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Breaking the Rules of Pairings: A Tuscan Luncheon

James Suckling

Lesson time 15:41 min

For James, breaking the rules when experimenting with wine pairing is essential to the dining experience. Learn how to pair unconventional foods and wines to bring out new and highly creative flavor combinations.

James Suckling
Teaches Wine Appreciation
Flavor, aroma, and structure—Learn from wine master James Suckling as he teaches you to appreciate the stories in every bottle.
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I wanted to invite you to experience a meal with me and my family, and this is what it's all about. Wine, food, friends, the experience. And I have a special philosophy about food and wine pairing. Sure, I like the classics. Smoked salmon with chardonnay, chicken with pinot noir, meat with bold Cabernet. Those are all normal. But I like to be a little bit more dynamic, more family, more experiential, where you get a bunch of bottles, you put it on the table. You bring different dishes, different sensations in the plate. That's a much more dynamic way of food and wine pairing. And we're going to have some cool combinations today, and you can see. Whoa, that kimchi pancake. Hello, that's awesome, Marie. You'll have to have champagne when I'm cooking. It's a celebration when you're in the kitchen, and then, later, serving to your friends, and just having a great time. And champagne works with everything. That's my rule. Maybe not steaks and wild game or something. But it's an awesome drink. And I also really like it with smoked salmon and smoke fishes, too. This fish looks beautiful, Marie. MARIE KIM SUCKLING: Yeah, it's perfect. JAMES SUCKLING: One thing that I think we always get worried about is fish, in fact. And people think red wine with fish is a no-no. Think about red wines that act like a white wine, where it has fresh acidity, low tannins, fruitiness, fine, dry. That means pinot noir, sirrah, gamay. Don't use the big blockbuster wines with tannins and lots of fruit and alcohol. I chose a piano grigio from Alto Adige. That's in Northeastern Italy. I took the capsule off like this. I don't even have to cut it. So one thing I always notice is a lot of people make the mistake of not using excellent quality wants to cook with. Let's see how it is. Also, taste the wine before you put it on the fish. Maybe it's corked or it hasn't been stored properly. Oh, it's delicious. My fish is going to like that one. Today, I tried to pick wines-- both red and white-- that wouldn't be fighting against one another. The wines are all in balance. They're not too fruity, not too alcoholic. They're refined, fresh, and clean. And everything can be served at the same time. So we're going to have various glasses, and I want people to try different wines at the same time. I think that's really fun. We do it all the time in Asia, and I think that everyone should be doing it. I'm really interested to be tasting a white wine from Lamberto. Hey, Jack. JACK SUCKLING: What's going on in the kitchen, then? JAMES SUCKLING: Well, you can see we have some fun dishes today for lunch. We have the kimchi pancake. And then I'm doing a really nice, light pasta with butter and fresh sage from the garden. - Simple, but sweet. [MUSIC PLAYING] - Here's the pasta. - Wow. - I hope you like it. It was made from sage from the garden, some of your olive oil. Yes, thank you. - Certo. JACK SUCKLING: So the first wine tha...

Discover the story in every bottle

Called one of the “world’s most powerful wine critics,” James Suckling has tasted more than 200,000 wines over the past 40 years. In his wine tasting MasterClass, James tours legendary Tuscan vineyards and teaches you to explore the stories, history, and people behind every bottle. Deepen your knowledge of the properties in each sip, cultivate your passion, and choose, order, and pair wines with confidence.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I love italy, I love wine, and I love cooking good food. Now I appreciate all these more from this class. Grazie!

Really fun. Great presentation style. Fun guests. Just all around worth every minute. Love the workbook too.

I enjoyed his realistic approach to wine, and his ability to paint the big picture. Enjoy wine with friends & family and use wine to have conversation and build tradition.

That there kinda aren't any rules with wine and food. Just make sure it's quality.


Cyndi P.

I was lucky enough to travel Tuscany in 2008 and visited Brunello. Great class....I'm looking on line for places to purchase Brunello, thanks for the memories!

Tony M.

Overall I enjoyed the videos but it felt more like a documentary on what he likes and taking tours of locations. But I don't feel like I learned a lot. I would have preferred a lesson on the different regions and which years produced the best wines. He covered this a little in the wine list chapter, but not enough. More explanations of the the varieties would have been great; explaining the different characteristics of the types of grapes. Again, he talked about this a little for the wines he was actually tasting, but almost as an aside.

Craig B.

We are supposed to be coming to Tuscany this September (2020), but understandably the COVID-19 virus is changing everybody’s lives and plans. Watching this lesson makes me want to come there even more. Even if we don’t get to come there this year, we will definitely try again. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Viva l’Italia!

A fellow student

Really great class, James. Can't wait to annoy my friends and family at the dinner table with wine talk.

Alexandra L.

James Suckling seems so down to earth! One usually has the perception of wine critics as stuck up connoisseurs, but he really is just a fanatic of combining wine and food to create delicious flavours.

J. D.

This is the kind of food and wine gatherings I have with friends and I wish I could do it more but in the United States we live the fast paced lifestyle.

A fellow student

Italy has that slow eating with friends.. its so special. The mixing of wines is such a nice idea.


What a beautiful moment of cibo, vino, famiglia e amici. So poignant, I wept. I was so taken by Mr. Suckling's open invitation to allow freedom of creative innovation with the wine selections in relation to the luscious delight of the cuisines, so characteristic of a particular country, or region. Bellissimo!

julie G.

I am surprise they don’t talk about the ingredients that accompany the fish. Grilled vegetables, namely the red pepper will make the fish more «pallettable » with red wines, it seems to me. Especially super Tuscans. I guess it is personal...but great episode. Great guests

Alan M.

I love the casualness of this episode, not pretentious in the least! I made some notes and I'm planning on having a party with some of James' wine selections. If you're in the Sacramento region, let's meet up!