Do you think wine and food pairing is difficult or easy? I heard majority of people follow classic rules such as white for fish, red for meat. Well, it is not bad, but unfortunately it sometimes does not work well at all. How can we make a decision satisfactory for paring? At the beginning you have to choose either wine or food. When you go to restaurant most of time, I think you decide food first then consider wine. If wine list is supper excellent, then I would choose wine first and consider food. Today I will explain the way that wine is paired with food instead of food is paired with wine.
Last week, I and trade friends had casual blind tasting dinner at one of fashionable private kitchen. We had already known menu which was very creative and it was bit tricky to pair with wines because all dishes were contemporary Chinese. Good, it was bit challenging but quite interesting. I shared menu that night.
1. The vibrant colour of mango, passion fruit, avocado
with the crunchy sound of top grade Zhou Shang salted jelly fish,
marinated with Japanese sea weed salt and sesame oil.
2. Salamander broiled pacific salmon, pairing with puff pastry.
Topped with stem lettuce and preserved plum paste. Sesame oil mayonnaise on the side
3. Salt Cured and Slow-Cooked Pork Belly with Garlic Confit Puree
4. Pan seared prawn, paring with Italian gnocchi and tofu puffs. Chinese shrimp paste and fish broth sauce.
5. Slow braised Australian wagyu beef cheek with Shanghainese vegetable rice
6. Steam osmanthus cake, topped with melted marshmallow and fermented sticky rice
Such a creative, isn’t it? When I saw menu, honestly it took a bit time to understand. When one of my friend organised wine tasting dinner here, he also struggled to understand menu. Well I fully agreed with him. Well, our blind tasting theme was “Choose a wine to pair with dishes”, so we had set wine A for dish #1 and #2, wine B for dish #3 and #4, and wine C for dish #5. I chose wine B. Dish#3 is meat then dish #4 is seafood. Hahaha, challenging, isn’t it? What would you do?
My theory for pairing is to judge the body weight of food firstly, which means how you would feel on mouth like heavy or light. Let’s analyse menu? For #3, main ingredient is pork belly and sauce is garlic puree. How is method of cooking? It is slow cooked and pork belly is salt cured before cooking. Pork belly is basically bit heavy and contains some fat which give you some sweetness. Garlic puree would be medium body yet it has also sweetness. Sweetness of garlic puree and pork belly plus saltiness of cured meat would give probably mild flavour. Above those reason, dish would be medium~medium+ body. How about #4? Main ingredients are prawn, gnocchi and tofu, and body weight of there of them is light to medium, but it’s just different texture. Oh dear, Chinese shrimp paste and fish broth sauce, it expects strong flavour. Shrimp paste has strong shrimp flavour and saltiness, so sauce is definitely bit heavy and flavourful. However main ingredients are not heavy, over all the body of this dish would be medium ~ medium +.
Now we know both body weight of food. Let’s apply wines? It is very important to choose similar body weight of both food and wine to balance.But I have to remind you that it does not mean medium bodied food must go medium bodied wine. You need some adjustments. Do you think medium bodied white are as same as medium bodied red in terms of body on palate? Absolutely no. Full bodied white is heavier than light red, but medium+ white can be balanced as same as light red. Dish #3 and #4 are medium bodied, but for wines, medium ~ medium + white or light red suits. Actually I chose a light red, Japanese sangiovese. You must be surprised because in theory sangiovese is tannic and masculine wine, so it can be unbalanced. Well, yes that’s right. However Japanese sangiovese is not tannic and quite soft yet some savoury aftertaste, plus Japanese red wine does not contains iron flavours and strong tannin, so that you do not have unpleasant fishy flavour on palate. When we tasted together in restaurant, in fact it was such a excellent match.
All wines were fabulously matched with dishes. Here is wines below ;
Wine A : Clemens Bosch, Marienburg Fahrlay, Terrassen GG 2014, Mosel, Germany
Wine B : St. Cousair Sangiovese, Nagano, Japan
Wine C : Domaine Sylvain Cathiard, Vosne-Romanee 2002, France
Dessert wine : Millineux Straw wine 2015, Swartland, South Africa
Please bear in mind that you the body of wine and food must be always same level on palate when you consider the pairing. It is basic principle. Sometime you would like to have fish with red or meat with white. You do not need to stick with old method, so you can apply this theory. You can have more choice to choose wines, but you also need guts to try something new for you.
FA ZU Jie
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