Working as a sommelier means continuously questioning the many certainties that ever more frequently penalize wines and dishes.
Academically speaking, we know that food and wine pairings are based on the harmony between the dish and the glass:
Lamb and Pinot Noir. Fried foods and Prosecco. Culatello and Lambrusco. Foie gras and Sauternes.
Over the years here at the Osteria Francescana, we’ve invested our time and resources in another, different route that favors great contrasts.
It’s the most complex and interesting way to arrive at harmony.
Here are a few examples:
Pickled and fried baby fish in contrast with Picolit.
Culatello in contrast with Sauternes.
Shrimp crudo with Lambrusco di Sorbara (which, today, is a refined, elegant wine and is no longer a rustic, rough-around-the-edges wine that it used to be years ago).
Oysters in contrast with ginger brandy.
After appreciating, studying, and learning about the great wines of the world (Burgundy, Piedmont, Bordeaux, Champagne, etc.), we made a sea change and decided instead to devote ourselves to small grape growers, from tiny village of Arbois and Pierre Overnoy to Sicily’s Vittoria and the wondrous Arianna Occhipinti.
In their kitchens, [chefs Massimo] Bottura, [Davide] Scabin, [Paolo] Lopriore, and [René] Redzepi had launched a revolution that opened the doors for contemporary cuisine. We were spurred by their work and it “forced” us to follow and feed off this energy and their unusual approach. Clearly, their food had moved past the stereotypes of the 1990s like rack of lamb and seared foie gras with fruit confit. And so we wanted to find new pathways for new ideas and a new narrative.
From a bona fide gold mine [of producers and wines], we got new ideas, we had new doubts, new cues, and new observations. It became evident that we needed to create a new and tight foundation made of women and men of wine. This would be the new and solid basis for building the years of work and research that lay ahead.
This is why today there are certain classics that we could and would never abandon (just like the traditional dishes that certain chefs simply cannot give up).
Here are some of the names that will never be missing from our notebooks: Damjian Podversic, Arianna Occhipinit, Domaine Huet, Marie Ledru, Luca Ferraro from Bele Casel, Walter Massa, Paolo from Birra Beltaine, Ca’ Russin and its grape must, the Boroni family and its brandies, [and] Philippe Pacalet.
With all due respect to those who believe that a great food and wine pairing can be created using a list made up of famous names and appellations, we love those names and appellations as well but they aren’t part of our personal and professional histories.
Our cellar is not a museum where you kneel before this producer or that label. It’s a capital on the border of a thousand continents where it’s necessary to contaminate and to contaminate ourselves with the hope that we will continue to grow and never stop growing!
Image via Giuseppe’s Facebook.