean Tayloe, WSET III says:

    I get asked all the time in my store for wine and food pairing recommendations. The only thing I warn against is pairing Big, Tannic reds with delicate fish, and only because we are land-locked in Alberta, the fish is usually farmed and the tannins can make the fish taste metallic (Personal experience speaking!). Otherwise if you want to pair Apothic Red with a AAA Alberta Beef Ribeye, knock yourself out! It is all about what the consumer enjoys and finds pleasurable! I agree with Tim: Food and Wine Pairing rules are essentially BS, but I have found that the old adage of “What grows together, goes together” actually does work to enhance the experience!

    • Mark says:


      I am from Alberta as well and I guarantee you that the majority of fish here are NOT farmed. We are only a 1 hour flight from the West Coast and a 4.5 hour flight from the East Coast. There is more fresh than farmed fish here by far. Let’s not let people think we give up here so easily please. Good article though. I agree and I always give people my recommendation if they ask on what wines go with what foods but at the end of the day, it’s your palate, not mine. Experiment to see what works for you. There are some things which are good pairings for almost everyone but I will never tell you that is exactly what you HAVE to do.

  6. Tim Hanni says:

    Hi Bart! Many people, with a genetic variant increasing their sensitivity to the trigeminal burn of alcohol, find ‘mature Port’ to be very unpleasant, other find it creates a very bitter and metallic sensation, and still others simply find the flavor of Stilton unbearable. Julia Child seems to have had the OR62A cluster that renders cilantro unbearably soapy and horrid tasting – and generally preferred gin to wine given the option! Not missing the point, we just need serious revision to the mess called wine and food pairing. And of course Port in France (largest consumers of fortified Port wine) drink it as an aperitif and often throughout dinner.

  7. T.J. Griffin says:

    Great article and comments! I agree that there is quite a bit of nonsense in food and wine pairing. That said, I certainly have my preferences and find that some foods and wines pair better than others. But more importantly, now I want to try Madeira with bananas! Boal?

  8. I love this conversation snd hope it reaches a wider audience. I agree with many points that Tim states here, but also agree with Mr. Broadbent above that it is possible to ‘elevate’ the food and wine experience with the right combo . . . BUT that experience will not be elevated for everyone. Just as with everything else wine, tastes/smells/experiences truly are ‘subjective’, so the idea that we as an industry create these ‘rules’ and ‘constructs’ simply goes against the ides that we can and should experience these things in our own way.

    I once did a seminar with 7 other winemakers and each of us was asked what food would be the ideal pairing for the wine we were pouring. The gentleman next to me, pouring a Pinot Noir from the Sta Rita Hills, said that it would be salmon but it had to be line caught from this or that river. Well, I was pouring a Syrah, and when asked what to pair it with, I looked out at the 150 or so people there, pulled the mic close, and said ‘nachos’. After everyone stopped laughing, the moderator once again asked if that was a joke or what I would really do. I looked at him, smiled, and said ‘ I like nachos.’ and left it at that.

    We will reach more consumers by breaking down these rules and not intimidating consumers even moreso about wine than they already are.


  9. john w farrin says:

    Tim Hanni, I tend to find dictums on both sides offensive. You telling me wine and food pairing is bullshit is every bit as offensive as some out of touch Somm telling me what I must drink. I believe everyone should drink what they want with their food but that doesn’t negate the fact that their are better choices available.

  10. gdfo says:

    Try a plate of pasta with a tangy tomato and meat sauce with a Riesling spatlese sometime. Then try the same dish with a medium style red wine. See which dinner is enhanced by the combo.
    Please, some of this is just common sense.

  11. Christine Parkinson says:

    Very pleased to see some debate on this topic. Two things strike me:
    1. The industry has made life difficult for a lot of consumers. Everyone I speak to is worried they are choosing the wrong wine with their food. I spend a lot of time reassuring people that most wine can be enjoyed with most food.
    2. It’s not reasonable, however, to say that great wine and food matches don’t exist. Talented chefs create dishes by combining different ingredients and flavours. How can it be true that great combinations of food exist, but great combinations of food and wine don’t? Notwithstanding the huge differences in the way each person experiences flavour, some combinations taste fantastic to a majority of people.
    At Hakkasan we spend time every week tasting wines with our food before we list them. We are not looking for pairings, just making sure we don’t list those wines that really don’t work. It’s a committee process, so several palates are involved. We want our guests to relax and enjoy their meal with whatever wine they fancy.

  12. Michael Parr - Wente Vineyards says:

    I agree with Tim’s point that the concept of food and wine pairing in China is an uphill battle. With over 25 years of experience selling, distributing and lecturing on imported wines in China, this topic inevitably comes up with Chinese wine consumers who feel pressured to understand this pairing concept. Their fear of “losing face” is so ingrained in their culture, that most people would rather stick with drinking what they are familiar with (baijiu and beer) rather than taking the risk of ordering a wine and drinking it with the “wrong” dish. To address this fear, I often ask them if they trust their chef to create a well balanced dish with appropriate flavors and spices. Then I ask them if they trust the selected wine brand to create quality wine with balanced levels of fruit, acidity and tannin. The relief on their faces in noticeable when they learn that in most cases, a well-balanced dish will always pair well with a well-balanced wine; an important point, when they typically enjoy 6-7 different dishes at a time with their dinner!

    Authenticity of product, over-deliver on their expectation, and push aside fears of losing face…..simple but powerful rules to follow in China. The opportunities in China area are truly boundless!

  13. marshall green says:

    I don’t know, many generalizations and flat contradictions. Classic pairings exist and are pretty, pretty pretty enjoyable, new twists and irregular combinations pop up every day often delicious too. Riesling shall rise again one day sporting a rainbow turtleneck.

  14. marshall green says:

    PS That pepper salted steak looks yummy beside the red wine.

  15. Raymond Chalifoux says:


  16. Kyle Hailey says:

    Sounds like an Onion article.
    As someone said, a good wine pairing brings out wonderful things in the wine and food that weren’t there before.
    It’s difficult to know what a good wine pairing is until you try it.
    I despise restaurants that say a pairing is excellent because of a “rule” yet they have never tried it and when I try it is a total flop. That gets my goat.
    The restaurants I love have tried wines with their food and know what works.
    Could be a heavy red with chicken like I had at Delphina in SF. Never would have guessed but it was amazing.
    I once served gamey duck at dinner party and went through about 6 wines before I found one that worked. A Cahors cut the gamey flover and brought out a wonderful ripe blackberry in the Cahors that was otherwise dense and impregnable.
    There are no hard rules – there are general guidances but ultimately it’s what works for you.
    I’d drink a white with a steak if it worked , just haven’t had that experience but I have had many many wonderful experiences with red Bordeaux or California Cabs with steak.
    This guys sounds like he is just arrogant. What an unpleasant article.

  17. Michael Donohue says:

    The quest for perfection may be bullshit but the divine synergy of goose and Volnay is not.

  18. Bruce Fuller says:

    When I opened my winery 12 year ago (Rustico Farm & Cellars, Oliver, BC, Canada)… every time we created new wines, we offered pairing suggestions on the labels, finding that the consumer seemed to enjoy getting some hints on what might work with what.
    In our tasting saloon at the winery, we offered both varietals and blends and were usually asked for pairing advice. We’d often throw the question out to the room of guests for discussion, each who had their own ideas.
    We finished every tasting with a simple comment… “at the end of the day, whatever works for you is the perfect wine to choose… you’re the one with the palate and preferences to please; you’re the one that controls your budget; you’re the one to experiment.” Whatever wine you select can be you new “most favourite”.
    And guess what… we offered all our samples in little saloon-style, old fashioned tumblers.
    Bruce Fuller, Founder and former Proprietor, Rustico Farm & Cellars Winery

  19. Jay L Hack says:

    Mr. Hanni:

    When you come to my house and eat an entire plate of home made Fettuccine Alfredo with his choice of Schrader GIII, SQN Syrah or Saxum James Berry Vineyard from my cellar, we can talk. I agree that food pairings are often described too narrowly, but to suggest that they are BS that should be ignored is just as bad as a comm refusing to allow someone to drink white wine with a NY Strip Steak. Who paid your expenses for the trip to New Zealand? Did you receive an honorarium or other fee for the speech? Inquiring minds want to know. I’ve heard enough vendor-fest presentations in my life to immediately ask the question. Was your speech entirely independent of the economic and other interests of your listeners?

  20. ilona thompson says:


    I’m sad to read your impression of Tim as arrogant. The opposite is true. He has the courage to challenge the establishment. I just met him for the first time – he strikes me as the real deal.
    I would say that it’s the tone of the article that reeks of a “hit piece.” This is a very healthy and way overdue debate.

  21. Terese Vikse says:

    I won’t buy into the concept of the perfect pairing but of course it makes sense to find food and wine (or other drink – ever had an ardbeg uigaedail with your pumpkin pie?!) that go well together to enhance the experience or at least avoid ruining the taste of each other. No different from finding textures and flavours of food to go together as a dish. Difference in vintages, in the soil the food was grown.. Also, people have different palates and will like different combinations so knowing your guests can be just as important as a recommendation for pairing. I love spending hours researching food and wine for my dinner parties but sometimes ignore it all and go with my gut feeling. Latest success? A Gonet-Medeville Blanc de Noirs Premier Cru Brut with the wild mushroom risotto and condit egg yolk (on a chicken stock base with a hint of star anise). Each good on their own but magical together!

  22. David Black says:

    Tim, I have basically felt the same way about all of this nonsense concerning food and wine pairings. Ask ten wine “experts” about what to pair with a particular wine and you will get ten very different, disparate answers. With most combinations the wine is always the loser, losing its inherent qualities when tasted by itself. I most always enjoy wine without food. Nice to read your “shocking” comments down in New Zealand. _____ David Black

  23. Steven Craig Aleshire says:

    Just looking for a headline. As many comments here reflect, there may be no ” Perfect” match but it is very obvious to even an uneducated palette what enhances the dining experience and what clearly doesn’t. It is a pity that we have “Experts” who really are not helping , making what I believe is a PR soundbite for his own aggrandizement. Would not want his advice no matter how technical correct his knowledge may be.

  24. What’s in a word? Unfortunately words like ‘Pairing’ and Matching’ provoke extremely narrow responses and interpretations. My friends Hanni and Heller- I agree with in principle. The WORD we should use is ‘complementary.’ Many wines can go with any number of dishes, but there are some combinations that generally are not successful; for example a dry white wine with sweet desserts. Basic chemistry here! The notion that sommeliers know all of the right answers speaks to the BS of our business. As someone else noted, balance is the key criteria for complementarity, which I subscribe to. In most traditional, long time wine producing countries, cuisine and wines have evolved in tandem *but not necessarily synergistically*, which indicates a certain positive relationship between wine and food in the area that allows people to enjoy themselves without having anxiety about ‘doing the right thing’. Referring to some others’ comments, Chinese culture doesn’t have this historical cultural tradition (at least not for a long time!). No one should be put in an insecure position deciding what to eat and drink together. I like a rich white wine with steak or ribs; the viscous white wine complements the fattiness of the meat, texturally and flavor-wise. But agonizing for hours planning a meal to come up with the ‘perfect’ wine to pour alongside just seems a wasteful exercise to me. Drink what you like, and only remember that a few basic rules (chemistry-related) really matter. But you don’t need a Ph.D to figure those out–just your taste buds and common sense. This subject really can use a longer exegesis– though that might lead to more BS!

  25. Gary Hall says:

    Indeed the match is always in the eye of the beholder. Anyone put ketchup on pancakes or maple syrup on french fries? American wine culture has always been a bit too serious. Years back the Lytton Springs Winery sold a wine called Wineburger with a photo of a hamburger next to a glass of wine, instructions included.

  26. Steve Body says:

    I don’t drink wine with food and never have. The whole idea of wine pairing and referring to a bottle as “a food wine” is basically saying the wine isn’t interesting enough for you to enjoy by itself. When you put wine into your mouth with food, you cease to taste either the food or the wine. What you’re left with is a frequently ill-advised mash-up of both that tells you little about either.

    Even more ridiculous is the shotgun marriage of red wine and chocolate, two things which can be scientifically proven (and have been) to be incompatible. The list of foods that people insist on shoehorning into cohabitation with wine borders on appalling. If I’ve been asked once, I’ve been asked a literal thousand times, “What wine goes with Mexican/Southwestern/Cajun/Szechuan food?” My answer has ALWAYS been “Iced tea, soda pop, or beer but preferably water.”

    We as wine fanciers have inherited a wide range of assumptions from our European forebears, in much the same way our emerging soccer culture has assumed affectations like wearing wool scarves in 95 degree heat, bouncing up and down and chanting, and parroting “nil” and “pitch”, despite the fact that, uh, we don’t live in Europe and already have common-usage words for those things. We swallowed the Italian and French assumption that wine is what you drink with food without ever really questioning it. In fact, beer is quite often a FAR better companion beverage to food, as in the inarguable affinity of oysters and Stouts. Ginger ale or beer is a wonderful accompaniment to the sweet sauced Asian cuisines. But most telling is how we describe the act of drinking with food: “And to wash it all down…” A phrase with all the sophistication and allure of watching somebody hose down a clump of grass trimmings into a storm drain.

    Wine sipped in between bites of your dinner? Sure, why not? It’s not, at that point, two wildly different substances – a liquid and a solid, both with their own flavor paradigms – competing for your tongue’s attention.

    Worst of all is that the whole rigorous set of parameters that we’ve placed on pairing is just one more thing for wine weenies to cop Attitudes about. Mr. Hanni NAILS this absurd, exclusionary puffery perfectly: “We need to celebrate the diversity of consumers, not make them feel stupid. You can serve Sauvignon Blanc with steak – why not?” DRINK WHAT YOU LIKE. There IS NO rule for what you’re going to enjoy in either your food or wine and if you listen to criticism about either, you’re helping to keep the gigantic broomstick lodged up the ass of wine and food, two disciplines that already REEK of hauteur and condescension. I get AT LEAST fifteen queries a week from readers and, maddeningly, my family and friends: “What wine should I serve with _________?” I’ve had to stop telling people that it doesn’t matter because they all just dismiss that as “Steve being Steve” because I am without doubt a contrarian. So, I mumble something non-committal (usually either “white” or “red”) and try to get them to opt for some other beverage. It rarely works but nobody seems inclined to stop asking me, either.

    In the final analysis, a LOT of what makes wine seem so vital as a food pairing is the near-universal article of faith that says that wine is the beverage of the sophisticated and that serving anything else is likely to mark the host as a clod or somehow perversely slumming it with their pairings. I’ve served raw oysters to people with both a big Stout and a Melon or Champagne and, though those tasting may well admit that the Stout is more compatible, they’ll still drink the wine because that suits their self-image better. It would be nice to suppose that the Europeans, having centuries more history as wine cultures, wouldn’t be as much prey to this mindset. But they are and as long as that persists and people just don’t see themselves NOT tied to wine with dinner, this silliness will just sail on and on, unabated, despite the clarity of people like Tim Hanni and his brave post here.

  27. Gyorgy Orodan says:

    Hi Everyone
    Obviously the food and wine matching has basics, like weight of the food and wine and I agree after that is a bit subjective, but if 10 people are sitting in the same room and tasting the same dish with the same wine and you asking them what they thinking about: they will have the same answer.
    I cannot understand why is the historical aspect of the Montrachet is important in this case. It is obvious any wine region had different wine styles or different taste than 50 years or 100 years ago.
    If we speaking about the case from the other side, like i have a dish on my plate and there is a couple of slightly different wines going well with it. This is the true story. I think the more interesting topic could be how many much more interesting wines exists instead of the boring Sauvignon Blanc?

  28. Jason Davies says:

    Well I think he has missed the mark somewhat. And I don’t think he will win many friends with this narrow minded view. There is a reason that food and wine is paired together and correctly. If he can’t see the merits of this it’s a shame. Coming from an MW that’s a disappointment.

  29. Mike Hall says:

    It has always amazed me that some people make a living out of recommending food and wine pairings. People are too gullible. When I was 23 years old I was taken out by a supplier and served 1961 Chateau Palmer with Coquille St Jacques, they both blew my head off. I have been relaxed about the subject ever since.

  30. I am invariably hesitant when the subject of food pairings comes up at the tastings I do for customers. Attaching undue importance to the subject by one individual can leave others feeling rather inadequate. The same way is true if they feel they are unable to perform, for want of a better expression, fruit analysis on a wine. I encourage people simply to like or dislike a wine and point out that wine can be enjoyed in many different ways: for some it may indeed be the Jilly Goulden experience of homing in on ‘barrow loads of Ugly Fruit’ in a wine; for others the holy grail of food pairing. I am uneasy lest people assume that wine and food must be paired. Over many years of doing private wine tastings I have encouraged people to get the best out of both food and wine and and that simply washing the food down with the wine probably does neither any favours. I have always suggested tasting the wine first before introducing other flavours. I may refer to an article once that showed how the palate is altered by food and recommend that people let the palate recover between mouthfuls and see how the wine tastes then. All this around a table, in a potentially busy social situation, where people could be forgiven for not noticing anything. I am far from dismissing Michael Donohue’s ‘divine synergy of goose and Volnay’ but have found that most of my customers don’t quite operate at that level. One made the observation that we do most of our drinking when we are tired. Another [probably after a discussion on food pairing] said courageously that if a wine is worth drinking it worth drinking on its own. Robin Greatorex.

  31. Ed says:

    If wine pairing is BS then cooking itself is BS also because who cares about taste and seasoning it’s all personal preference. Why we don’t eat pickled onion with cakes…

    What a load of horscrap.

  32. Stéphane Boutiton says:

    Bonjour Mr Hanni,
    When you have no knowledge of food and wine pairing, you became a Master of wine.

    Stéphane Boutiton.

  33. Susan B says:

    Hmmm…which one is it? “Food and Wine Pairing is Bullshit” or “Food that is consumed with wine has an effect on the way a wine tastes.” Both are (reportedly) quotes from Tim Hanni, MW. One from this article (as reported via an event in New Zealand” and one from the textbook for WSET 3, which Mr. Hanni proudly claims to have written.

  34. I had the pleasure of meeting Tim in London, England back in 2010 during the annual Bibendum tasting at the Saatchi Gallery… I even filmed the experience during one of my Wine On The Rocks episodes: Tim had a stand related to food & wine pairing and he was debunked on three separate occasions during the vid shoot. In addition (what I didn’t realise at the time) he was peddling his own line of spices which were supposed to make a difficult food & wine pairings “easier”… a huge FAIL, of course. I can even re-post the vid if anyone is interested.

    To make a long story short, I find it difficult to to listen to anyone’s opinion, regardless of the letters which happen follow their name, when they made a specific topic into a biz model and call that same topic out as BS today. Sounds like the pharma/health industry to me… oh what? *add name of meds or meat/veg/fruit here* is healthy/not healthy after all?

    So lame.

  35. I will be using this article to elicit commentary in my Advanced Food and Wine pairing Class at Allan Hancock College in a week.

    The class is student-centered and I push the students to take ‘chances’ when pairing. We study everything from Complimentary/Contrast matching all the way to ‘molecular bridging’ to what i call ‘STFU and enjoy yourself. I see F&W pairing as analagous to practicing a golf swing. Learn in the classroom so we can lose ourselves at table and not feel it necessary to gum up the conversation with wine, unless that’s what you and your friends are feeling that night.

    I do feel spending too much time discussing pairings is like calling a friend during sex and describing feelings/positions, etc.

  36. Ask yourself who the Masters of wine are. Do they know anything about wine food pairing?
    Are they wine food pairing professionals? There is a technique of wine food pairing perfectly codified and evolved over time and that is updated every day.
    Much of the world, including wine pressionists, ignores this technique and therefore should not speak of it.
    There is an infinite number of different combinations in food and wine pairing.
    Ignorance is the worst of evils. The arrogance dictated by the show business is perhaps even worse.

  37. What a horrible headline that can ruin so much potential. Especially restaurants. Ever hear of “too many choices can be a prison”? Of course you should drink what you want and if some complete stranger is talking you into drinking and paying for a wine because he said you should, then that is your problem. Speak up for yourself. Would you drink orange juice and pizza? Probably not. It should be about guidance and leading the consumer into making the right decisions through a quick run-through as to why. How about hiring a sommelier with a personality? Think about the sales lost because no one took the time to pair the food and wine together at a restaurant. This has so much potential and now this article is going to ruin that. Sad. Not only China will do it but they will do it right.

  38. Stephen Hare says:

    Tim is right. He’s been saying this for years. He has the knowledge and experience to know what he is talking about. I work in the hospitality end of Napa Valley and clearly see the deer-in-headlight look of many guests when the subject of f/w pairing surfaces. I always encourage them to eat the foods they like, drink the wines they like and not to worry about it.

  39. Ravi Singh says:

    Really don’t agree, matching food and wine is an art and a science little margin has to be left for the mood of the occasion. Creating a contrast that enhances the dinning experience is the pinnacle that leaves behind many memorable culinary landmarks.

  40. There are examples which prove Tim wrong. For instance, if you pair Sauternes with a sweet dessert, it kills the wine. It isn’t a case of being able to say, oh, it can go with dessert because it simply does not, the wine’s sweetness is lost, it is destroyed. It is a chemical or physical reaction to the two sweetness levels in the mouth. I like Tim, I’ve known him for 30 years. He likes to stir the pot, he’s always been a bit antiestablishment and controversial but he is a very nice guy, highly intelligent, not arrogant at all. He propagates ideas, umami is a perfect example, which he puts out there, stirs debate and eventually the matter is settled and accepted or not. In the case of food and wine pairing, you can pair most wines with most foods but it is an absolute fact that some wines are completely killed by either very spicy food or very sweet foods, This cannot be argued by anyone who has had the experience. It is pure fact that food pairing is important so as to not kill a wine. When I was growing up, my father, Michael Broadbent, would tell my mother what we were going to drink and it was her job to cook a meal which would not destroy a great wine. Simple foods were the best. But food pairing is important and it cannot be denied by academic argument. Having been the presenter at literally hundreds of wine dinners, I can count on my two hands the times that a chef has actually made a meal with a great food and wine pairing. It has to be experienced and I can tell you that very very few people have actually experienced that sort of a high. Argue all you like, once you actually experience a perfect food and wine pairing, you will never again say it doesn’t exist. But a bad food and wine pairing is easy to prove, go buy a dessert wine and have it with something sweet. Bam, proof that food pairing is not bullshit. Why are we even having this discussion? It is so easy to prove. That doesn’t mean it is wrong to have a Sauvignon Blanc with a steak, I’ve done it. But some food and wine pairings are 100% wrong for the reasons mentioned above. If you ever have that first orgasmic food and wine pairing, you’ll know it, it stimulates something beyond the flavors of each. Call it the umami of wine pairing.

  41. Jeff Zimmerman says:

    Being aware of what you consume is bull poop?
    Noticing if your body is happy with it or not is b.s.?
    Sharing that experience with others fulfills no human need?

    Overthinking it is the problem here.

  42. Bill Tobey says:

    Tim- I love you. The arrogance that there is one right wine with one right food is nuts! Keep pushing the idea of experimenting and putting new wines together with new foods and finding out what you like.

  43. Tabbers says:

    Every day I see another example of MW’s putting their own self promotion above the interests of the wine trade. Here’s another! It’s straight from the Trump handbook of self aggrandisement; be controversial, make headlines, earn more. I would suggest a greater understanding of wine culture around the world would be a good place to start. In countries with an ancient wine tradition, guests at restaurants would never look on in horror at the arrival of a Sommelier. They would be grateful for the expert knowledge she/he would bring. In a country like the UK or USA, where wine culture is more about getting drunk than choosing a great wine to drink with a meal, maybe less so. Don’t shoot the messenger, so to speak, a good Sommelier is there to help you enjoy your experience more, they should understand their guests and behave accordingly. Most Sommeliers will also know more about the wines on their list than any MW, it is their job. Perhaps that is what certain MW’s finds intimidating or maybe they think they know better than the curator of a wine list? Is it possible that’s the real issue here?

    The industry should continue in working together to bring a culture of knowledge rather than just denial because some people’s palates are more forgiving than others. A Sommelier works in a higher value arena where critter labels don’t exist and adding value is the name of the game. The food is slaved over for many hours by dedicated chefs and served by accomplished waiters. Sommeliers are part of that and are tasked with ensuring the food is experienced at its best and every guest leaves knowing a little more about wine than when they arrived. This requires an understanding of the delicate flavours and processes that go into its preparation, which wine will neither overpower or become underwhelming with a dish along with vintages, regions, wine making and terroir. MW’s, in particular, should stick to what they know but the industry should also understand they are not the arbiters of all wine knowledge and often only speak into an echo chamber. After all, most would struggle to properly decant a 1961 Latour without some mishap or another.

    With so few people agreeing, within these comments, that wine pairing is bullshit maybe we should begin to question whether they are actually ‘masters’ of wine at all? Maybe, to be slightly controversial, it’s more about MW’s trying to take ownership of a part of the industry they don’t control, that is currently held by the CMS and the ASI? Maybe this particular MW just doesn’t get it. Maybe? Who knows? But there’s only ever been one MS who’s also been an MW, and they are sadly no longer here to provide a conclusive answer to this riddle.

    • Actually, there has been more than one MW who is also an MS. I believe you are thinking of the late Gerard Basset as the one who can no longer contribute to this discussion. However, there are at least two Americans who have both and are alive and well. Try Doug Frost MW MS or Ronn Wiegand MW MS.

  44. Charles says:


    Had a few Wine MBA sessions with you at SSU in 2012. You mentioned to me then that you no longer actually even drink wine. How can you lambast pairings when you don’t drink wine?

    Yes. Wine styles have changed. So has cuisine. While a perfect pairing may not exist, same can be said of a perfect “anything”, there are definitely some wines and foods which shouldn’t meet. Tannic reds and labneh cheese for one.

    Do agree, the pompous nature of many professionals in this business can be off putting to consumers. We should never make anyone feel inadequate.

    Anyway, contraversy is a great way to keep one’s name relevant and stir conversation.

    All the best…


  45. After all these years I still disagree with how you speak around wine pairings , it part art, science and movement of enjoyment ,it’s like a orchestra you need to know how to read music ,it can be rock & roll, classical, soul, pop, or rap, food and wine are adjustments to each other together ,but separate.Yes, every wine has a characteristic to pair with something,always. It’s my opinion that wine is and will be always the truth to why we enjoy them together ,it comes from the same earth as food.I have a great life style with educating myself and the world with many priceless experience with the two as one.
    Tony Lawrence
    The Global Winechef

  46. Susan B says:

    Is this food and wine pairing advice bullshit? Asking for a friend: If you’re having fish on Good Friday, try to match its intensity of flavour with your wine. Smoked salmon has a strong taste and matches well with flavoursome aromatic whites like Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough or Chile. Wines from cooler regions such as Chablis work well with white fish such as grilled sea bass with a drizzle of lemon. The high level of mouth-watering acidity in these styles cuts through the smoky, oily fish and gives the dish a refreshing lift.

  47. Michael says:

    nice article. We should consider the point that new wine markets like china have high potential. New foods like insects for example are not a classic wine match too. Drink what you like should be the first and only rule. The frensh did that with red wine too and drunk it with all dishes. Some food matches are outstanding, I totally agree with that. But people drink wine between courses and after dinner, this brings out the subtile aromas the most.

  48. I love the respect to the consumer and their palate that is somewhat being ignored by the comments. CMS wants to own this pseudo “science” in restaurants, Wine Speculator wants to own it for the masses with their “ratings.” Wine is a sauce on the side and of course some sauces do enhance certain dishes for most people. But if you want BBQ sauce on your oysters, then you aren’t wrong. BUT we do have a responsibility to encourage some exploration, not to line our pockets but to open people to possibilities. It’s like love or travel, there is no perfection that is quantifiable. I’d take a sailboat, fish tacos and Bierzo rosado over your Filet, St Emilion at the Ritz any day, or maybe just most days 🙂

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