Mon 14 Oct 2013

Inside The Sommelier’s Kitbag

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Due to my husband’s job, I’m lucky enough to be able to eat out relatively regularly and to learn from sommeliers.

Alsace wines are remarkably versatile with food

Alsace wines are remarkably versatile with food

Sommeliers put up with working horrible hours and dealing with snotty customers because they are passionate about wine and I’ve generally found them to be enthusiastic teachers if you show a little interest.

Sometimes you can’t beat the classic wine and food combinations, of course, but I’ve found the reassurance of a sommelier’s recommendation a great way to push me out of my comfort zone. A bit like The Wine Society’s Promise, if you don’t like their recommendation they will find you something else that will suit, so you really have nothing to lose.

Being a bit sad, my husband and I often play the ‘guess the wine match’ game with the more esoteric dishes and time after time, when chefs throw the sommeliers a curveball of a dish it is the wines from Alsace to which they turn.

We’ve had an elegant starter of salsify served with a savoury coffee and cardamom set cream, paired beautifully with a very slightly off-dry pinot blanc with a subtle touch of oak.

Eating at London’s Duck and Waffle, we were duty bound to try their eponymous all-day brunch signature dish, bequeathed from its Miami sister restaurant: a waffle topped with duck confit, a fried duck egg and lashings of mustard and maple sauce. When trying to think of a wine that could cope this somewhat overwhelming combination, we were flummoxed. The sommelier recommended Alsace pinot gris and frankly we thought he was nuts (‘white wine and duck?!’) Needless to say we were wrong.

An off-dry gewurztraminer also saved the day at our recent chocolate workshop (of which more on this blog shortly) to work with white chocolate and even Bounty bars.

As an aside, we’ve enjoyed using sommeliers’ expertise to learn about sake which I think I would have been far too nervous to navigate alone. A light and delicately styled sake served chilled is a wonderful accompaniment to the increasingly popular cerviche dishes and a more full-bodied style, lightly warmed, can work with rare beef and wasabi.

If generally you find yourself always ordering the same old bottle, why not give the sommelier a go?

Louisa Peskett
Senior Merchandiser & Food Buyer

When trying out food and wine matches at home, remember that help is at hand in the form of The Society’s interactive Food & Wine Matcher.

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