Today I am going to rant about something of which I am sometimes guilty. That is because I want to improve my writing, to make my wine reviews better for my readers. At regular intervals, we should take a critical look at our endeavors, in an attempt to hone and improve our work. Thus, after some recent ponderings and a brief discussion on Twitter, this rant was born.
In some wine reviews, I have referred to wines as "Food Friendly." Plenty of other reviewers do the same, and it seems such a snappy, innocuous and ostensibly useful phrase. Yet that is far from the reality. In actuality, the phrase is both ambiguous and misleading, and probably should not be used. It really says so little, and there are better options. I have decided that I will no longer use the phrase, and hope that other wine reviewers will follow suit.
First, let us deal with the phrase's ambiguity. On its face, it seems clear enough that it means the wine pairs well with food. But which food? Will the wine pair with a hearty steak, or a chicken alfredo? The phrase says absolutely nothing about the particular types of food which best pair with the wine. No wine matches well with all types of foods, but that is almost what the phrase seems to indicate. If you are seeking a wine to pair with a specific dish, the term "food friendly" is not too helpful to you. It is too vague of a term to truly be useful.
For example, you might want a wine to accompany a hearty Tagliatelle Bolognese, but a "Food Friendly" Riesling or Chardonnay probably won't be a good match. Or maybe you are having Grilled Chicken with a light lemon sauce, and find that the "Food Friendly" Cabernet Sauvignon is overly tannic for the dish. In the end, the simple "Food Friendly" phrase is useless to you, actually telling you very little about the wine.
Second, the phrase is also misleading. Most wine, and especially European wines, are produced to be accompanied by food. So most wine is actually "food friendly" and wines that are not are much more the rare exception. By using that phrase only for some wines, though it is appropriate for many more, we mislead consumers into thinking that only some wines are food friendly.
It would be far better if we just noted the exceptions, those wines worst suited for food pairings. We should be teaching consumers that wine and food usually go well together rather than misleading them into thinking that only a few wines match well to food.
Rather than use "food friendlly," we should instead offer specific food pairing suggestions. We should give consumers at least some basic idea of which dishes would best go with the wines we review. That obviously avoids the ambiguity issue as specific examples would be provided. Plus, if nearly all of our wine reviews provide pairing suggestions, consumers will come to realize that food and wine are integrally linked together. They won't be misled into thinking that only some wines pair well with food. Overall, wine reviews would be much more helpful by following these suggestions.
So will you join me and stop using the term "food friendly" in your wine reviews, providing specific pairing recommendations instead?