Even with everything we have learned about wine in the last few years, we still make mistakes. While it's almost impossible to pick a "bad" wine at a nicer restaurant, it is possible to make an uninformed choice, resulting in a wine poorly matched to your meal. Your evening won't be ruined, but it might reduce your overall enjoyment of what could have been a great meal.
Conveniently located off Union Square, just a few short subway stops from our New York City home, we've managed to stop in at CraftBar several times to enjoy their wine. With a seasonal menu full of fresh ingredients and an extensive and interesting wine menu, it was only a matter of time before we sat down for dinner, too.
Looking over the menus, I though I had it all figured out. The cod stood out to me, so despite the cooler day, I chose a white wine to go with it. I picked a Chardonnay, hoping for a balance of crispness and richness. Rule of thumb: white wine with fish, always. Right? With the fish, that held true. But, the cod was accompanied by an earthy cassoulet of sausage and beans that really proved to be the main flavor of the meal. I realized right away that the meal would have been better paired with a red wine.
This incident served to remind us of the importance of proper pairings. We always feel that good quality food and good quality wine make for a better meal, and that one shouldn't hold too much stock in getting the "right" wine. The truth is, though, that if the two don't work well together, you lose something in the result. It's disappointing when an expensive glass of wine becomes overpowered by that steak you ordered, or the sweet dessert wine obliterates the flavors of the delicate mousse you've picked for dessert.
So, if you're not sure what the menu means, say, by "cassoulet" (the situation in my case), ask your server to explain and to even give you a wine recommendation. It's okay to admit you don't know, and it's certainly better to ask if it means you will be assured of enjoying your meal that much more. You want the ultimate experience, especially if you're paying top price for it. We look forward to our next pairing opportunity at CraftBar, for sure.