Food-and-wine pairing experience best recommended by winemaker
You could swirl, sniff and sip wine all by yourself, savouring the winemaker’s art in solo splendour, but wine is even better shared with good company and a great meal – the wine and food bringing out the best in each other.
A bit of a national obsession with food-and-wine pairing has made choosing the perfect wine to go with your food something of a minefield, and there are countless apps, websites and magazine articles to guide you.
But perhaps the best people to suggest what to eat with your wine, are those who make the wine itself.
Winemakers are often foodies or keen cooks too, and generally work closely with chefs in their winery restaurants to create outstanding food and wine experiences. Two new releases illustrate the point, with the wine tasting samples arriving with tempting recipes and a basket of ingredients to entice your wine columnist into the kitchen to try them out.
Quality and great value in Delheim’s just-released 2017 shiraz-cabernet sauvignon makes it easy to see why this is their top-seller.
Bringing together the best of shiraz and cab, the wine is easy drinking with soft tannins and packed full of flavour – plummy, savoury, gentle black pepper, juicy fruit; the spice and berries leaving a lingering tingle on the palate.
Widely available at around R85 (currently R69.99 at Prestons), this is a definite go-to autumn and winter wine – a “safe” choice that’s far from boring. And it’s also vegan-friendly, with no animal products used in the fining and filtering of the wine.
The savoury earthiness of dried wild mushrooms is a win with the shiraz-cab, the two complementing each other – especially in the recipe suggestion of a chicken pie loaded with mushrooms and thyme, in phyllo pastry and served with a porcini and espresso sauce made with dried mushrooms harvested at Delheim. Delicious!
Meanwhile, over on the other side of the N1, on the Paardeberg mountain, Vondeling celebrates the endangered Babiana noctiflora plant that is conserved on the estate in their knock-out Babiana white blend (around R170, Prestons and some Tops at Spar).
Two-thirds chenin blanc, with viognier, roussanne and grenache blanc, it’s all au naturel – hand-picked grapes, partially fermented on the skins with only wild yeast to kick-start fermentation, then maturated in French oak giving texture and weight.
I’ll readily admit to bias in that this is one of my all-time favourite white blends, and this latest vintage doesn’t disappoint. A sense of being wild but tamed, heady fragrance and layers of vibrant flavour (zesty citrus, pineapple, nuts, honey, delicate spice) that keep developing, a creamy mouth-filling texture – all giving complexity without heaviness.
The wine is elegant and easily drinkable on its own, but comes into its own with food, especially the recommended rich and aromatic Moroccan chicken tagine with its spices, honey, nuts and dried fruit creating a partnership that brings out the best in both wine and food.