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A beginner's guide to pairing food and wine

Category: food

Discovering a great food and wine pairing is one of those truly joyful moments in life. Just think – you’ve picked up your fresh, seasonal produce from your local Stockland Shellharbour, prepared a delicious meal with beautifully balanced flavours, only to have them enhanced again with a choice drop. Though it can be a little tricky navigating the world of food and wine pairing, which is why we asked experienced sommelier Ben Moechter to break down the basics for us.

What are three rules to consider when pairing food to wine?

  1. Firstly, you don’t want the wine to distract from the dish, so choosing a neutral wine is important. Some of the best experiences are had when the wine complements the flavours but doesn’t take away from the meal. The food is #1 priority!

  2. Wines that have similar flavours to the food work by enhancing and adding another dimension to the dish. For example, a rich buttery chardonnay with a light fish in a butter sauce.

  3. While wines with opposite flavours or textures can also work well via contrast. For example, a sweet Riesling with a spicy dish. 

What is your failsafe choice that suits most dishes?

It's always handy to have a failsafe! For me, if white wine is the person’s usual choice then Pinot Grigio is a no-brainer. It can be very neutral but have good acid (without being sour) and pairs well with a range of dishes. And usually, it's unoaked, meaning it isn’t as complex and often tastes lighter, like the pure grape. For reds, I love Malbec. There are such a variety of styles that you can always find one that most will enjoy. Light or heavy, fruity or dry, there's a Malbec for all occasions. And if you haven’t heard of Malbec before, it’s a purple grape variety native to the Bordeaux region of France.

Ben’s quick food and wine pairing guide:

Do you often use wine in your cooking and what is your favourite dish to cook?

The best wine to use for cooking is most often the wine you would drink with the dish! I cook a lot of ragout for my family, my children just love it (the alcohol is quickly cooked out, of course). The wine, however, leaves an indelible flavour trail. Chianti or Sangiovese is usually my go-to red for cooking and drinking with ragout. They say that food and wine that "grows together, goes together", so pasta, ragout, and a Chianti make perfect sense. When in doubt, do what the locals do and head to your local Hometown Fresh Market for crunchy seasonal veggies, delicious spices, and your local meats from Bush's Meats to pair with your wine.

What is an unusual pairing that really works?

Pinot Noir and a rich chocolate cake! Find Miguel Maestre’s fudgy chocolate cake recipe here.

Great Australian regions for fresh produce and wine:

One of my favourite wine regions to explore has to be the Southern Highlands and Hunter Valley in NSW – like I said earlier, pair your local produce with local wines and you’ll always have a winner. Alternatively, for produce, there's no going past our extremes of northern Queensland and Tasmania in the south. You’ll find some of Australia’s freshest produce, and the best of local farmers and growers at your local Stockland Shellharbour. So, be sure to drop by the centre and enjoy the spoils of the season with your family.

Bio:

Ben Moechter is one of the most highly experienced and respected sommeliers in Sydney, with an impressive catalogue of accolades under his belt. Ben was awarded the Petaluma Scholarship as the inaugural Dux of the highly regarded Master Sommelier Certified Sommelier Examination Programme. And in the same 12 months, Ben was named National Runner-Up and State Winner of the Negociant’s Australia Working with Wine Fellowship and became a Len Evans Tutorial Scholar. Find him at www.thecertsomm.com

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