The SOMM Journal

December 2017 / January 2018

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Page 16 of 124

16 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } DECEMBER/JANUARY 2017/2018 Karen MacNeil is the author of The Wine Bible and the editor of DO WINEMAKERS KNOW more about food than chefs know about wine, or do chefs know more about wine than wine- makers know about food? I first started thinking about this ques- tion more than 30 years ago in Europe, where the chefs I met were usually fantastic sources for local wine recommendations. They not only knew the wines well but often knew the winemakers, too. And yet it seemed to me that the same was not often true in the U.S. A lot of the chefs I knew liked wine (tequila and espresso usually got equal opportunity), but it didn't galvanize them. On the other hand, I could also make a small list of important chefs who were super wine-savvy. So, how to make sense of this dichotomy? I decided to dive a little deeper. In the late 1990s, I did a story for the San Francisco Chronicle in which I posed the question to 50 well-known people in the food and wine businesses, among them Julia Child and Robert Mondavi. A vast majority said that winemakers knew more about food than chefs knew about wine. I recently posed the same question on my Facebook page—admittedly a differ - ent medium than a formal interview. But I thought that social media might reveal some fascinating insights too. And it did. One respondent, Michael O'Brien, said: "From the wine lists I've seen at all but a top few restaurants in each state, I hypoth - esize that many chefs know far less about wine than winemakers know about food. If they knew more, their wine lists would look much different. Pairing would be the goal at the restaurant. Instead, profit seems to be." "I know a few winemakers who like their steak well done with ketchup," said Jenise Stone, another commenter. "But I know of no chefs who prefer [yellow tail] Chardonnay to, say, Stony Hill. So I vote for the chefs." Finally, Kevin Baker said, "I'm inclined to think that the average winemaker knows more about food than the average chef knows about wine. I've never encountered a winemaker (or sommelier or other wine professional) who doesn't either love to cook or to talk about food with a certain level of passion and expertise." And so the comments went—nearly 100 of them. At one point, winemaker Robert Mondavi Jr. offered to cook dinner for a person who said she thought chefs knew more about wine. In the end, slightly more people said that winemakers know more about food than chefs know about wine. Winemaker Bill Dyer had the final wry observation: "I don't know the answer to this question, but somms seem to think they know more about both food and wine than chefs or winemakers." { one woman's view } IMAGE COURTESY OF EHSTOCK VIA THINKSTOCK Who Knows MORE? WINEMAKERS AND CHEFS PROVE WHO'S BETTER INFORMED ABOUT THE OTHERS' PROFESSION by Karen MacNeil

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