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Alain Senderens: Pairing food and wine

Conversations with Alain Senderens, one of France’s greatest chefs

In this episode: Pairing food and wine

This is a video series in six parts:

The series is based on short videos that I recorded when I met Senderens at his restaurant.

The conversations are in French but you can choose your language in the YouTube videos:

  1. Turn on “closed captions” by clicking on the CC icon in the lower right-hand corner
  2. Select your preferred language by clicking the cogwheel icon and selecting the Subtitles/CC language (NB: you have to do it in this order)

You can also read the article about Alain Senderens that was the result of this meeting. It was originally published in a different version in Chef Magazine, now published in a more complete version on Forbes and an extended version on Alain Senderens on BKWine Magazine.

The text introductions below are just that, introductions to what you can find on the videos. It is obviously not complete transcriptions.

Pairing food and wine

Table setting at Restaurant Alain Senderens

Table setting at Restaurant Alain Senderens, copyright BKWine Photography, this image may NOT be used elsewhere

Wine and food pairing, it’s like a meeting between a man and a woman

The food and the wine are like a man and a woman. The food is also like a painting, it is the complementary colors that make all the interest of the painting. To serve food without there being a wine that can be paired with, is, after all, without interest.

Pioneer in combining cheese and wine

Following the meeting with Jacques Puisais (see another video), Alain Senderens started working together with Puisais on the marriage between food and wine. They started working with vegetables and wine. Then they worked on cheese and wine. Following this Senderens introduced on his menu a dish with a selection of three cheeses and three glasses of different wines, all white wines. This was poorly received in the gastronomic press.

Pairing wine and food is about “making the wine happy”

What is important is to make the wine happy!

Creating a menu with a selection of wines is an intellectual exercise for Alain Senderens, but also the influence of the mind over matter. For example, how to marry a red wine, made with merlot – a Bordeaux Saint Emilion for example – with a dessert?

A mignardise at Restaurant Alain Senderens

A mignardise at Restaurant Alain Senderens, copyright BKWine Photography, this image may NOT be used elsewhere

A starter created around foie gras, but sprinkled with liquorice, an unexpected combination that works with red wine.

Combination of food and wine can be vitally supported by small additions: licorice, saffron, mushroom,…

The story of a dinner at Château d’Yquem with 100% Yquem at the meal. With salty dishes it can be very interesting, as there is such complexity in some great sweet wines.

The basic principles of wine and food paring or matching

The few rules Alain Senderens has on how to combine and pair the food and the wine. The best wine-and-food parings are textural pairings. There are also seasons for the wines. But you must always be very malleable.


Conversations with Alain Senderens, one of the greatest chefs in France. Throughout his career Senderens was a pioneer in French cuisine and especially for the pairing of food and wine. He was one of the first (maybe the first?) to propose a “wine menu” with a different wine to each dish. It was Senderens who gave wine the place it deserved at the table. He also jostled and shocked the gastronomic establishment of France when, in 2005, he “returned” his three Michelin stars to make French haute cuisine more democratic. His restaurant, that carried his name “Alain Senderens” on Place de la Madeleine, nevertheless remained one of the best restaurants in France, but with less luxury. He was also one of the great modernizers of the gastronomy and restaurant business in France, one of the founders of the nouvelle cuisine, and much more.

Alain Senderens died on June 25, 2017. The conversations were recorded on November 10, 2011 at the restaurant Alain Senderens on the Place de la Madeleine in Paris.

This post is also available in: Swedish

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