Wine list or menu: what comes first? – Le Cordon Bleu

Your restaurant waiter has just handed you the wine list and the food menu together, but which do you look at first? Matthieu Longuère MS from Le Cordon Bleu London talks about a common conundrum...

Judges pretend to be restaurant diners at the ‘world’s best sommelier’ competition in Mendoza, Argentina, 2016.
Judges pretend to be restaurant diners at the ‘world’s best sommelier’ competition in Mendoza, Argentina, 2016.

Our recent Canapés and Wine Pairing Masterclass at Le Cordon Bleu London offered a lesson in the clash of priorities as the food demonstration, presented by one of our Master Chefs, generated more comments than my wine pairing efforts.

I have since patched up and dusted off my sommelier ego, but the event confirmed that when considering food and wine matching, consumers priorities vary.

It’s either going to be about the food or about the wine.

It makes food and wine pairing in class all the more interesting, because we always have to present the pairing with both perspectives in mind.

The key question for events such as these is really: Do you create a dish to match the wine or do you choose the wine to match the food?

The truth, as I see it, is actually that you choose the wine to suit whoever is going to drink it or to suit the occasion.

If a guest wants to have Sauvignon Blanc with a grilled sirloin of beef because they never drink red wine, who am I to do the snooty-sommelier-thing? It’s not my place to tell them in a thick Gallick accent: ‘Are you sure you don’t mean Cabernet Sauvignon? White wine does not go with beef!’

It is perfectly possible to modify the seasoning of food to accommodate the wine; a drizzle of lemon should also do the trick.

It all seems quite dated now, but when I started in this industry 20 years ago, offering somewhat patronising advice was a common feature of wine service in some restaurants.

It was intimidating for the guest and discouraged most of them from interacting with the sommelier.

Thankfully, all has changed now and the guest can really get what they want – and pay for.

Do you go straight for the wine list in a restaurant? If you’re having a dinner party at home, do check your wine stocks before deciding on the dish?

Editing by Chris Mercer

About Matthieu Longuère MS

Matthieu Longuère is a Master Sommelier based at Le Cordon Bleu London, a leading culinary arts, wine and management school.

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