Choose the perfect wine and food pairing and you’ll be swiping right like a Tinder superstar, says Mike Bennie.
Mike Bennie on the alchemy of a perfect food and wine pairing.
WINE AND FOOD
matching is by no means an exact art. Sommeliers are wine waiters (and much more) with the job of synchronising things on plates with things in glasses. That sort of demeans the task of ascertaining what a diner wants, what a diner likes, what a diner is eating and whether the pairing will work.
For award-winning sommelier Caitlyn Rees, from Fred’s in Sydney, “my approach is to choose a wine or beverage that will neither overshadow nor be overshadowed by the dish. The two should complement each other. I feel like it works when you keep going back to the wine, then the food, then back again because the combination is more enjoyable.”
With that thinking, classic matches see riesling or semillon paired with oysters, where the tart, tangy whites work like a final squeeze of lemon juice with a wealth of seafood. And lamb seems to find great syncopation with cabernet sauvignon and cabernet blends. For duck, it’s pinot noir.
Pairing a country or region’s cuisine with a wine or drink of that place can also be a decent pathway to successful food and drink matching. For example, some of Australia’s lesser-known grape varieties of Italian origin seem to be kindred with red sauce Italian pasta dishes and pizza.
However, it’s not always so cut and dried. Matt Swieboda of Sydney wine bars Love, Tilly Devine and Dear Sainte Eloise takes a different perspective: bottle first, dish second. “Wine is the main attraction, so we design our menu to work well with a range of wine styles. This is made easier by most of the wines sharing common themes of low alcohol, high acid and savoury flavours.” It’s a different approach, but rules are made to be broken.
Indeed, I say enjoy your own adventures in food and wine, and though cohesion between glass and plate can make or break a meal, in the end, it’s up to personal taste. It’s why I drink big-flavoured chardonnay with my steak, at times.