Winter is upon us, which means it’s time to get cozy, break out the good snacks, and uncork a bottle (or two) of your favourite wine. But which treats pair best with your chosen drop? It’s a question that’s plagued humanity since the first grape was squeezed, but thankfully the ever-fabulous Melissa Leong is here to help.

“Don’t overthink it too much,” the Dessert Masters judge and food critic says. “I think good snacks are good snacks, regardless of the season. I mean, if you’re into fondue or something then go for it, I guess?” she laughs. Passion for fondue aside, if you want to elevate your snack game, there are some key things to consider.

When it comes to flavour profiles, Leong suggests starting with the food and working back to the wine. “The fundamental rules always apply. Richer flavours and more robust textures need something that matches and complements that pitch – you’re not picking something light and gentle that will get lost. Similarly, light and more delicate food choices can be overwhelmed by drink pairings that are too bold,” she explains. “When in doubt though, just put it in your face and ask yourself if you like it.”

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So what are some of her favourite pairings? “I’m seeing stuffed chicken wings on wine bar menus right now, and I’m here for it,” she says. “Something like a [Cat Amongst the Pigeons] Fat Cat Riesling works well because the aromatic sweetness complements nicely, but there’s enough acidity to counteract the finger-lickin’ qualities a good chicken wing packs.”

Want to take the cosy meter up a notch? Try some plump, sweet mussels in a punchy, vinegary escabeche with charred bread and a glass of Fat Cat Pinot Noir Rosé. “It’s a no-brainer here to match the aromatic nuances in the escabeche and the natural sweetness of the mussels,” Leong says.

If you’re in the mood to shake things up, Leong recommends taking inspiration from one of her favourite bars in the world right now: Bar Leone, a Roman bar that happens to be in Hong Kong. “They smoke these huge green olives until they’re meaty and moreish. They need a bit more to grab onto, so something like a Barossa Grenache Shiraz Mataro, with its berry fruit complexity and earthy intensity is a slightly left-of-field pairing, but I see it,” she says.

And, don’t forget cake. “Cake is a snack, right? If so – and I say it is – I’m thinking burnt Basque cheesecake with a little sparkling Fat Cat Shiraz on the side,” she says. “There’s something about the over-caramelised, slightly bitter edge of a great Basque cheesecake that works well with the fruity fizz of a classic Barossa sparkling shiraz. The stewed black plum and chocolatey notes complement nicely, without the whole experience coming across too sweet.”

While the above are all tantalising propositions, Leong’s got one tried and true, desert island wine and snack pairing. “A crisp glass of Fat Cat Chardonnayalongside good bread and butter, and a couple dozen rock oysters,” she says without hesitation.

Ultimately, Leong says the biggest mistake people make when pairing wine and snacks is worrying too much about what other people think. “True in life, true in drinks,” she quips. “The wine world can be fraught with all manner of worries about what more educated people think about it, but at the end of the day, it’s grape juice. There are some basics that are easy enough to pick up, but don’t be afraid to mix and match what works for you and your mates. Who are you really trying to impress, anyway?”

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Cat Amongst the Pigeons.
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