Friday, 6 January 2017

Food and wine - mix and match

There are a lot of wine competitions in the world but only a handful judge with food. The Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Wine & Spirit Competition (CX HKIWSC) is one of the few and in my opinion, probably has the most comprehensive food/wine matching category.

Entries of CX HKIWSC come from all over the world but the target is primarily Asian markets, hence judges, except one of the directors Debra Meiburg MW, and an international VIP guest judge, are all Asian wine professionals. Realising that Asian wine markets are still developing, the competition incorporated the food/wine matching category since it inaugurated in 2009. Instead of pairing all the entries with one or a few dishes, wineries can choose which dishes they think their wines would match best and then enter accordingly. The competition started with four Chinese dishes and now has expanded to 12 Asian dishes from five countries. I am lucky to be part of this oldest competition in Asia since the beginning and witness the evolution of the wine/food matching category.

Judges assess the quality and typicity when judging wine. However, when judging food/wine matching, we have to focus on the interaction between food and wine. A wine might not be outstanding on its own but could do wonder when combine with food. While there are guidelines of wine/food matching, such as matching according to flavour intensity, cultural background and personal preferences also play a role. A judge who loves spicy food would prefer a red wine to accentuate the spiciness while another judge may want an equally intense fruity/off-dry wine to tone down the spiciness. Both wines fit the guideline of matching wine and food based on flavour intensity but the which matching is better is subjective depending on the individual’s palate.

Therefore, the CX HKIWSC food/wine matching session is always the most fun and exciting as judges with different nationalities and background will debate on each pairing. Last year, the organiser also invited food and lifestyle journalists to assess a few pairings alongside judges, and it was interesting to realise that we have different priorities. Wine judges usually have a taste of wine, then the food followed by the wine again to see if the wine tastes better or worse, while most media judges would have the food first, then wine and food again to see if how the food fares. Although we had different opinions in some cases, we in fact agreed on over 75% of the pairings.

Most consumers may not know the characteristics of the wine but they know the flavour intensity of typical Asian dishes. The result of the food/wine matching give consumers indications on the wine styles and thus help them select wine from the myriad available in the marketplace. Once they are more familiar with different wine styles, they will be more confidence to try new wine styles and experiment with more food/wine  matching.

Here are the trophy wines for the competition dishes, see if you agree.

THAI DISHES

BEST WINE WITH KAI HOI BAI TOEI [FRIED CHICKEN IN PANDAN LEAF, 香蘭葉包雞] 
The Kings Bastard Chardonnay 2015, Marisco Vineyards, New Zealand

BEST WINE WITH TOD MAN PLA [CURRIED FISH CAKES WITH SWEET CHILLI SAUCE, 泰式魚餅]
Monsoon Valley Blended Rosé 2014 Siam Winery, Thailand

BEST WINE WITH SINGAPORE CHILLI CRAB, 新加玻辣椒炒蟹
Asia de Cuba 2015, Hiestand Weingut & Hofbrennerei, Germany

CHINESE DISHES 

BEST WINE WITH HONEY GLAZED CHAR SIU 蜜汁叉燒
Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 Yealands Estate Wines, New Zealand

BEST WINE WITH SMOKED PIGEON WITH OOLONG TEA LEAVES 凍頂烏龍茶燻鴿
Mulderbosch Faithful Hound Red 2014 Mulderbosch Vineyards, South Africa (available from Altaya)

BEST WINE WITH CANTONESE BRAISED BRISKET 廣東牛腩
Nest Egg Shiraz 2013, Bird in Hand Winery, Australia (available from wine'n'things)

BEST WINE WITH CRYSTAL KING PRAWN WITH PARMA HAM 巴馬火腿大蝦
Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Achleiten 2015, Domäne Wachau, Austria

JAPANESE DISHES

BEST WINE WITH WAGYU BEEF TEPPANYAKI 和牛鐵板燒
Eden Hall Shiraz 2015, Eden Hall, Australia

BEST WINE WITH SASHIMI 日本刺身
Tamanohikari Junmai Ginjo Shukon 2015 TAMANOHIKARI Sake Brewing Co, Japan

BEST WINE WITH GRILLED UNAGI 照燒鰻魚
Porão Velho 2014, Encosta da Vila, Portugal

INDIAN DISHES
BEST WINE WITH MURG MAKHANI (BUTTER CHICKEN 牛油煮烤雞)
Val du Charron Black Countess 2013

BEST WINE WITH MUSHROOM AND PEA MASALA 馬沙拉蘑菇青豆
FIOL Prosecco DOC

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