Often when people entertain and try to match wines with food, the flavours in the food overpower the wines. Or the wines mask the delicacy of the dishes. The key to food and wine pairing is to pick a flavour in both the wine and the dish you want to enhance. This will connect what you’re eating with what you’re drinking.
Sophie Otton is a consultant sommelier and is in charge of the wine program at Billy Kwong in Potts Point. For Christmas she will eat charcoal-roast king prawns marinated in sage, oregano, garlic, oil and lemon.
“The fun part is cooking them on a small hibachi barbeque with your first glass of wine for the day. I’m thinking a deliciously rich, savoury Blanc de Noirs type champagne, like Egly-Ouriet Les Vignes de Vrigny.”
Prawns and other seafood dishes always scream for wines with higher acidity, freshness and citrus-driven characters. Something with a saline element, such as champagne or Australian sparkling wine, sauvignon blanc or vermentino.
For something different, try matching one of our excellent, Aussie-made vermouths with your seafood. Rebecca Lines, owner and sommelier of Bar H in Surry Hills and the newly opened Banskii in Barangaroo, is embracing her love of native-Australian botanicals and vermouth over the holidays with the newly released Bitter Tonic Blanc Vermouth made by Ravensworth winery in Canberra. “Served on the rocks with lemon zest and olive. We’ll be chilling at the beach, picnic style, eating chilled prawns and ceviche.”
Cured meats (such as salami, pancetta, prosciutto, mortadella) are always a great choice for sparkling red wines or lighter styles of red. Choose wines with red-fruit flavours or earthier characters with a nice tannin structure to cut through the oiliness in the meat. A great example of these styles are wines made in Italy or wines made with Italian varietals, such as sagrantino, sangiovese or nebbiolo. So if charcuterie is your thing, take a page out of Dan Simmons’s (general manager and sommelier at The Corner House in Bondi) book by “keeping it light and easy”. He’s starting with Architects of Wine's 2016 riesling/nebbiolo pét-nat, followed by a chilled 2014 Baroni Di Pianogrillo Frappato from Sicily with a selection of cured meats, paté and foie gras.
For those families doing a more traditional roast chook or turkey, Tom Hogan, co-owner and sommelier at Harry and Frankie’s in Port Melbourne has you covered. “A roasted Hand to Ground chook takes centre stage at the Hogan Christmas. It's simply prepared with salt and pepper and herbs, and accompanied by roast potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and parsnips.” For a wine match the Hogan household takes the opportunity to embrace its love of chardonnay. “I'll be cracking a bottle of 2015 Flametree SRS Wallcliffe chardonnay from Margaret River. It’s a perfect example of modern Aussie chardonnay – flint and subtle oak-spice aromatics, ruby-red grapefruit palate, electric acidity and a saline finish.”
Gamay and other lighter styles of reds, such as pinot noir and pinot meunier, are great examples of red wines to drink during the warmer months. They have a nice juicy fruit presence and crunchy acid that suits being plonked into an ice bucket to slightly chill before drinking.
Stu Knox, owner and sommelier of Fix Wine Bar + Restaurant in Sydney’s CBD, is likely to be crushing Peroni cans and ham on Christmas Day. But for a wine match he’ll be “drinking heaps of Eldridge Estate PTG 2016 gamay/pinot blend. Straight from the fridge … would be even better out of a can.”
Liam O’Brien, head sommelier at Cutler & Co and its sister wine bar Marion in Melbourne’s Fitzroy, will indulge in what he believes should be our national Christmas Day drink: semillon. “Crisp, zesty, lemony freshness, thirst-quenching, low alcohol, great value ... what more do you want with oysters, prawns and crayfish – and when it's too hot for red with the turkey? To mix it up I usually have a few on hand – young, old and something in between – but with main course I'll have 2015 Silkman Reserve semillon.”