Great combinations are the stuff of legend, the one element enhancing the other. Think of literature’s great lovers Anthony & Cleopatra or Romeo & Juliet. Then there’s Broadway darlings Rodgers and Hammerstein and that famed dance duo of Hollywood’s heyday Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. And landmark real world power couples like Barack and Michelle Obama. A duo can be a potent doubling of qualities. So it is in life and so it is with one of life’s joys, the pairing of food and wine.
In restaurants, at least, in the better ones, wine recommendations are usually made by a professional sommelier, someone who knows both the wine list and menu intimately. A trained and knowledgeable wine steward can turn what would have been a good dish on its own, into a great foodie experience, a veritable symphony of flavours, with the simple addition of a complementary wine.
Conversely, you “can ruin a great meal with a bad wine pairing!” states wine expert Gosia Young of Gosh! Wine Marketing. “Just like a great chef considers every element of their dish, so a great winemaker does the same when crafting their wine. Some delicate wines are destined for light, nuanced dishes while other, bigger wines can stand up to bolder, heartier fare. The intentions need to match up.”
The trick is knowing what type of wine pairs best with certain types of food. The very simple rule of thumb dictates that light, more delicately flavoured food works better with lighter wines like white wine, rosé or a light red such as a Pinot Noir. Likewise, heavier foods like red meat go wonderfully well with full-bodied red wines. This is because red wine has a higher tannin content than white wine and the astringency of the tannins helps cut through the fat in the meat, acting as a palate cleanser. The fattier the meat – like Sirloin or Rib Eye – the bolder you can go with the wine choice.
Yet it’s not simply a matter of red versus white, but which red to go with once you’ve established that white wine may not be the preferred route. This is because each grape cultivar has a distinct personality, taste and aroma that is evident in the wine it produces, a consideration that becomes more complex in the case of layered, blended wines merging multiple cultivars. Similarly, different cuts of meat (like beef fillet compared to rump steak) and also different types of meat (like pork versus chicken or lamb) have different taste profiles.
And then, there’s always personal preference. Some wine lovers simply prefer white wine, even with a meat dish. For those who do, a “bridging” wine like the aptly named De Toren Délicate, which is said to “combine “red’s seductiveness with the undeniable drinkability of white”, could be the perfect compromise. Délicate reads like a red and drinks like a white wine, thanks to the deskinned grapes that make up part of this new-style blend.
Because it is so gentle, Délicate is best served slightly chilled and is an apt choice for summer sundowners, along with some tapas or charcuterie. At an event at FG Foodlabs in Rotterdam, Holland, Délicate was paired perfectly with a dry-cured Iberico Ham that had been aged for five years.
In South Africa, celebrated fine dining chef Luke Dale Roberts included Délicate on the wine list at his top Cape Town restaurant The Test Kitchen as a pairing option. According to sommelier Wayve Kolevsohn: “The dish we paired with De Toren Délicate at The Test Kitchen was called Hunter’s Plate –flash-cured blesbok, springbok parfait, eland marrow and morels.” Dale Roberts’ restaurant is now known as The Test Kitchen Origins and Délicate continues to feature on the wine list there alongside the reimagined menu.
“The right wine can help accentuate dominant flavours when paired with the right dish,” says De Toren’s Cellar Master, Charles Williams. “There is no doubt that wine has many characteristics. It’s also important to note that each varietal of grape yields certain olfactory and taste sensations. Ultimately, understanding what traits each varietal of grape typically exhibits will help one better fit the appropriate wine to certain dishes. With lighter dishes such as a summer salad or Spanish tapas, I would recommend pairing a lighter styled wine like the De Toren Délicate.”
Served slightly chilled it’s also a good antidote to the often sweltering December weather. Add this light and lovely wine to your picnic basket this summer or pair it with a charcuterie platter on a deck somewhere!