A Blurry Mark de Vere MW
To say that I am a bit late in writing this blog would be a huge understatement. I went along to the JW Steakhouse in Park Lane in May 2012 a guest of Mark de Vere MW and Robert Mondavi Wines. But better late then never I like to say. I lie. I don’t like that saying it and have very rarely used in my life. But I digress… back to dinner.
Mark is a fascinating character. A peculiar, vibrant, highly intelligent and passionate wine communicator. Now despite working for that vinous colossus and preaching the wine gospel according to Bob Mondavi for the past 15 years, Mark is very much his own man. Of course he was there to talk up their wines but his focus was really on expanding our minds in terms of how we viewed the relationship between food and wine matching. “The Liberated Enjoyment of Wine and Food” he called it.
Most consumers feel comfortable with red wine with red meat & white wine with fish rule. But why does it work? There must be some chemical reasoning. But there was more to it as we were about to find out.
The experiment began with the arrival of plates of cooked plain unseasoned chicken, sea bass and steak. There were also plates with sliced lemon and salt on them. Mark asked us to taste the wines(which included Robert Mondavi’s Napa Valley Fume Blanc aka Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Cabernet Sauvignon, all 2008 and around £15 each. There was also a tasty Inniskillin Ice Riesling 2006 from my native Canada) without the food and note what we tasted. Then we sampled the wines with the food and the results were startling. The classic matches were in disarray. The white wines stung the mouth, acidity completely out of control. The reds are all mouth puckering tannin, no fruit and metallic dryness.
“Mark you villain!!” we cried “What sorcery is this?! You have ruined our taste buds!!”. But he simply gestured to the small plates in the centre of the table. After adding a few sprinkles of salt and squeezes of lemon the process was repeated and as if by magic the food and wines behaved as you would expect. With the seasoning even the Ice Wine worked with the steak(not that I have tried it since). Miraculous! Not really Mark explained. It was simple science. So instead of delicious food and wine pairings being something inherent in their molecules, it revealed that when the balance is out in favour of sweetness or savoury umami without the grounding sour or salty, our palate focuses on specific characteristics rather than seeing the whole picture. Which makes it taste “wrong’. Really fascinating stuff!
We moved onto their Napa Valley Reserve Fume Blanc(pricey at £30) & Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve(a whopping £80 a bottle) with dinner and though the wines themselves are perfectly ok, in all honestly I’m not wild about Robert Mondavi wines. Why? Because for the same money(and a lot cheaper than the reserve wines) I can find wines produced in much smaller quantities with so much more character and originality. Sorry Mark.