Celebrating the Art of Perfect Pairings
A visit to Twin Farms offers a relaxing retreat to a boutique Relais & Châteaux resort in pastoral Vermont, but it also promises decadent meals with delectable wine pairings. Those pairings come courtesy of David Morris, the property’s sommelier and beverage manager, who remembers precisely where he was when he first discovered the art of marrying wine with food—it was in 1999, while Morris (then 23 years old) was living with a host family in Switzerland. “It was one of those moments of discovery,” he says. “It was like the heavens opened and the angels sang. That whole meal—every single glass of wine, every single dish—it changed my life.”
Since then, Morris has furthered his career with the intent of imparting that same understanding to the patrons who visit the various restaurants and hotels in which he’s worked. His first rule is to disregard the belief that white wines only pair well with chicken, fish, and other seafood and that red wines are best served only with red meat or other rich courses. “You can throw that out the window,” he says. “You want to match intensities; that’s the most important thing. The intensity of flavor is much more important than the color of the meat.”
Textural considerations are also important. For example, if you’re serving a butter-poached lobster, Morris suggests a rich white like Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, which delivers a richness that complements the fare. The other strategy, he says, is to pair a wine for its ability to contrast with the dish. Take that same butter-poached lobster, but pair it with a Vins d’Orrance Chenin Blanc—which has some weight but not the same richness as a traditional, buttery Chardonnay—and you’ll get a different, but equally enjoyable experience thanks to the wine’s crispness and acidity.
Aspiring sommeliers can also benefit from a straightforward strategy of pairing foods and wines based on where the ingredients and grapes were sourced. It’s not a shocker, Morris says, to find that Italian reds and tomato-sauce-based dishes go well together. It’s a simple philosophy, but one that can help a novice select wines that will complement the food being served. “If it grows together, it goes together,” Morris says. “You have to think about it regionally.”
One of Morris’s favorite pairings that he’s served recently at Twin Farms was based around a dessert consisting of chocolate glacé with an orange-and-passion-fruit soup, fresh raspberries, cocoa glass, and calendula petals. Morris paired that with Brachetto d’Acqui, a red, Moscato-like varietal. “There are so many things happening with this dish,” he explains. “You’ve got that richness on the palate, and with a sip of the wine all of a sudden you’re getting bright berry flavors. There’s a lightness, freshness, and crispness to it. The wine ignites the flavors of the dish even more, but then it cleanses your palate. You put those two together and it’s spectacular.”
According to Morris, some wines that pair beautifully with food are not as enjoyable on their own (this applies more to Old World producers). This makes committing to such a pairing difficult for many U.S. oenophiles, since their preferences and palates have been conditioned by big, cult California wines. Still, Morris advocates giving such wines (and pairings) a chance. “At first sip, even if it isn’t your favorite, give it a try with the dish and see what happens,” he says. “More than 95 percent of the time, even the people that were hesitant at first, they’ll come back and say, ‘Oh my God, that was amazing.’”