I recently met with a French winemaker who showed a few of his wines. When he spoke about his wines, he immediately connected the wine with a food that compliments it. He described the character of two different vintages, not with PH numbers or fruit descriptions, but with what to eat with each. A warm vintage would work well with grilled meat, while the cooler vintage was much better with poultry.
The Italians are the same way. In Italy, wine is put on the table in the same way that we Americans put butter or salt & pepper on the table, some element of the meal is lacking without it. That is part of the reason many Italian wines are harsh and unpleasant by themselves, because they are meant to be paired with food; only then will their harsh tannin or bracing acidity make sense.
In America, prohibition stopped us from doing the same thing. A whole generation lost its connection with wine as an core part of a meal. Given our history, it makes sense that wine pairing can be intimidating and confusing. Over the next few weeks, we'll explore some of the logic behind food & wine pairing, as a great combination can make everything on the table taste better.