Each month, Erica interviews one of Enjoy Discovering Wine‘s former students and the article is featured here. This month Erica has interviewed Tom Sangster who came along to our fun food and wine pairing lunch in January.
When you signed up for the food and wine pairing lunch workshop, what did you want to have happen?
I know wines quite well but seldom seem to match them well with food other than by a tendency to pair like with like or sheer good luck. So I wanted to learn some structure of what characteristics of wine and food need to be understood so that I can pair them better.
Abandoning the usual tasting comments on the wines alone we were led through tasting for five key characteristics to recognise when deciding which wines and foods to pair. Out went the lychees, gooseberries, cigar boxes, wet stones, farmyard, petrol, etc. and in came sweetness, body, flavour intensity, tannin and acidity. Tasting a range of three white and four red wines with a full range of combinations of these characteristics we were able to experience and understand this structure. With heads drooped forward to find acidity, tasting while holding our noses, and opening our mouths wide we would enliven any dinner party!
Then came the food. With fruit – sweet wine, either white or red. With fruit and chocolate, more or less the same although the red fared better. With steak, adding salt to the steak had a big effect on how the wines tasted. A full bodied and intensely flavoured white burgundy lost its fruitiness with steak alone but recovered it when salt was added. This and a full bodied intense red were great with steak, salt and chips – so a white wine with steak & chips was a real revelation but it needs body and flavour to work. Sweet wines tasted even sweeter with the steak and salt. Then with fish, easy, a dry white wine of course. Well no. White fish alone goes with nothing or is overwhelmed. Adding batter is an improvement for dry white wines, but the surprise comes when it’s fish, batter, tartare sauce and lemon all together. Full bodied and high flavour intensity white was excellent as was a medium bodied and medium flavoured, and quite acidic, red. Sweet red was awful but best of all was a sweet white Riesling despite its being light-bodied. And this from someone who doesn’t like sweet wine apart from Sauternes with foie gras. But with a chocolate cheesecake and red berry compote dessert another surprise – the sweet white tasted sour whereas the sweet red was wonderful. Its full body and high flavour intensity matched the sweetness and acidity perfectly.
So as a result all preconceptions are gone. I learned to match flavour intensity as a first consideration then to think about acidity and sweetness. Now I need to practice a lot.
And what would you say to something thinking about signing up for an Enjoy Discovering Wine fun, food and wine pairing lunch?
To somebody thinking about coming along I would say this: Whether you are a beginner, an expert or somewhere in between, this will be an enjoyable, fun and informative day. You will learn a lot, be surprised, and come away much more confident in pairing wine with food. And most of all it is fun (and you get to drink good wine!). I would go again.
If you are interested in signing up for a course with Enjoy Discovering Wine, please email our Course Administrator.