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When you order fish, you must have white wine. With grilled steak? A big red is de rigueur…but we all know what they say about “rules” – sometimes they’re better off bent!

Making wine welcoming

Wine can be a very complex subject that intimidates the uninitiated. But it doesn’t have to be! And who even said you need to be “initiated” anyway?

Luke Smith of Howling Bluff Estate Winery summed it up in our recent interview when he told me what he tells any of his guests who apologize in advance for not knowing much about wine. “You already know all you need to know about wine to enjoy it: if you like it, it’s good wine (for you). If you don’t like it, it’s not good wine, (for you).” In the same way that we say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

This is fundamentally important to remember for anyone who works in a tasting room.

The first rule of hospitality is making your guests feel welcomed and comfortable. If you are most concerned about demonstrating those endless facts and figures you spent long days and nights studying for your latest WSET exam then you’re not focused on your guests and on their needs! Meet them where THEY are at. Use your people-reading superpowers (or simply ask them some questions) to understand their level of wine knowledge. Then check in on their degree of interest in developing it. They may be curious to learn, or not so much at all.

What is a Petulant Pairing?

Now, let’s get back to those so-called Petulant Pairings.

This is an expression that came to mind when I was thinking about unorthodox match-ups, pairings that may not be considered “proper pairings” to some because they don’t adhere to the traditional rules for pairing food with wine, or because they’re new.

Most often those pairing “rules” came to be because of common sense. For example, white wine with fish because many types of fish are quite light and you don’t want a powerful and magnificent Barolo walloping it beyond recognition at dinner!

We can use a pairing approach that highlights similarities in aroma, texture or spiciness (an earthy mushroom dish with an earthy wine like pinot noir). Another approach highlights the harmony of opposites (salty or spicy Asian food with an off-dry gewürztraminer). Then we have a regional pairing phenomenon where local food is simply eaten with its local wines (a hearty beef brasato with the above-mentioned magnificent Barolo).

So, just as “official” wine pairing norms are varied, we can encourage our tasting room guests to experiment with an open mind and guide them to listen to what their senses are telling them. Hopefully, this will make your guests feel more at ease, and trust you as their guide to discovering what’s good for them. Ideally, a good pairing (at the table and in life!) celebrates both elements. But you can stretch those rules and still really enjoy your meal.

Petulant Pairings…the Series

Stay tuned because this is the start of a regular feature that will showcase Petulant Pairings.  We aim to encourage an open-minded and adventurous approach to wine pairing!

That’s precisely the foundation of Beyond the Wine:

  • Specialized training programs that coach tasting room ambassadors to make their visitors feel comfortable and at ease.
  • Teaching guests to trust their unique palates, free of intimidation or hesitation.
  • Guiding guests through the amazing experience of your wonderful wines!

Please reach out if you have a Petulant Pairing to share or if you’d like to talk about how we create tasting room rockstars that will turn your guests into raving fans and engaged, loyal members of your winery family.