Matching dessert with wine ... A Levin Noble Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley sits hand-in-hand with a light, slightly tart dessert. Photo: Elesa Kurtz
Forget the monotony of searching for nightly dinner inspiration. Instead, take a peek into the high-end world of haute cuisine food-and-wine matching, featuring innovative pairings of dishes and vintages as imagined (and eaten) by chefs from Spain, South America and the United Kingdom.
Lemon curd, fig and sauvignon blanc
Try this pairing ... Vodka and oysters. Photo: Edwina Pickles
Follow the lead of an English chef known for his sustainable approach and use of seafood. But don't expect a more conventional choice of food and wine, such as langoustine and Champagne, or traditional seafood pie teamed with a glass of crowd-pleasing chablis. Instead, we venture into “pudding” territory with a delicate interpretation of English flavours that speaks of summer. To wit, an edible treat of lemon curd, ripe figs, raspberries and a touch of the floral-smoke that is Earl Grey. To sip alongside? A Levin Noble Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, its sweet aromas of honeysuckle and elderflower – subtly overlaid by a blush of apricot – sit hand-in-hand with the light, slightly tart dessert.
Vodka teamed with oysters
From one of Spain's Michelin-starred kitchens comes a flexible menu blending traditional flavours with a couple of eyebrow-raising new combinations. A fine El Maestro Sierra Fino sherry is a classic partner for sardines roasted over charcoal, while the flavour of the sea captured in marine-plankton rice is enlivened by the complex nut and spicy nuance of El Maestro Sierra Oloroso. A mid course of oysters diverts a little off course, but pleasantly so, as it is paired with a short glass of vodka with the kind of clean profile that allows the oyster's mineral palate to shine through. A sophisticated take on milk and biscuits – galletas con leche – introduces the rich intensity of a Toro Albala Cream Sherry.
Pairing trout with pinot noir
A Chilean chef with a deep understanding of his homeland's natural flavours pairs food and wine that diverts from the fish-and-white-wine rule. The smoked freshwater trout is matched with pickled clams, a little spicy radish, fragrant verbena and the sulphurous depth of wild onion. Bypassing a classy white grape, the sommelier instead chooses an Ar Fion pinot noir with enough depth of texture and acidic bite to complement the intense trout flavour, along with its slightly heavy texture.
What was once the last word in food and wine pairing – red meat and a full-bodied shiraz, white wine and seafood – has abated somewhat with the quest for experimentation. The key these days is not to so much the colour of a wine but matching a similar body or weight of the vino and the dish. Classic pairings can be duck and pinot or seafood and riesling – even a good drop of sparkling with some fragrant sushi. But it's OK to be adventurous, too: a chicken pie is fine with a viognier; roast venison sits wonderfully with a vintage port and it's not unheard of to celebrate that leg of lamb at the barbecue with a sparkling red.