Benevolent Neglect was founded by 2 incredible winemakers in Ben Brenner and Matt Nagy. Matt was responsible for 11 x 100 point wines at Maybach, while Ben worked at Rutherford Wine Co. Their ethos is ‘minimal intervention’ - they don’t over-oak their wines, or add anything that they don’t need to. What results from this method, coupled with their experience and location, is incredibly food friendly wines, loved by sommeliers and restaurants.
What is a ‘food friendly wine’
There are 3 predominant ways in which a wine will interact with food - 1. they’ll either both taste worse alongside each other (think smoked salmon and red Bordeaux). 2. They’ll be fine, but neither will get significantly better, or change dramatically. 3. Both get better and improve together. Food friendly wines effectively fall into category 3 with many dishes. But what makes them so good in this respect? There are 2 main influences.
Acidity is pretty vital in all wine, it’s what makes it moreish and very drinkable, but there are a few different types of acid you find in wine, which all have different effects - Tartaric, Malic, Lactic, and Citric. As a great example, milk and lemon juice are both highly acidic, but milk is creamy (lactic) whereas lemon juice is sour (citric). As a generalisation, wines with higher acidity tend to work more profoundly with food, while the way in which they interact is determined by the acid type. Think of a high acid wine seasoning a piece of fish the same way a slice of lemon would.
While wine is often considered ‘dry’, there can be a level of ‘residual sugar’ in a wine, perhaps only 1 or 2 grams per litre, but even at that level it can have a huge effect on how the wine and food interact. Champagne, as an example, often has between 6 - 12 grams/litre, which is a lot. The thing is, sugar is hugely dominant, whether in the food, or the wine. Take a glass of orange cordial or a glass of coke with dinner and it will reduce the flavour and deliciousness of your food significantly. But at the same time, a lot of food has natural or added sweetness (tomatoes or onions for example are full of sweetness). Profound food and wine matches occur when the sweetness in the food and wine balance. Food friendly wines often have a small amount of residual sugar.
When you taste this wine it becomes clear why you find it wine on so many great restaurant wine lists. It ticks so many ‘food friendly’ boxes. Wonderous counterpoint between a little residual sugar and tangy acidity, highly energetic citrus fruit descends into tropical richness. It has remarkable tension, weight, palate development and balance. Drink with ceviche or tuna tartar and it will likely blow your mind.