Wine is no longer a drink reserved for fancy evenings and filet mignon dinners. In 2017, wine is fun, casual and cool. And, at this year’s 2017 StarChefs International Chef Congress (ICC) in NYC, eleven sommeliers from around the country participated in the 8th Annual Somm Slam, in which they went head-to-head with their best food and drink pairings. While the competition was tense, the winner was Brian Grandison of Hakkasan and Fontainebleau in Miami. To learn how to become master sommeliers ourselves, Symrise sat him down and asked him how he approaches a wine store, how to pair his food and wine and the biggest wine-related mistakes that people are making.

CLICK HERE to read the top 7 trends for 2018 from the StarChefs ICC

Say you know nothing about wine. When you walk into a wine store, how do you know what to buy?

Your best bet is to take 5 to 10 minutes online and research the wine shop you go into. Talk to the staff and let them know some basic preferences (light, medium, heavy, fruity or non-fruit flavors), including price. The more you taste and give feedback, the more those people can really hone in your flavor profile and make some great on point recommendations.

What do you think is the biggest mistake that people make when buying a bottle of wine?

Don’t judge a book by its cover, so why would you do that with your wine? It’s a proven fact that a large percentage of us buy wine by the power of the all mighty marketing based on the label. I can’t reinforce enough the power of finding a wine person you trust to make recommendations, and if they recommended something you didn’t like don’t be afraid to say so!

A scenario: You want to have a few friends over for a casual night of wine and snacks. What are some junkier foods you like to pair with certain wines?

With junk food and wine you can’t go wrong with a bottle of sparking — doesn’t need to be fancy. I recommend Cool Ranch Doritos and a Cremant de Loire. Any salted meats with a cheese platter and a bottle of Cru Beaujolais or Chianti Classico from Tuscany are my go-to's. One of my favorite pairings is actually lightly salted popcorn with a bottle of either village level or premier cru Chassagne-Montrachet.

CLICK HERE to read about the 2017 Symrise StarChefs Roundtable Discussion on Innovation

What are are some of the biggest trends you're seeing right now in the world of wine?

Rosé! Whether it’s White Girl Rosé, “brosé” or “frosé,” this category is blowing up. Also, although other wine containers have been around for awhile, I am seeing more cans, kegs and boxes of wines being marketed to reach a larger audience.

What types of wines (/grapes) do you think are underrated? And overrated?

Chenin Blanc and Gamay Noir are delicious grapes that really don’t get the credit they deserve. Both are great either by themselves or with food — the trend just hasn’t hit yet. Bad, watered-down Pinot Grigio and high-yielding Malbec are both in my opinion overrated.

If you could have one glass of wine with one food, what would those be?

A pairing that I enjoy is a split pea soup made with salty bacon (bacon fat included) with a German Kabinett Mosel Riesling. The acid cuts through the bacon fat while the saltiness of the bacon pieces are offset with the ever-so-slight sweetness of the wine.

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