The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Struck by the Beauty of a Perfect Pairing

Posted on | April 14, 2010 | Written by Emily Lenhart | 8 Comments

As both a new Junior Wine Portfolio Manager and a junior wine enthusiast, I have been extremely busy these past few weeks here at Italian Wine Merchants.  My first two weeks as a Junior PM made me a student in the most intense crash course in “Wine 101” that I ever could have imagined.  I learned about wines and their history and their production; I discovered how environmental factors influence wine; I was schooled in the art of fine dining service; and I grew to know IWM’s corporate culture.  I’m a recent Finance and International Business graduate from Villanova University, and in taking this job, I’ve found that my mind has been inundated with a lot of information in a short period of time, all of which has been challenging to absorb, but also extremely exciting to learn.

Of course, it’s not like I never drank wine in my life. I have, and more than enjoyed it, I saw it was important. However, I can’t say I “got” wine. Prior to my wine exposure at IWM, I struggled with the complimentary relationship between wine and food.  Cooking has always been one of my passions, so I can appreciate the use of wine as an essential ingredient. However, I couldn’t internalize the idea of wine as an integral component to a flawlessly prepared meal.  This changed a few weeks ago at my first formal wine tasting.

Prior to the tasting, I told myself to abandon my uncertain and somewhat cynical opinion of how wine and food interact with each other.  I had been schooled; I was primed; I was ready. But while I did my best to convince myself, my taste buds were still somewhat naïve and skeptical—until my wine epiphany.

All it took was a sip of the 2004 Ada Nada Barbaresco Cichin and a perfectly prepared taste of braised veal cheek with polenta to make me see the light.

In that white-light moment, I struggled to find the perfect words from the wine nomenclature I’d so recently been steeped in. But the only words that came to my mind were these: “Holy cow, that’s fantastic!” Just to make sure that this experience was something special, my skeptical taste buds and I went in for a second try.  My mouth savored the tender and juicy veal cheek as it softened the tannins in the Ada Nada. I focused on the spices and fruit that the red wine had to offer; I had finally been struck by the beauty of a perfect pairing.

This “ah-ha” moment has transformed my opinion on pairings and has become another driving force for my wine curiosity.  I not only find myself excited to taste wine, but also thriving on the experience I had.  I look forward to opening my senses and my mind to a world of “ah-ha” moments as I cultivate the career—and the tasting journey—that I’ve embarked on.


8 Responses to “Struck by the Beauty of a Perfect Pairing”

  1. Jason
    April 14th, 2010 @ 11:48 am

    I love those epiphany moments as well. My favorite combinations are playing with complimentary versus contrasting pairings. I. E. Rich foods with full-bodied wines versus rich foods with bright and light wines that cut through the richness and vice versa. Old world wines, Italian in particular, lend themselves to complementary experiences. Have fun on your journey of discovery.

  2. Susan
    April 14th, 2010 @ 1:14 pm

    As a wine novice myself, I’m planning to check in to follow you on your journey. There is so much to learn about the art of wine and food pairings. Bon Voyage!!!!

  3. Christian
    April 14th, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

    As a novice wine drinker myself I can completely relate. Being a purveyor of fine italian specialties I know the extent to which what wines would pair well with what cheeses. I can imagine the wealth of knowledge you must be trying to attain, and know that this knowledge will be quite the topic of conversation for you in the future. Now you will have the satisfying task of figuring which wines from what countries you prefer in these pairings. Whether it be a Spanish Port wine, or an Italian Cabernet. Good luck on your journey.

  4. Tracy
    April 14th, 2010 @ 1:38 pm

    All my life, I haven’t been a fan of wine… just haven’t been able to find one that I liked… now you have inspired me to keep trying. Who doesn’t want to experience an “ah-ha” moment like that? Especially when it involves food!

  5. Kerry-Jo
    April 14th, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

    The “a-ha” moments become more frequent through trial and error. Practice makes perfect, and why not when it comes to food and wine… two things we can enjoy for the rest of our days!! Lot’s of time to experiment!

  6. Nick
    April 14th, 2010 @ 10:52 pm

    Very well worded. In such a short period of time, you went from feeling inundated with wine facts to achieving your first “ah-ha” moment. It is apparent through your personal experience that somewhere out there exists the “perfect” wine for a given occasion – and that makes the experience all the more exciting. I hope to one day achieve the “ah-ha” moment that you have and to develop a fine appreciation for what the wine world has to offer; something that you have already begun to do. Good luck to you and keep up the hard work.

  7. Victor
    April 15th, 2010 @ 11:08 am

    My limited experience in wine has been red wine with red meat and white wine with chicken or fish. I can see now that I have been missing a lot. I will now be more attentive in selecting my wine.

  8. Greta
    April 15th, 2010 @ 12:11 pm

    After reading Victor’s comments I concur. I will also be interested to read if you have an “ah-ha” moment with dessert wines as well.

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