Opinions of experts

Opinions of experts

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Drinking alcohol without food is simply harmful and socially unacceptable

Traditionally, wine is considered to perfectly match fine cuisine dishes in Russia. Cognac is more often consumed as a digestive. The KiN Group is striving to expand the opinion of cognac connoisseurs for their favorite drink by unveiling another cognac terra incognita - Gastronomy, which was unveiled in Europe long ago. We asked the President of the Independent Wine Club, Vice-President of the Restaurateur and Hotelier Federation of Russia, Vladimir Tsapelik, whose very apropos have dropped into the Museum of the Cognac History, about the delicate art of combining dishes and drinks.

- You are a wine critic and a journalist, Vladimir, and what is your attitude towards alcohol?

- Many now say that ethyl alcohol is a poison. Nevertheless, even poison, as medieval doctor Paracelsus maintained, can be of an obvious benefit in small amounts.  Based on the results of much research, modern western scientists have proven that natural grape wines can prevent a number of dangerous diseases, including heart disease. Similar useful substances have also been found in cognac. For example, there are tanning agents which, in moderate doses, are very beneficial for one’s health. Even the national Russian drink, vodka, can significantly relax a man who has been stressed by a heavy workload and provide very pleasant gastronomic sensations during dinner. The main problem in our country is the lack of cultural and administrative barriers for the immoderate consumption of alcohol. I see the solution to this problem as the strict relation of high-quality alcoholic drink consumption to food intake. We need to instill in our citizens’ minds that only small doses of tasty drinks, consumed with the corresponding foods, can be pleasant and serve for health improvement. But the crapulence which was advocated by our films and television in the 90s seems outrageous and unacceptable to me.

- What can you recommend to cognac amateurs in terms of gastronomy?

- I believe it is important to convince our citizens that drinking alcohol without food is simply harmful and socially unacceptable. I completely understand which foods can be recommended for the different wine styles. But the compatibility of cognacs and meals has not very much explored. Experimenting needs to take place and practice will suggest a good pair. But for now I can say that light, young cognacs can be pleasant aperitifs before a big meal. They may also become an integral part of tasty, low alcohol cocktails, which can be used before a meal, as well. The oldest cognacs with long ageing in oak barrels are better as digestives. At the end of a meal, drinks in small quantities can not only bring about aesthetic pleasure, but can also improve digestion. These hints can be brought to the attention of citizens through social advertising. Not only alcohol producers must pay for it, but also the government, being interested in its citizens’ health.

- Is there a «safe» direction where it is possible to experiment?

- I would advise that cognacs be tried with different dishes of meat, game, vegetables, fruit, with desserts, etc. We know that each person’s taste is unique and surprisingly pleasant combinations, which are not even mentioned in special literature, can be found. It is important to remember that the taste of food should not be lost in the background of a cognac and, at the same time, should not spoil it. It is possible to make combinations according to the principle of «like vs. like», but you can also take the road of contrasts to create a new taste from the combination. For example, the intensive and unique taste of duck or lamb can be a good complement to the taste of a quite young, but not too rough cognac, while the fine and neutral taste of delicate white fish cannot withstand such a test. In Europe it is common to serve meat (especially lamb and game), fruit (grapes, apples), dried fruit (raisins, prunes), chocolate, coffee and desserts with cognac. The combination of cognac and lemon is unacceptable, but in our country many people have enjoyed it, thanks to Nicholas II, the last Russian emperor. I, for example, feel like experimenting with combinations of various cognac styles with cheeses from around the world, but first off with the French ones and with the Russian ones from the Caucasus.

I like that KiN has already begun to work on the combination of cognac and fine cuisine dishes. At the company's website (www.kingroup.ru) you can find various attractive recipes that accompany good cognac, such as rabbit pate, duck in cognac, goose with apples, beef fillet in a creamy cognac sauce, turkey breast with raisins, pork chops with grapes, etc. I managed to find a successful combination which I'd like to share with the readers. In my opinion, it is worth trying small sips of Stary Gorod 8-year-old brandy with fresh pineapple slices and dried Brazilian sausage.
It needs to be instilled in our citizens’ minds that only small doses of tasty drinks, consumed with the corresponding foods, can be pleasant and serve for health improvement.

The website of the independent wine club is www.winepages.ru.

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