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Cooking Wine & Spirits

Taste Buds and Molecules

The Art and Science of Food With Wine

by (author) Francois Chartier

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Sep 2010
Wine & Spirits, Molecular Biology
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2010
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2011
    List Price

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What's the secret relationship between the strawberry and the pineapple? Between mint and Sauvignon Blanc? Thyme and lamb? Rosemary and Riesling?

In Taste Buds and Molecules, sommelier François Chartier, who has dedicated over twenty years of passionate research to the molecular relationships between wines and foods, reveals the fascinating answers to these questions and more. With an infectious enthusiasm, Chartier presents a revolutionary way of looking at food and wine, showing how to create perfect harmony between the two by pairing complementary (and often surprising) ingredients. The pages of this richly illustrated practical guide are brimming with photos, sketches, recipes from great chefs, and tips for creating everything from simple daily meals to tantalizing holiday feasts.

Wine amateurs and connoisseurs, budding cooks and professional chefs, and anyone who simply loves the pleasures of eating and drinking will be captivated and charmed by this journey into the hidden world of flavours.

About the author

Contributor Notes

FRANÇOIS CHARTIER is the only Canadian to be honoured with the prestigious Grand Prix Sopexa International as the world's best sommelier in French wines and spirits. He is the author of the bestselling À table avec François Chartier and publishes the annual guide La Sélection Chartier (in its 14th edition). He is currently conducting research on molecular harmonies and wine stewardship, a discipline that he originated. His pioneering work has led to collaborations with some of the world's greatest chefs, including the celebrated Ferran Adrià. In 2008, he recieved l'Ordre national du Québec, the highest distinction granted by the Quebec government.

Excerpt: Taste Buds and Molecules: The Art and Science of Food With Wine (by (author) Francois Chartier)

The Culinary Revolution
Unleashed by the principles of food harmony and molecular sommellerie
By Martin Loignon, Ph.D., molecular biologist, Montreal.
Throughout our existence, humankind has created and modernized musical instruments and mastered the tones and sounds that they produce. In their respective heydays, Vivaldi, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Gershwin knew how to take advantage of these innovations and succeeded in integrating new sounds into their oeuvres. Swept up by creativity, enlightened by profound knowledge of composition, in collaboration with violin makers, artisans, and musicians, they constructed scores that guaranteed the timelessness of their works. The greatest conductors are those who have mastered every note of their scores, and who direct their musicians to vary the music’s intensity at specified moments to create a memorable musical experience for their audience.
Scores and notes are to music as foods, wines, and aromatic molecules are to gastronomy. Their power to unleash sensory pleasures essentially depends on the chef’s orchestration. In much the same way, chefs and composers harmonize scores that effectively consist of ingredients. When painstakingly assembled, properly heated, and expertly enhanced, these ingredients will arouse pleasures stemming from their aromas and textures, all the while awakening sensory memories. A knowledgeable sommelier, master of his art, will, by precisely pairing wines and foods, enhance the olfactory pleasures of the dishes and heighten the culinary memories of the diners at his table.
Unlike with music, humankind has not succeeded in creating foods from which one can identify individual aromatic notes. At best, we can transform them, discovering and recognizing both naturally occurring and transformed aromas, all the better to harmonize them. In contrast to symphonies, food pairing has always depended more on the chef’s instincts than on her knowledge of foods’ aromatic molecules. Like a musician who ignores a score’s notes and plays by ear, the chef harmonizes by “nose.” This is because even though we have a relatively wide understanding of the aromatic molecules (the notes) that make up foods and beverages, this knowledge is in fact virtually unknown, unexploited, and even inaccessible to all but a few. This leads to uncertainty about which pairings are possible and fosters the fear of innovation. It’s not for lack of creativity but rather for lack of knowledge that today’s chefs, even the greatest, succumb to the temptation of repeatedly pairing the same ingredients.
The most complicated feat in cuisine may be to do it simply. But how can one do things simply in a field that still hides so many secrets? The cuisine of the future, like that of the past, will please and seduce us by its innovations. New instruments and new methods of using the familiar ones, but above all a heightened understanding of foods, ingredients, beverages, and wines, will open the doors to new food and wine harmonies and pairings. In this respect, the new field known as food harmony and molecular sommellerie has, in the last few years, increased our knowledge of these harmonies more than any other science.
Revolutionary ideas and innovations contribute to changing viewpoints, mentalities, and ways of doing things. Witnessing a revolution, even if one doesn’t fully understand its impact, creates a feeling of experiencing a unique, historical moment. One becomes quite privileged as soon as one understands the fundamentals underlying innovation because it then becomes possible to evolve from spectator to participant. The arts and sciences have always been fertile grounds for innovation. Several major innovations can be found at the crossroads of art and science; architecture, cinema, music, and, more recently, research on molecular gastronomy were all born from the fusion of art and science. The meeting of these two seemingly separate universes has become a major fuel for contemporary creative minds.
In this monumental work, which will profoundly change the culinary arts, Chartier unveils secrets of foods, ingredients, beverages, and wines that have remained unknown for far too long. He does so passionately and convincingly, backed up by several years of research and exemplary scientific rigor. Not only does he allow us to discover the molecules responsible for aromas; he offers, as if by magic, an abundance of innovative wine and food pairings that truly transform theory into practice.
This concept is perfectly illustrated in the chapter “Fino and Oloroso,” which discusses sherry, that misunderstood libation that is capable of holding its own with the greatest wines and sports a conviviality that would make many a Chablis blush and turn the best Côte-Rôties green with envy. Sherry, as Chartier explains, stands up readily at the table with a multitude of exotic dishes and harmonizes with each of them.
Sherry, the chameleon of wines, has molecular attributes that subtly mesh with the aromas of the most delicate dishes, while still being able to enhance neutral dishes and not fade away when paired with spicy ones. The secret of sherry’s versatility, which instinctively one might explain by its flexibility, its simplicity, or in a negative sense by its lack of character, is actually something else entirely. In fact, the versatility of sherry is due to its aromatic complexity, the result of hundreds of molecules (more than 300) associated with walnuts, caramel, butter, apple, apricot, and many others. Given this great number of aromas, there is a good chance that sherry will find its alter ego in a wide variety of ingredients and foods. In addition to this aromatic multiplicity, a judicious dose of strength and sweetness favors the consonance between molecules with aromatic affinities, and discourages discordance and clashing due to molecular incompatibilities.
Does molecular wine and food pairing frighten you? Take up the rhythm by making sherry the metronome of your experiments. Without it, you may easily come up with the couplets of a meal, but you’ll always miss the refrain.
If there were a Nobel Prize for gastronomy, François Chartier would be a deserving recipient. It took a large measure of genius, creativity, and audacity to construct the foundations and rules establishing the cause and effect relationship between aromatic molecules in foods and wines, and linking them together to create successful pairings. One could very roughly summarize this work as the combining of foods, ingredients, wines, and beverages that contain the same aromatic molecules so that harmonious pairings may occur spontaneously, with aromatic compounds seeking similar ones out. But this is an extreme oversimplification of this tremendous undertaking. To truly perfect this art and science requires a knowledge of the aromatic signature of each and every ingredient in a dish and the accompanying wine, in addition to an understanding of all the subtleties that occur when elements interact according to the author’s principles of harmony. Molecular gastronomy will, henceforth, take its cues from food harmony and molecular sommellerie.
Please note that this book is not addressed only to culinary and wine professionals, or to experts in chemistry. It’s also for the curious, and in particular for anyone who wants to open a window into a world of infinite possibilities, to achieve culinary success in creating food pairings that are innovative and unique, yet still harmonious. It is also addressed to all those who are ready to participate in this culinary revolution, to those for whom the pleasure of eating well is essential. This book will give both the neophyte cook and the most experienced chef the confidence necessary to transgress culinary traditions and forge new paths by trying out wine and food pairings that seem unlikely at first glance.

Editorial Reviews

"An essential work for all those who love wine and the pleasures of the table in general."
— Dr. Richard Béliveau, bestselling author of Foods that Fight Cancer

"Let yourself be swept up by this magnificent book. . . . [This is] the first step into a new world that is now open wide in all its splendour to those who love gastronomy."
— Juli Soler and Ferran Adrià, elBulli restaurant

"If Catalan superchef Ferran Adrià is the leading missionary of molecular gastronomy, Mr. Chartier is his counterpart with a corkscrew."
— Globe and Mail