Why don’t more wine tastings offer food pairing?
It struck me as slightly ironic that the best example of a food offering I’ve seen at a consumer tasting recently was the Food Pairing Room at this weekend’s Whisky Show - whisky being the last drink that many people would think of pairing with food.
It may have been designed as a useful distraction from the arduous business of tasting - and drinking - cask strength spirits but it’s an idea that could usefully be adopted by wine shows and beer festivals*.
The room was fitted out (probably quite expensively) with a number of booths, each manned by a distillery pouring a couple of whiskies with one or two different foods to match. I only got there towards the end of the day so didn’t have as much time as I’d have liked to browse but there was some charcuterie (which I missed), a fair bit of cheese and chocolate and some other sweet things.
An Old Pulteney 12 y.o. was paired with chunks of pear dusted in ginger and cinnamon and a Mackmyra Swedish whisky (a new one on me but deliciously fragrant) matched with crackers spread with gooseberry and elderflower jam.
The most intriguing pairings were some spicy Indian snacks created by Cafe Spice Namaste to go with two whiskies from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. One was a sherried Ardmore 66.36 whose flavour is described as ‘Milano Salami and a Tropical Fruit Kebab' (they have some pretty crazy tasting notes on the the SMWS website), the other a Bowmore Peated Sherry Cask described as . . . er . . . Cigar Smoking Dragon which was partnered with spinach papri.
There were other surprises too. I’d have been inclined to pair a clothbound cheddar with a sherried whisky but it was sensationally good with a peaty Port Askaig from Islay which tasted even smokier with the cheese. And the sweet, almost bourbon-like Monkey Shoulder was great with two different marshmallows flavoured with bourbon and vanilla and chocolate and coconut.
Glenmorangie had even gone to the extent of commissioning chocolatier Damian Allsop to come up with a range of chocolates to go with their range. I only managed to taste one - a lime and nutmeg white chocolate which was designed to go with the Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or which is finished in Sauternes casks. (It also, perhaps less surprisingly, paired well with a Roquefort-like blue from Highland Fine Cheeses.)
The pairing zone was apparently masterminded by whisky and food expert Martine Nouet who also ran a masterclass each day on pairing whisky and food.
Generally distillers are rather better-heeled than winemakers and brewers but with a bit of imagination it would be easy to create a similar experience at a lower cost.
*though the Independent Manchester Beer Convention I went to at the weekend did have some great food offerings. I’ll be writing about that in due course.
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