The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2013

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Page 88 of 164

AREA OF EXPERTISE Fish Tales: When Red is Requested SOMMELIER JASON FERRIS OF NEW YORK'S SEA FIRE GRILL SUGGESTS FIVE ALTERNATIVES TO PINOT NOIR by Timothy Moriarty / photos by Doug Young J Jason Ferris at the Sea Fire Grill. 88  /  the tasting panel  /  april 2013 ason Ferris estimates that 60 percent of his customers order fish or shellfish dishes or selections from the raw bar. And the majority of those clients will want to order a red wine. "Regardless of how appropriate, that's what they want to drink," he says. Ferris is Beverage Director/Sommelier at the Sea Fire Grill in New York. At this Midtown restaurant fish is considered the signature item, though the meat selections are tempting as well, Ferris, who has shaped wine lists at SD26 and Gilt in New York and Striped Bass in Philadelphia, created a vigorous bythe-glass program for the Sea Fire Grill as one option to the pairing problem, but experience told him that his bottle list needed to address the issue directly. "It's important that the client get what they want, so it's difficult for me to talk someone out of a red wine to a white just because I feel it's more appropriate," says Ferris. "What I want is not important." Forty percent of his list of 550 selections consists of Burgundy, red and white, and New World Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. "Then you see a lot of classic regions that are known for fish cuisines—Spain, Italy, France, New Zealand and the West Coast of the U.S." What happens when a large group orders a variety of dishes and the alpha guest wants to forego the by-the-glass option and order one bottle for the table? "I've never experienced a wine that can do both— pair well with the lightest fish presentation and the richest red meat," says Ferris. "That said, I tend to try to steer people toward red wines that offer diversity and balance for both types of entrees." Pinot Noir is "a foregone conclusion," says Ferris. "In some cases they're just an oversimplified answer for what goes with both. I tend to find wines that are medium-bodied, with enough acidity to cleanse but not tart to drink," Ferris summarizes. "Mild tannins, because gritty tannins can make the texture of leaner fishes seem almost mealy—it turns everything to grit or gravel."

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