Dining With A Difference
WINE IS THE PERFECT ACCOMPANIMENT TO ELEVATE ALMOST ANY DISH, FROM ANY CUISINE, AND FOR ANY MEAL, WHETHER IT BE ENTRÉE, MAIN OR DESSERT. YET WITH SO MANY DIFFERENT VARIETIES, IT CAN BE HARD TO KNOW WHICH WINES WORK WELL WITH WHICH FOOD. HERE, KIRRILY IRELAND CONSULTS ROBIN BROCKETT, CHIEF WINEMAKER AT SCOTCHMANS HILL, TO CREATE THIS INSPIRING WINE CONNOISSEUR’S GUIDE THAT EXPLORES THE ULTIMATE FOOD AND WINE PAIRINGS, SPEAKING TO COMPLEMENTARY FLAVOURS AND CLEVER COMBINATIONS.
There are fundamental rules when it comes to pairing different food with certain wines, and for good reason. A glass of your favourite wine, or a plate of your favourite food, are enjoyable on their own, but when consumed together, “both the food and wine should draw the flavours out of each other and enhance the experience”. Brockett affirms, “When in harmony, the combination of the two should be greater than the sum of the parts.”
The wine expert has a few clear, overarching rules. “I find the more delicate the food is, the more delicate the wine should be. A robust wine will overpower the food and vice versa. A robust wine needs to be matched with full-flavoured food. The bigger and richer the food, the more robust and flavoursome the wine needs to be. The food or the wine shouldn’t dominate the other, but instead [they should] complement each other.” You are always, of course, free to savour your go-to wine with each meal, but since one wine can’t possibly be a perfect match for every dish of the week, you may just be missing out on some flavours, hidden by an overpowering element in either your wine or food.
Wading through the many varieties can be a difficult enough task, even without the further burden of teaming it with your dinner, so if you find yourself struggling at home, a visit to a winery or restaurant with an in-house sommelier is an effective – and fun – way to do your research. “Because I have been doing this a long time, I tend to know which foods may go well with the particular wine style,” Brockett says. “I will usually take the wine home with me, look at it closely, consider flavour and texture and match the food accordingly. If it doesn’t quite work, I will try it again a few days later with something else.”
If you are game to try a bit of wine and food pairing at home, Wineries of Victoria Magazine has compiled all the important advice you need to get started.
WHEN FISH IS THE DISH
Most white meat, including fish and poultry, tends to be a lot lighter in texture and flavour, which would thus call for a lighter wine. “[For] lighter fish-flavoured dishes I would go with riesling, sauvignon blanc and pinot gris,” Brockett says. “These varieties with their acid and flavour enrich the food.” On the other hand, chardonnay or even a pinot noir is better suited for heavier fish dishes with creamy sauces. “They are more flavoursome and so can handle the richer flavours of the food.”
When it comes to chicken and other poultry, Brockett’s suggestions are fairly straightforward. “With poultry [I would drink] either chardonnay, rosé or if I want, a red pinot noir. Duck and pinot noir is a classic dish. Again, richer food requires fuller-flavoured wine.”
REDS STICK WITH REDS
If you’re serving up a hearty steak or a delicious lamb stew, a gorgeous red wine will never go astray. Akin to fish and poultry, the easiest way to pair wine with meat is to match the colour.
“Wines that are light and elegant tend to get swamped by heavier, richer foods. [This comes] down to their delicacy,” Brockett says. “Robust reds like cabernet or shiraz can compete with food and enhance the experience. Pinot noir can also go well with several heavier foods like lamb and venison. If you want to drink white wine, rich oak driven barrel fermented chardonnay tends to be best due to [its] richness.”
VEGGIES WITH VINO
Along with meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike can also enjoy a perfectly paired glass with a vegetable-centric dish. “In general, due to the subtleties of flavour, more elegant styles of wine go best with these foods,” the expert says. “Riesling and pinot gris work well. Also rosé, or if a bit richer in food profile, restrained chardonnay or pinot noir [work well].”
A DRINK WITH DESSERT
Indulging in a delicious glass of wine doesn’t have to end at dinner; after the savoury courses have finished, why not switch to a new variety to accompany your after-dinner sweet treat?
“Most desserts are sweet, so sweeter-style wines tend to work better,” Brockett advises. “Late harvest rieslings through to botrytis-styled wines [are a good option] … some fortified [varieties] like topaque or muscats can also be very good. The sweetness of the wines marries with the richness and sweetness of the dessert.”
Wine makes a fantastic accompaniment to smaller dishes and tasting plates, too. Since most platters involve a range of food, there is a bit more freedom with which wine you can have with them. Your wine choice can also help shape the flavours and types of food you include. “I would design a tasting plate with lighter, fresher flavours at the start to accompany lighter, more aromatic wines like white fish, oysters, fresh cheese, through to strong and flavoursome food for bigger richer wines with an emphasis on red meat and creamy flavours,” Brockett affirms.
No matter what the dish of the day is, choosing your wine carefully can make all the difference. Consulting a wine connoisseur and trialling a few combinations will put you on the pathway to enhanced dining experiences every day of the week.
Images courtesy of Scotchmans Hill