Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Recommended Reading: Papilles et Molécules (Part 2)

In yesterday's post, I wrote about François Chartier's excellent new book, "Papilles et Molécules".  M. Chartier uses molecular chemistry as a new route to match food and wine.  He analyses their volatile aromatic compounds to find commonalities and innovative possibilities for better matching.  I touched on a couple of examples from the book yesterday.

What other interesting aromatic commonalities has M. Chartier come up with? He argues that Sherries (Fino & Manzanilla in some cases, Oloroso in others) match an amazingly broad array of food ingredients. Could it be that, like many Old World wines, Sherries are better with food than on their own?

For beef, what the rancher fed the cow (grass or grain) makes a big difference.  Cooking method – grilled, roasted, boiled, braised, or raw – is key to wine matching, and he even shows us that some white wines can be the successful match with beef!

Pork? It has aromatic compounds in common with apricot, peach, and coconut, so no need to shy away from Viognier-based whites, or reds that have seen some barrel-aging instead of light-bodied, fruity reds.

And he shows us that the volatile compounds in rosemary, an herb associated with the south of France, shows up frequently in the white wines of…Alsace in the north of France, such as Muscat, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer.

One of the most interesting chapters is on the similarities between pineapple and strawberry. Aside from opening the door to strawberry upside down cake (or pineapple shortcake), he shows us that wines that match one of these fruits will also match the other.

Every chapter is a revelation. M. Chartier chooses a “parent ingredient”, analyses its volatile compounds, defines a family of other ingredients with that same compound or similar compounds, and then shows us the wines that also have those compounds. Although M. Chartier presents much of his analysis in the text, he summarizes his findings of complementary ingredients and complementary wines in charts, which makes it valuable as a quick reference book. The result is a tool that opens up synergistic matches between wine and food, matches that make both food and wine better. I’ve already referred to it myself on a frequent basis, finding food and wine matches that I don’t think I would have come up with before. I suspect that M. Chartier has just begun his work and I can’t wait for future volumes!

M. Chartier’s book reinforces the point that, for sommeliers, understanding how food is prepared and what ingredients are used is essential to matching food and wine.

M. Chartier could improve this book by using a consistent approach to presenting the summary charts in each chapter. And it can be a bit slow going at times, particularly if you’re not keen on chemistry. At this time, the book is only available in French but McClelland and Stewart plan to publish an English language edition this autumn with the title, Scents and Sensibility: The Art and Science of Perfect Wine Pairings. [UPDATE:  The English language version, entitled Tastebuds and Molecules:  The Art of Science of Food with Wine was published on September 28, 2010.]  Last month, the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards cited M. Chartier for "Best Innovative Culinary Book in the World". You can listen to an interview done then with the CBC’s As It Happens here  (The interview starts at 13:06.) And there’s more on M. Chartier’s website (again, en français).

Papilles et Molécules takes us down a new road in understanding aromas and flavours. In its field, it’s as groundbreaking as Red Wine with Fish was 20 years ago. Any sommelier or amateur wine lover will find it invaluable.

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