Please take a brief look at these six photographs and tell me what makes them surprisingly unusual?
1) from a Tagus Creek Video Clip presented by Charles Metcalfe
Got it? All of these are images that include both a recognisable plate of food and an identifiable bottle of wine. A year or so ago, I imagined that photographs like these would be commonplace, but as I began to look through food and drink magazines and a wide range of books in preparation of the McGuigan Recipe Collection, I discovered that they actually competed with hen's teeth in their rarity. Even The Great Wines Of Bordeaux With Recipes from the Top Chefs of the World, a book dedicated to pairing great dishes and wines only includes 14 such photographs out of the 88 in its pages. Italy, we are told, is a country where wine is almost always drunk with food; I've just leafed through the 98 pages of the 2012 Decanter Italian supplement and failed to find a single picture of a bottle and a plate.
How Italian producers like to advertise their wines...
The November 15, 2012 Wine Spectator - the issue that happened to be closest to hand - runs to 154 pages; the nearest to food-and-wine photography is a shot of Napa Cabernet with bowls of cherries and mint. Stated simply, an apartheid principle applies: there are photographs of food (possibly including glasses of wine) and photographs of bottles, probably including glasses. You are far more likely to see a vine or barrel in a wine advertisement than any kind of food - which seems a little odd when you come to think of the way most of the advertisers say they'd like to see their wine consumed. (To be fair, producers in Latin countries do sometimes move away from the vineyard/cellar model - usually in the direction of depicting raven-haired beauties holding the bottle in ways that exploit its phallic quality.)
There are three reasons why there is so little food photography that includes bottles of wine. First, there's the obvious fact that photographers would rather the wine wasn't there. Bottles bring in a vertical element that makes it much harder to compose a pleasing image. Second, there's the other obvious - and not unrelated - fact that magazine picture editors and book designers have rarely asked anyone to take photographs like these. But third, and most significantly, there's no denying that wine producers and distributors have shied away from them too. And that - for me - is the strange part. Do we really believe that barrels and vines are really better at making people want to buy and drink a bottle of wine than a plate of appetising food? If not, maybe wine producers and regions could consider encouraging better food-and-wine photography - possibly by sponsoring a competition or two.