One of the first pieces I wrote for Intoxicology Report—and one which has, for the sheer idiocy of its premise, seen over 100,000 hits—was a piece on pairing wine with chili dogs.
The idea was that writing about such edgy but pointless wine pairings is a joke, so (for example), I paired a Zef’s Coney (Russell St.) with an $11,000 1945 Pétrus (Pomerol).
Satire, right? Because no one would actually do it, correct?
And yet, whenever I look directly down satire’s throat, somewhere around the sigmoid colon, just above the anal canal, I see people who take themselves too seriously.
Enter the Master Sommelier…
Not all Master Sommeliers, of course, nor the associated Mistresses, also called Masters—or in the case of the deep South, Massah Sommeliers. But one in particular: Tim Gaiser, MS, who wrote another in a series of ludicrously available articles about pairing wine and chocolate.
Tim takes it to the sort of extreme I did with the coney dog piece, only with a perfectly straight face.
His preppy postulation is that cheap chocolate can enjoy the magical synergy of point/counterpoint pairings when consumed with expensive Port. The fact that this has never before been explored may be a thorn in the paw of every alcoholic parent who lurked in the shrubbery while their Halloween-costumed kid rang the doorbell in the neighborhoods of rich people, but that’s neither here nor there.
Halloween is a scary time of year, so let’s take a closer look at some of Tim Gaiser’s self-generated scariness:
He pairs a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (41¢) with a Burmester 20 Year Old Tawny Port ($50), pointing out—in a stab at jocularity borrowed from a ‘80s television commercial—that ‘combining peanut butter and chocolate is one of mankind’s greatest achievements’, failing to note that combining corn syrup with a consistently beautiful Tawny made by a master blender is one of mankind’s worst.
Gaiser’s price gap is absorbed somewhat when Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar ($1.66) is paired with Barros 10-Year-Old ($20), which he refers to—with a touch of sommelier snobosity—as a ‘young Port’, knowing full well that to Mr. and Mrs. Mid-American Candy Bar Lover, a ten-year-old wine is as close to being young as, to a chocolatier, a Hershey’s bar is to being chocolate.
It’s soon back to the price disparity, though, when a Kit Kat bar (88¢) finds itself linked to another twenty-year-old soulmate, Kopke 20-Year-Old White Port ($67).
But, although he likens the overly-sweet Kit Kat to the overly-sweet Hershey bar, he has switched Porto pigmentation, and now goes with a white; one described by Port pro Joe Manekin as ‘an elixir with a deep golden color; one whiff of the lovely, complex aromatics shows incredibly deep, nuanced, flavors and a wonderful texture that will convince you that this awesome Port is a real eye opener.”
Of the Kit Kat bar, Cybele May of candyblog.com writes: “My usual way of eating a Kit Kat is to eat off both ends of a finger, then pry off the top layer of chocolate with my teeth, then continue eating from the top down.”
You are clearly dealing with two different approaches to an esculent experience.
Tim Gaiser then moves on to some pricier bars like a Valrhona ‘Le Noir Extra Amer’, which Trader Joe’s sells for $2.69 per 3.5 ounce bar, but by then, the whole inane concept had left me wagging my melon like a Michael J. Fox Bobblehead.
Although the column was obviously sponsored by Grupo Sogevinus, the holding company that owns all of these Port labels, I am assuming that in the interests of journalistic integrity, Master Shill Sommelier Gaiser actually undertook a series of tasting experiments with the category winners before passing along his educated advice to us, an eager public with plastic jack-o-lanterns filled with Halloween candy and no idea which single-vintage Colheita to open next.
I, who have no journalistic integrity, was not required to actually open a thousand dollar bottle of Mouton Rothschild before determining that it’s the only rational wine to drink with a Lou’s Super Chili Dog with extra onions.
The Point, Of Course, Is…
Neither coney dogs nor Snickers bars need to be paired with anything, including—and maybe especially—wine. Guidelines suggesting otherwise, undertaken by the Gaisers of the world (and with an air of academic sincerity) is a syndrome of bloggery itself, where people are desperate to think of new ways to say absolutely nothing.
I don’t have the slightest doubt that some righteous twink somewhere actually did write a column about chili dogs and wine, and thought it was pithy and hip and as insightful as Gaiser probably figures his dopey pabulum about Port and PayDay bars is.
Wine and food pairings are silly enough on their own, and even so, everything worthwhile on the subject was covered by Auguste Escoffier in Le Guide Culinaire, 1903.
When contemporary writers find themselves reduced to matching wine with foods nobody would consider drinking wine with in the first place, you get the impression that not only is the idea cupboard bare, but that Old Mother Hubbard has been carted off to the Sunnydale Home for the Gustatorily Insane.