About PairCraft, our process, and our thoughts and beliefs about pairing.

About PairCraft, our process, and our thoughts and beliefs about pairing.

What we do

We test the recommendations that serious home cooks and wine-savvy people are likely to receive if they ask the sources that they typically ask for pairing advice. We collect these pairing suggestions by doing what these folks typically do. They ask their local or favorite wine store; they ask restaurant wine staff and sommeliers; they ask their wine-smart friend or partner; they look in food and wine-pairing books; they ask themselves (if they have a sense for what the common wisdom is); they consult magazines; and they search the Internet.

We strive to get test results that will be the ideal indicator of the taste experience most people will have. To do this, we find a sommelier who has the education and experience for discerning top food and wine pairings and a palate trained for determining them. In many cases these sommeliers have been recommended to us by other sommeliers because of their taste and experience in food and wine pairing. Since we want our testing to be as objective as possible, we blind taste all of the pairings.

We choose specific recipes to use as the foundations for all of our taste-test sessions, because what’s in the dishes and what the dishes taste like matters. We select recipes we think serious and discerning home cooks would use. As long as the dish you make is similar to the one our recipe produces, the results we share should hold up.

What we do
For our process, we round up wines to test the pairing ideas we find; we select a chef to prepare the dish; and we have our sommelier sit down at our tasting table to taste and evaluate all the pairings. All our ratings come out of actual tasting sessions with the dish. They do not come from theories, guesses, logic, mental math, what we think will work, what we think should work, what the rules say works, or the prevailing or long-held wisdom. We eat a bite of the food, we take a sip of the wine, and then we evaluate the pairing result.

WE PUT MORE EMPHASIS ON PAIRING CHARACTERISTICS THAN WE DO ON A SPECIFIC WIN

It’s not really that a specific bottle of wine alone creates the pairing result. If you look more deeply, it’s actually the chemical composition of the wine—what’s in it and how much is in it. Just like with a sauce, a spice, or an herb blend, it’s the composition or makeup of that wine that creates the pairing result with a dish.

If you want to create the experience we report on here, you don’t necessarily need the specific wine we tested—maybe you can’t find the wine we tested or maybe you want to buy a wine at a different price point. What you need is a wine that has the same or a very similar chemical composition as the one we tested. That wine’s pairing characteristics, which we show for every wine we test, and they are an indication of the composition of that wine.serious and discerning home cooks would use. As long as the dish you make is similar to the one our recipe produces, the results we share should hold up.

THERE IS ONE BIG, NEW INSIGHT THAT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE HERE

We’ve found that, typically, people come up with food and wine pairing ideas by thinking about the dish and coming up with a mental list of wines that will taste great with it, or by thinking about which wines are widely thought to be great with a dish, or by figuring out which wines are the classic pairings with that dish, or by using the tried-and-true rules. What we’ve learned through all of our testing is that when you actually taste test these ideas with the dish, in most, if not all cases, you do not actually get the pairing result you think you will get. This is a big, big finding, and you see proof of it in the pairing results of all the wines we taste with a dish. In most cases, the pairing result you get will be different from what you expect or hope for. Why? Because the wine is not static in the presence of the food. Or put another way, the wine, or maybe we should say the taste of the wine, changes when you take a sip of it after you’ve eaten a bite of the food. And why or how does this happen? Well, when you eat a bite of food, the food leaves a little bit of food and flavor compounds in your mouth. That’s why you have an aftertaste sometimes after you eat a bite of food. We call this bit of food and flavor compounds “the food residual”. Now, the alcohol in wine, ethyl alcohol, is a very good solvent, so it solubilizes this food residual and brings it into solution with the wine.

Now, you have a mixture of the wine and the food residual. This mixture is a new composition—it’s not the original wine anymore. And this new composition, of course, has a new taste. Finally, this new taste is not simply a matter of 1+1=2. What you get is not what you expect—in fact, you don’t know what you’ll get until you taste that food residual and that wine together. The taste you get is a characteristic of that dish and of that wine and wines that have the same pairing characteristics as that wine.

We’ve found that you simply cannot accurately predict the taste outcome of a pairing. Some aspects of the wine might be accentuated—say acidity. Some aspects might disappear—say the fruit flavors of a wine. Sometimes new flavors or sensations are created. We have found again and again that you don’t know what pairing result you will get unless—or until—you take a sip of the wine after you eat a bite of the food. That’s why we do what we do. We taste lots of wines with a dish and report to you what taste that pairing creates and whether it is good or not.

WHAT STANDARD DO WE USE IN EVALUATING PAIRINGS?

The type of pairing result we are looking for is one that is delicious—and nothing short of that. Some people ask how we evaluate pairings, and we say it’s the same way we evaluate food: It should taste great and provide lots of pleasure. (It can also be fun and interesting!) We’re not looking for what we consider to be lesser and insufficient standards for a pairing result. We’re looking for wine pairings that really elevate the food experience.

HOW WE DO WHAT WE DO

When the pairing idea is a general concept and not a specific wine recommendation, we select wines that will allow us to test whether that advice is true and to find out what kind of pairing result that advice creates. In some cases, we will pick a wine that is considered a benchmark for the wine recommended. In other cases, we will pick wines that represent the most common styles for the type of wine recommended. Either way, we always choose wines that will give the idea or recommendation a fair test.

ABOUT PERSONAL PREFERENCE

Some people think that liking a pairing is about personal preference. What they seem to mean by this is that if one person likes and recommends a pairing, another person may not because their palate and preferences are different. If pairing was strictly about personal preference, then the same could be assumed for liking food—and we all know that’s simply not true. There are numerous cases in which a chef or recipe developer creates a dish and many people like it—diners with a range of palates and flavor preferences.

HOW WE DO WHAT WE DO

OUR TEAM OF EXPERTS

Tracy Gardner
Founder and CEO

Tracy Gardner is the Founder and CEO of Paircraft. Tracy discovered and developed the idea that became PairCraft by using the skills and knowledge he acquired as a chemical engineer, as an innovation consultant practicing design thinking, and from studying wine in the WSET courses and winemaking in the UC Davis Winemaking Certificate Program.

He developed his knowledge about food and wine pairing by conducting extensive research, which included buying just about every book ever written on food and wine pairing, and by conducting countless experiments and tasting sessions with wine professionals and serious home cooks.

In addition, Tracy has surveyed the current state and the leading edge of food and wine pairing by tasting hundreds of pairing recommendations from wine stores and pairings at restaurants, including restaurants at the very top of fine dining.

Tracy loves that beautiful thing that happens when you eat a bite of delicious food and then take a sip of a wine that opens up and adds a new, wonderful, and welcome dimension to the food experience. One of his goals with PairCraft is to make it possible for everybody everywhere to be able to easily reach out and get the information they need to make this magical experience happen–and happen at a very high level–with every dish they enjoy making, eating, or serving.