What’s that they say about food and wine matching? A good pairing is like a good conversation? But get the right couple together and the more profound the discussion will be, and the more your palate will appreciate both the vino and vittles.
But it’s a big, diverse world down under and we’re not always speaking the same language – how grand then that taste is universal.
It’s taken the wine drinking community some time to come around to the concept but we here in Australia, with such a richly woven tapestry of Asian heritages, have a marvelous opportunity to match South-eastern, Southern and Central cuisines with local wine.
Going out for Thai tonight? Cocktails and beers all the way, right? Save the cellar for the steak frites.
But it’s precisely those complexities in Thai cuisine – the spices, the herbs, the heat; the fat of the grilled, the char of the wok-tossed, which make it such an interesting experiment in wine matching. And it’s not just Thai. In Australia you can find a tasty bottle to drink with any Asian cuisine.
We’ve got the cultures, we’ve got the people, we’ve got the restaurants. And you’d better be sure we’ve got the wine.
Here are some of my favorite matches:
Late night Cantonese food is a staple of the sommelier lifestyle. After a busy weekend service, you grab a box of wine glasses, a handful of bottles, a couple of other somms and head to your local. After a Tsingtao to start you have a quaint little supper of richer riesling with ginger, chili and Sichuan pepper.
Now, I know in Australia we have a bit of a funny relationship with sweet wines but sugar and spice love each other, and with textural, slightly numbing dishes like these, sweet riesling gets a great workout. Look to producers like Pewsey Vale in Eden Valley, Crawford River in South-West Victoria and Frogmore Creek in Coal River.
Remember what I said above about Thai working with wine because of its complexity? In Japanese cuisine, with its minimalism and its seasonality, the reverse it true. When matching with sashimi I look for purity in chardonnay – wines with a considered use of oak that allows the fruit to shine through. Lemon zest, green apple, apricot and nectarine – these flavors in wines with nerve and vitality make sashimi sing. Check out Oakridge in the Yarra Valley, Patrick Sullivan in Gippsland and Ten minutes by Tractor on the Mornington Peninsula.
Not going to lie – I’ve had a giddy schoolboy crush on Tasmanian sparkling for some time. A wondrous place for fizz, one that is often compared to Champagne for climate and style; there’s plenty of great wines coming out of the state. Plenty of great matches too, coming out of the nation’s tandoor ovens. There’s something about the savory, lees-y, richness of traditional method sparking that seems to hug the char and earthiness and spice of chicken, fish or panneer tikka. Where to start? Jansz, Clover Hill, Arras, Stefano Lubiana….Where to stop?
Beef Rendang, Sri Lankan black curry, Massaman; Asian curries adore Aussie reds. Braised, sweetly spiced meats harmonize easily with the lovely firm tannins and concentrated fruit from our world class wines. You know what you’re doing here – Coonawarra Cabernet, Barossan Shiraz, Old vine McLaren Vale Grenache – get exploring.
And if it’s true that a countries wine evolves alongside the food we eat then the Australian wine drinker has a lot to look forward to.