Got my first sample for review the other day, from Fred Schwartz in sunny California. Fred’s company Riddling Bros. has this unreleased wine, really a wine brand concept, called Goes With Cellars, which is one of those food pairing-focused wines like the Wine That Loves brand that came out earlier this year. I thought it was rather funny of Fred to send me this wine to sample, as I had already kinda-sorta gone on record as thinking the Wine That Loves concept was weird in a comment at Good Wine Under $20, when Dr. Debs posted on it.
Whereas the “Wine That Loves” brand focuses on pairing wine with more everyday fare (pasta with tomato sauce, pizza, grilled steak, etc), the “Goes With” line includes a shopping list and an upscale recipe that one presumes will be a perfect pairing with the wine in the bottle. My husband’s take on the concept was, “Oh yeah. Back when I was single, I would totally have bought that to make dinner for a date. That’s a Get Laid Wine.” Aha! Market positioning insight!
Jeff at Good Grape was also a part of Fred’s little marketing campaign, which included sending us little graphics of well paired icons, like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, along with a tag that said “Matched Perfectly.” The Wine Broad got a sample, too: she thought the whole “Wine That Loves” brand was a crock, so you can imagine her opinion of this seeming re-brand attempt.
I go back and forth on the issue that the Broad and others take umbrage with: the dumbing down of wine, specifically wine and food pairing. To those of us who feel confident in our wine knowledge, wine and food pairing is an enjoyable sport. It’s fun to talk about to other wine/food geeks, safe because it’s even more subjective than whether a wine is good or not (if anything can be more subjective than that), and so riddled with variables that you can’t possibly ever get bored.
But even as I would be bewildered and horrified at the thought of a quick nine holes at a Hilton Head golf course, I can see how the complicated world of wine would be even more terrifying were it backlit against the palette of the world of fine food. Shit, it’s hard enough to cook a decent meal, but to put a good wine with it and have it “match” (whatever that means, right?), that’s just some kind of bizarre torture.
But the Wine Broad’s post got me to thinking about the recipe on the bottle; heaven forbid that it doesn’t pair well! There was only one way to find out, so my beloved and I had Peppercorn Steak that evening, accompanied by roast cauliflower and cheese sauce, a baked potato, and the wine it Goes With.
I’m not a recipe following type of person, but I made a real effort to follow the recipe on the label. Beef tenderloin was just ridiculously expensive at my grocery store this week, though, so I went with two strip steaks instead. Otherwise, I made no changes — I even bought brandy for the pan sauce! I figured that the spicy steak needed a mild foil on the plate, hence the cheesy veg (which my husband calls Cauliflower With Sex On It) and the tater. Yes, I used the leftover wine from last Wine Blogging Wednesday, too. There was just enough left for the sauce and a glass for Chef.
In the letter Fred sent me along with the wine sample, he specifically instructs me to NOT “taste this wine. Don’t swirl it, sniff it… or roll it around in your mouth. This wine is from drinking, not tasting.” Dutifully, I did not taste the wine before I had sat down to the table. Of course, I tasted it independently after the meal, what kind of wine blogger does he take me for? but I drank my glass-point-five with my dinner, as instructed.
What I found was that the wine did indeed pair quite nicely with my meal, which was delicious. The nose was very fruity and soft, and the sweet fruitiness cooled out the heat of the peppercorns on my tongue very efficiently and pleasantly. The pan sauce was tangy with mustard and Worcestershire, and it rounded out the tannin on the wine just fine, as did the cheesy cauliflower. Maybe two recipes on the bottle, Fred?
In the glass, the wine was a rich, clear red. Tasted alone, I got jammy blackberry and vanilla on the nose, with maybe just a whiff of pine. A small whiff; this wine is really all fruit on the nose. Fruity-bo-booty-patootie. Palate-wise: plum, black currant and one or two pencil shavings, with a medium-strength tannic grip and not much of a finish.
Quaffable, simple, unflawed wine, although I must say I’ve never had a Bordeaux like it; tasted like Cali or at least vin du pays to me. Regardless, this was not a great wine that will age or blow anyone’s mind, but it was a nice, light, drinkable red that did indeed “go with” the meal it was evidently intended for.
I must agree with the Broad about being unable to accurately assess this wine without a price point from which to judge: I would be very disappointed with this wine at $20. In fact, I would never buy it for that — if you’re going to dumb down my wine, you need to make it inexpensive at the very least. I would be quite pleased with this wine at $10; at $12-15 I’d want a coupon for a discount on my steak.
However, in my husband’s proposed scenario of a single guy preparing a meal for his all-important Third Date At His Place, I can see our swain being fine with $15 on the wine. The shopping list is not long, which is smart and convenient. The consumer can peek at the recipe to see if he has all the skills to execute it, another plus for our hero. It’s quick to throw together, again helpful for anyone hosting a nubile dinner guest. All in all, this could be a very effective Get Laid Wine. Goes With…?
The complete departure from the parameters that most wine consumers use to choose a wine is a huge risk, and I can see some problems with it, dumbing-down issues aside. Some of the issues that came up on the comments at Good Grape rang true for me, as well. Jill‘s question is a great one: how much Goes With Veal do you expect to sell, really?
And I agree with Jeff of Twisted Oak that 7 menus is totally not enough. How often do you expect me to make that Peppercorn Steak, Pasta with Pancetta and Mushrooms, or even the Pork Chili Verde? Do you offer multiple recipes in a case, and do you switch them up every 3 months? Or every year? And if you cut people loose from the recipe on the bottle, what are they to do with just meat-based recommendations? Just because a wine goes with steak au poivre doesn’t mean it’ll go with pot roast.
My strongest doubt, though, is whether I would buy a wine which gave little information as to its grape or region, but rather just assured me that it paired well with a certain dish. Would you?