French book on flavor pairing of food and wine


The Canadian sommerlier Franí§ois Chartier (he has an extensive website featuring several blogs, including a section named Sommellerie moléculaire) is out with a new book on food and wine pairing. It’s not just another (superfluous) book on the subject. As the title Papilles et molécules (= Tastebuds and Molecules, unfortunately not available in English) suggests there is some science involved. It turns out in fact that he has applied the principles of flavor pairing to food and wine. With help from Richard Béliveau from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Martin Loignon from PerkinElmer he has analyzed wines and food and comes up with the following suggestions for lamb, as described in the article “Chemistry-set wine pairing”:

Having roast lamb? Don’t waste it on an ill-advised red Bordeaux, the old standby trotted out by generations of sommeliers. Lamb’s characteristic flavour comes from thymol, an aromatic compound found in the oil of, yes, thyme. It’s also a flavour note associated with red wines from the southern Languedoc region of France, such as Minervois, Corbií¨res or St. Chinian.

Other combinations mentioned in the article include:

rosemary – white wines from northern Alsace
pork – oaked red wines
curries – viognier
cinnamon – pinot noir, grenache, ice cider, oloroso sherry

Franí§ois Chartier also introduces “bridge ingredients”. Mint, which goes well with sauvignon blanc, shares aroma compounds with parsley, fennel and tarragon. Based on this he theorizes that sauvignon blanc should also pair well with dishes based on these ingredients.

As far as I can see (with my very limited high school French) there are no links or references to all the other activities in the field: Heston Blumenthal’s pioneering of the concept together with Franí§ois Benzi from Firmenich, the Food pairing website – not even to the TGRWT food blogging event 🙂 Nevertheless it’s nice to see that the concept has now been applied to food and wine as well. As I don’t own the book yet I can’t tell whether Franí§ois Chartier includes odor activity values in his discussion or not (but I certainly hope he does!).

Update: The book is now available in English as Taste Buds and Molecules: The Art and Science of Food With Wine.


  1. Hi Martin,

    Not to split hairs but I believe the title of this article should read “Canadian book on flavor pairing of food and wine” or “French-language book on flavor pairing of food and wine”. As you clarify in the first sentence, this book comes from a Canadian author and publisher, and I think the title needs clarification too.

    As a collector of French cookbooks, I am often offered book written in the French language but not about French food or its preparation. It’s amazing how hostile some of these sellers can become when told that just because a book is written in the French language, does not make it a French cookbook.

  2. Good to see you’re back again. Are you aware of any development on whether flavour pairing really has something to it; scientific publications etc. As principle it is by many considered somewhat dubious, right? Playing on differences/contrasts might be seen as a contrast to pairing based on similarities. As a concept for experimenting it is of course great fun 🙂

    BTW, will you take up TGRWT? Looking forward to try out our new kitchen soon to be finished (hopefully…)

  3. No – the topic has never been treated scientifically – and I doubt that it will be. It’s simply a way of pointing at two foods and saying “Hey, those two foods have a couple of impact odorants in common – who would have thought?!! I think I’ll try to cook something that combines them”.

    Yes – there will be a TGRWT round in August – the announcement post will appear very soon and the host for the next round is Aiden Brooks.

  4. I’ve bought the book and started reading it (I was in Montreal last week) and will report back as my reading progresses. I will make the following comments:

    – The format is annoying (think Wired in its heyday) and the style very much Name Dropping; however there is enough content to satisfy anybody’s curiosity.

    – It is not a book based on first principles, more of a series of pairings: it opens the door for several books which, in the end, will produce a comprehensive ‘matching table’. A bit frustrating if you are more of a deductive than an inductive learner…

    – I am not yet clear how he handles ‘contrasty foods’ which point to different wines: for instance lamb/tymol but in Britain (where I live) legs of lamb are usually cooked with large quantities of rosemary (another wine pairing).

    – I am not bothered by the fact that he is a French Canadian sommelier: he is very well read and travelled so no New World bias as far as I can tell. Two things to bear in mind about his potential food bias: Québecois tend to have a much sweeter tooth than most Europeans; and New World food tends to throw in too many ingredients together; for instance a typical sandwich will have 6 or 7 components: too messy for my taste buds!

    More to come…

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