Let the Wine Taste Decide Your Meal
Wine travel isn’t merely about visiting the best destinations in the world for port, gruner veltliner or albarinho. Sometimes, it really involves hitting restaurants you wouldn’t see anywhere else and learning from their chefs. I learned this when speaking with a South African chef in, of all places, Scotland. The restaurant has since opened under new management, and the chef is no longer there. However, the knowledge he imparted remains.
As I sat, enjoying course after course of an incredible tasting menu, then-chef Pete Gottgens, once Nelson Mandela’s personal chef in London, explained that he starts each of his meals with the wine – rather than planning the dish and later finding a wine to pair with it. The reason? The wine exists already, and he believes it important to respect the efforts of the winery. Also, it just makes sense: how much easier is it to plan for what you already know, instead of hunting for the right wine that fits your culinary creation?
When traveling, wherever you go, you can change your meals drastically by choosing the wine first. Then, ask the waiter or sommelier which dishes go best with it. You’ll find yourself introduced to an entirely new experience. First, you’ll sip a wine you’ve never tried before. And then, you might be introduced to new flavors, as the meal is designed around your new wine. If travel exposes you to new things, this is an easy way to ensure you’ll have a meal that would never have occurred to you otherwise.
To make the experience even more special, make a commitment to what is local. Start with a local wine – which is exciting from Oregon to Vienna and beyond – and then add to it, with help from the expert restaurant staff, local dishes. Try to pick restaurants that source their ingredients locally, and immerse yourself in a regional flavor that wouldn’t hit your tongue under any other conditions.
You’ll walk away from the experience with a new appreciation for both wine and food, and if you keep what you learned with you, the best way to go out for Friday night dinners will be to prepare it at home instead. Of course, you’ll immediately start thinking about your next trip, and the new culinary adventures that await!
Embark on your wine travel journey with cheap flights today!