The Perfect Pair

by Abigail

Valentine’s Day is all about spending time with your special someone. We notarize the idea of splurging our significant others with chocolates, flowers, wine, and cheese, and stress ourselves out to make sure Valentine’s Day is the most romantic day of the year. I think this is fully bogus, to be completely honest. We lose the magic, we pressure ourselves as well as our spouses and aggravate our credit card for some commercialized ideal. Instead, why don’t we just take a step back, relax and just enjoy ourselves?

This tasting was created to show how to pair wines with food, to allow you to make a special pairing at home, to bring the romance back into date night.

How to Pair Wine with Food
I always look at pairing as if I was creating a meal; what flavours would work together, and what components do I need to balance out the dish?
When it comes to creating the perfect pair, we look at the elements of the dish vs the elements of the wine. Here is a basic guide of what to look for:

  • SweetnessThe general rule is to have a higher level of sweetness in the wine than in the food. Sweetness in food increases the perception of bitterness, astringency, acidity, and alcohol whilst decreasing the perception of body, sweetness, and fruitiness in the wine.
  • AcidityAcidity is generally a good thing with a pairing, especially if you have a very high acidity wine where it brings everything into balance. But if you pair a somewhat acidic dish with a low acidity wine, the wine will show as flat, flabby and lifeless.
  • SaltSalt is GOOD! Just like cooking, salt helps enhance the flavour, and it also helps increase the perception of the body while decreasing the perception of acidity and astringency.
  • Heat/SpiceSpice isn’t great for wine. It increases the acidity, bitterness, astringency and creates more of a burning sensation from the alcohol. Having a wine with lower alcohol levels and a touch of sweetness will be best for anything with a punch of heat.
  • Bitterness – Bitterness in food will increase the perceived bitterness in the wine you are having as well. This part is subjective. If you’re one of those people that drinks your coffee black, you’ll probably love it. If you’re a person that loves their coffee with all the additions, maybe skip it.
  • UmamiTreat similar to bitterness. Umami basically brings out the worst in wine and will increase the bitterness in most wines. Trick to use when pairing umami-rich foods with wine? Add salt! Salt helps enhance the wine and somewhat counteracts the effects of umami.

Ok, so there you have it! These notes will help you pair anything with everything. But if you’re still in a pickle about what to pick, just shoot me an email! (abigail@kensingtonwinemarket.com)

Rimarts Natura (24) with Assorted Fish Rillette & Crackers

Cava and other traditional method sparkling wines (such as Champagne & Cremant) are always fun to pair. For this particular tasting, I really wanted to test the love in the room and start off with something oily, fatty and fishy. I personally am a huge fan of sardines, and occasionally love to pair them with Cava. With the nature of the tasting, it would be ill-advised to serve just sardines, and then Crystal recommended the Salmon, Scallop & Sardine rillettes that are sold at Peasant Cheese. Bingo. This Pairing was born.

The Rimarts Natura is a dry style of cava with zero dosage.* It’s bright, refreshing and complex, and a perfect wine to pair with oilier dishes.
Even though this pairing wasn’t necessarily the favourite pair of the evening, it was impressive to see the room change from the hesitation for the fish rillettes, to pure joy. They wiped the plates clean in only a few minutes!

Rottensteiner Sauvignon Blanc with Pink Lady Fennel Flatbread with Chevre & Fennel Pollen
This pairing was another play with acidity, but instead of just relying on a fattier dish, I decided to match the acidity with some crisp apples and fresh fennel. It was also a fun pairing because the wine has subtle hints of fennel, and it’s always interesting to pair wine & food based on a similar taste.

The Rottensteiner Sauvignon is a beautiful example of high elevation Sauvignon Blanc from Alto-Adige in Northern Italy. It’s fresh, zesty and has a beautiful mouthfeel. One of the top pairings for the evening!

Walter Hansel Pinot Noir Rose with Chocolate Covered Strawberries Bites
Going into the tasting, this wine was causing me a touch of anxiety. Normally with sweetness, you want to match it. This wine was definitely not going to match the sweetness of the strawberry bites. It’s a bigger, bolder style of rose and it was going to be interesting. This was a pairing that really tested the note of “pair to match flavours”. The wine was strawberry-forward, so in theory, it might work? Well, it did, and it was the second favourite pairing of the evening!

Walter Hansel Rose of Pinot Noir is a fuller, bolder rose with summer berries and spice. A true Russian River style!

Nugues Fleurie with Mushrooms on Toast
Gamay Noir + Mushrooms = Heaven. What makes mushrooms better? Putting them on toast. Not a surprise that this was the favourite pairing of the evening!

This second-generation, family-owned vineyard shows wonderful expressions of Beaujolais terroir. Handpicked from over 45-year-old vines and produced using Semi-carbonic fermentation called Beaujolaise with temperature regulation, about 30% of the assembly in cold prefermentary maceration; first filling before malo-lactic fermentation. Aged in tank for 7 months and then bottle for another 18.

With a Deep ruby colour, aromas of red and black fruits and spicy with a beautiful length and fine and persistent tannins this is a wine to enjoy. Pairs perfectly with grilled chicken, red meat, or Filet Mignon.

Mas Blanch et Jove Sao Expressiu with Halloumi, Olive, Lemon skewers
Pairing something as big and bold like the Sao Expressiu with lemon is not something I thought I would ever do. It’s a contradiction of flavours that normally would work, but tonight it did. The salty notes of the halloumi and olive allowed for the bright, tangy notes of the lemon to brighten up the wine. Even though it changed the wine completely, it showed some of the more nuanced notes of the wine, instead of the juicy fruit, tobacco and leather. This pairing was a curveball, and it divided the room into the lovers and the haters. A very fun experiment!

Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Cabernet Sauvignon with Steak Bites

Oh Cabernet and steak, the perfect pair!

I have to admit that previously I was not a fan of this traditional pairing, just because it had been done so many times before. I am one of those people that need something refreshing on the palate, so pairing BIG WITH BIG doesn’t cut it for me. But Crystal really stepped up her game and presented us with beautiful steak bits that were covered with chimichurri. The Chimichurri brighten up the steak so it was fresh and vibrant. And then to pair with a cooler climate Australian Cabernet allowed for the palate to have refinement and balance. This pair was fresh, yet bold, and it has made me rethink my ideas around steak and Cabernet Sauvignon.

I have to say a MASSIVE THANK YOU to Crystal at Peasant Cheese. Without her, this tasting wouldn’t have happened. Her amazing ideas and beautiful execution pushed the tasting to the next level!

Thank you to everyone who attended this evening!

- Abigail
abigail@kensingtonwinemarket.com

*In bottle-fermented sparkling wines, a small amount of wine (usually mixed with sugar) that is added back to the bottle once the yeast sediment that collects in the neck of the bottle is disgorged. Also known as liqueur d’expedition.

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