Thursday, 2 April 2015

SA vs SA

Most wine dinners serve wines from a single winery, a region, a country or a supplier's collection. The recent dinner organised by wine‘n’things, was different. The theme was ‘The Best of the South’ featuring two family-run wineries, Maxwell Wines from McLaren Vale, South Australia and Villiera from Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Each course was accompanied by two wines, one from each winery, and it was up to the guests to decide which (if either) they preferred. Throughout the dinner, Cathy Brewer from Villiera and Mark Maxwell, both family members from the respective wineries, talked briefly about the wineries, the wines and how they selected the specific wine to go with each dish even without first tasting the food.

The first course was citrus & Cognac cured salmon, with a Villiera Chenin Blanc 2014 and a Maxwell Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2013. The verdict was split: some preferred the roundness of the Chardonnay, especially with a generous dose of horseradish cream, while others, me included, opted for the vibrant Chenin Blanc that whetted the appetite (after all this was only the starter!). Funny thing was that Max chose Cathy’s wine and Cathy the other way round - a draw on this round.

This was followed by foie gras terrine, served with Villiera Gewurztraminer 2013 and Maxwell Little Demon Cabernet Merlot 2012, a curious combination that attracted quite a bit of discussion. The dish proved to be a bit challenging for both wines but this doesn’t mean the wines are not food-friendly. The Villiera Gewurtztraminer is in fact a delightful wine showing classic lychee notes and, at under 13% alcohol, not as heavy as a typical Gewurtztraminer. I can imagine it going beautifully with some heavier dim sum and this chimed with Cathay’s experience. She tried it with the China Club’s wonton in garlic and chilli sauce (紅油炒手) and found it perfect. As for the Maxwell Little Demon Cabernet Merlot, spare ribs in black bean sauce or fried noodles with beef would be excellent. Just writing about it makes me want dim sum now!

I struggled to decide between the beef and the fish for the main course as they were paired with different wines. I was so tempted to have a surf and turf—an excuse to try all four wines—but thought it better to behave. In the end, I went with the applewood smoked filet mignon, accompanied by the Villiera Monro 2005 (Bordeaux blend) and the Maxwell Ellen Street Shiraz 2010. The food and both wines went well, especially with all the laughter around the table.

I always believe that wine is for sharing with friends. While there is are broad guidelines on food and wine pairing based on palate weight, there is no absolute right or wrong and, at the end of the day, it all comes down to our personal preference, the atmosphere, the people around us and the conversation. Wine connects people. Cathy and Max are now friends and I also met a very nice chatty lady Karen.

This 'South Africa versus South Australia' event was not a challenge but rather a friendly match showcasing the Best of the South, and it didn’t let us down. Explore more of their wines at wine’n’things.

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