RISING STAR SOMMELIER
AWARD SPONSORED BY
CAMPTON PLACE | San Francisco
Old World Wines with New World Pairings
John Ragan’s Wine Tips
I think it might have been my first restaurant job when someone was kind enough to share his wine and food wisdom with me: “What grows together goes together!” And with that I was off, into the immense world of food and wine with little more than a corkscrew and a catch phrase.
To a certain degree it does make sense, Sancerre and goat cheese, Chianti and tomato pastas, even Muscadet and Oysters are all great examples of the co-evolution between food and wine in the “Old World.”
This food and wine mantra still makes sense with Old World wine and food pairings but in the 21st century we have a plethora of wines and foods from around the world from which to choose, combine and pair.
San Francisco is a great laboratory for testing the reactions between Old World wines and the cuisines of the world that are so readily available here. The results of this ongoing study are proof that sometimes opposites do attract.
The dinner’s perfect partner might be from half a world away. Take German Riesling for example. It is one of the most historic wine regions in the world, and it likes nothing more than a little spicy Thai food. The spice of the Thai food makes the fruit in the wine come alive and cools the palate for another bite.
Eating Indian food does not exactly conjure up thoughts of the south of France, but the chemistry between a Bandol or Tavel Rosé and great Indian cuisine is undeniable.
Perhaps the most striking high style/low style odd couple in food and wine is the simple pleasure of a great glass of Champagne with buttered popcorn. The toast notes marry in a perfect match while the brilliant acidity and effervescence cleans the palate of all the buttery texture.
AB: Do you favor Old World or New World wines?
JR: I definitely favor Old World Wines. I need a balance between acidity and elegance. I am also a big fan of German wines – I’m on their advisory board.
AB: Tell me about a perfect wine and food match that you’ve discovered.
JR: Vin Santo paired with vanilla gelato and coffee espresso. Champagne with cheese. Also young goat cheese from Andante Dairy with a dry Spanish sherry.
AB: Why do you think you stand out as a sommelier?
JR: Because I really love my job. I love the instant gratification of when someone loves the pairing.
AB: What wines do you favor for your cellar at home?
JR: For whites, I like German and Austrian wines, and Champagne. For red wines I prefer Piedmont, Burgundy, and Rhone.
AB: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
JR: In 5 years I will still be here. In 10 years I want to have my own place but doing exactly what I am doing now.