What is the best part of being a sommelier?
The satisfaction of a guest enjoying a wine you’ve recommended or paired to a dish. It’s very important that the guest enjoys the wine and not just me!
How important or necessary do you feel the matching of wines to food is?
It depends entirely on the guest. Everyone has his or her own preference. I feel it’s important that we provide a service as sommeliers to correctly inform guests of what would work well, but I would never want to force a wine upon someone. People know what they like.
How large a role do you feel wine plays when paired with a dish?
It’s huge. When matching a wine to a dish, you are essentially adding another element. It’s just like having an extra sauce. A well matched wine can lift a dish and really affect the overall sensation on the palate.
When pairing wines to Nathan’s dishes, what are your main objectives?
First and foremost, the wine should compliment the dish. I work with the strongest flavours first, and then the texture of the wine. It’s important to keep things interesting and enhance the overall experience of the dish.
How do you go about pairing a wine to a new dish?
I spend a lot of time researching and reading about new wines, and matching food and wines. I spend quite a lot of time with suppliers, trying new wines and formulating ideas of what works well. I like to have the wine flight made up of wines from different parts of the world to give the customer a chance to embrace different characteristics of wines across the world. I also enjoy researching wines which have an interesting story and are unheard of from smaller vineyards – giving the customer new experiences.
What are your top tips for pairing wine with fish?
As a rule of thumb, white wine is going to go best with fish. Always try to work with the strongest flavours in the dish. Sauces are often a determining factor in a dish, so try to match the flavours and body of the wine to the sauce.
When having more than one course, and more than one wine, there should be a progression of body and flavours as you move on to the next wine. Normally starting with white wine and moving on to red.
You have a red wine matched to Nathan’s Turbot dish. Why does this work?
It is a Pinot Noir, which has had a very short maceration period, creating a beautifully light, bodied red, with lingering red fruit and freshly cracked white pepper flavours which work very well with the tartare sauce in the dish. It also has the depth to absorb the sharpness of the capers. Turbot is also a wonderfully meaty fish that has a very obvious flavour and can easily be matched with heavier wines without losing its distinctive qualities.
Do you miss having meat on the menu?
No. I’d rather follow Nathan’s passion. After all, guests come here to eat his food not drink my wine. The fun is in the challenge of matching the wines to the dish, and Nathan is never short of new flavours and textures, which tests my ability to find the right wine.
If you could pick one wine on your list at the moment, which stands out as your favourite?
One that I enjoy most serving guests is a Canadian Ice wine from Niagara. It’s an impressive sparkling dessert wine made from hand picked chardonnay and pinot noir grapes with a dosage of vidal ice wine. It creates a very interesting combination of apricots, yeast, ripe apples and honey flavours. It’s very refreshing and works very well with Nathan’s peach jelly and raspberry sorbet dessert. It always gets a great reception.
Another great wine we have at the moment is the Camel Valley Darnibole Baccus. It is an exceptional wine made by a local wine maker with years of experience. The vines are planted on darnibole soil, which gives the wine a unique slate and high mineral flavour. The wine works extremely well with light fish dishes. Perfect with lemon sole.
Do you feel more pressure to provide something new or different to diners, now the restaurant has 2 Michelin stars?
Not really. We’ve always followed the same approach to the wine and food, and always set our expectations high. We always try and keep things interesting, but first and foremost comes flavour.sommelier, wine matching