[ Editor’s note: following is a guest post from the 1WD intern: the young, unpaid Shelby Vittek, who many of you will recall really shook things up with her first 1WD article. You can check out more of Shelby’s work at TableMatters.com, and find her on twitter at @BigBoldReds. Let us know what you think (but keep things civil, you opinionated b*stards!). Enjoy! ]
Just before the holiday break, Joe prompted me to run down to his cellar before lunch and pick out a bottle of wine for the meal that Mrs. Dudette had cooked up for us. It was an exciting moment – a free grab of any of the bottles I’ve been sorting through and cataloguing for months. (No, I didn’t choose a crazy expensive bottle, or touch any of his beloved aged Riesling collection – I know better than that by now.)
But the excitement of this new responsibility quickly turned into fear. I don’t often drink my wine with food and was worried my selection wouldn’t stand up well to the meal. What if the efforts to impress my “boss” ended in total failure, causing him to reconsider taking me on as his intern? And the last thing I wanted was to put Mrs. Dudette’s amazing cooking skills to shame.
Sometimes, my biggest flaw is this: I am a Millennial; and while we do have wine knowledge, we don’t know much about matching it with a meal. My generation, a hodgepodge of older students and young working professionals, marries wine more with occasions and events than they ever do with food. We drink it at parties, when we hang out at each other’s apartments, and in front of the television during date nights with Netflix. I even have a few friends that like to drink wine while writing a paper, which may or may not have once happened in the basement of our college library…
Without children or families to rush home to, we’re also more likely to visit more happy hours, where the focus is on the drinks themselves and food is an afterthought. Millennials go to wine bars more often than any older segment, but resist the idea of combining their love for wine with dinner. And because we are eating out at restaurants less than generations did at the same age, we don’t seem to be grasping the importance of wine’s relationship with food.
But it’s not just the Millennials that are depriving food of its long-time faithful companion. Everybody’s doing it. By now, most of us know that Americans are drinking less and less wine with meals. As reported in the Napa Valley Register back in 2011, Wine Opinions released the results of a survey that reported only 40% of wine is drunk with a meal, while the remaining 60% of it was consumed away from the table. But out of all the respondents that participated, the older ones reported drinking most of their wine with food, and each younger segment drinking more and more by itself.
Plenty of wine writers and bloggers have chimed in on the topic since then. Some were unsurprised by the results. Others could be heard chanting “long-live-food-and-wine-together” in sync. Even Joe himself said here on 1WD, “Wine still – and always will – RAWK IT when it comes to food.”
The results of this survey didn’t really strike me at first. But lately I’ve been wondering if Millennials’ have got it all wrong. Should we be caring more about drinking wine more with food? We like them both, so why don’t we combine the two more often?
While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of wine by itself, I think young wine drinkers need to acquaint themselves with how great food and wine together can be. I’m not saying we need to become pairing experts – I know I’m nothing close to it, and frankly don’t want to be. Feel free to drink your wine with whatever you’d like. But if we love drinking a glass alone, there’s a good chance we’ll appreciate wine even more with a meal that can only heighten its greatness.
When I traveled through different wine regions in Europe this fall, I learned how powerful the union of food and wine is. I drank many glasses of Tempranillo (not all at once) in Spain before realizing the bold tannins that are characteristic of the wine taste and feel much better with some tapas dishes. In Valpolicella, food was absolutely essential to combat the massive power of Amarone. And in Piedmont, my tasty dinners wouldn’t have been complete without the memorable Barolos that accompanied them.
In the wine world, there’s this prevailing idea that Millennials will simply “grow out of it,” especially when it comes to how little we spend on a bottle. I don’t entirely agree, but maybe you guys are right about it when it comes to drinking more wine with meals. This is an area that could benefit from Millennials stepping outside of the I-know-it-all mindset once in awhile. We have enough exposure to a lot of decent wine that’s inexpensive, as well as plenty of magazines, newspapers, and blogs to tell us what food will make our wines taste even better. There are also some back-of-the-label suggestions to help even the laziest of wine drinkers.
The wine I chose for lunch that day turned out to taste better with our meal than it did alone. As it turns out, I did a well enough job to keep my job as Joe’s intern, which is a very good thing. With several hundred wine samples now catalogued to choose from, it seems I have a promising future of food and pairing opportunities. Maybe there’s hope for Millennials when it comes to this whole food-and-wine pairing thing after all…