What wine pairs best with a certain food is an endlessly engaging topic for both amateurs and wine experts. So when ANCX brought together a group of wine merchants and connoisseurs for the event, “ANCX: Wine, Cheese, and Everything In Between,” the conversation expectedly got as rich and complex as a perfectly aged Pinot.
At the online gathering, Executive Class host David Celdran sat down with École Ducasse Manila Executive Chef Marc Chalopin, Wine Depot President Brett Tolhurst, and Barcino Executive Corporate Chef Nicolas Diaz to get the lowdown on what makes a good wine, what wine-food pairing rules still apply, including what goes best with our very own adobo and lechon. ANCX partnered with SM for this live event set in the spacious al fresco dining space of the SM Aura Premier Skypark in Taguig. The cool weather and glasses of champagne set the the mood for a bright and relaxed afternoon.
Read the ratings, know the region
But even before anyone should jump into wine pairings, it’s important to know the basics of what makes a good wine. Reading wine ratings can be a start, Tollhurst agrees, but equally important is the critic doing the ratings. “You need to pick a good critic--James Halliday from Australia for example or James Suckling and Robert Parker who are from the US. If you’ve got a critic that is well known then I would definitely use the ratings as part of the decision process,” he says. While many can be biased to wines with 90 and above ratings, Tolhurst says that an 80 above is generally regarded as a good wine.
Where one buys is also an important consideration, points out Chalopin. “If you go to a cellar place or supermarket or gasoline station, you cannot find the same wine,” he says. The land where the wine is produced should also be added to the equation, saying Regions like the Rioja in Spain or Pomerol in France have already established good reputations. “If there is a name of the land in the bottle, that is good. And if you can find the name of the owner who brewed the wine, it’s perfect,” he says.
The wide array of choices in the market can be overwhelming for someone who is just beginning to appreciate wines but choosing a bottle that comes with a friendly price is another good starting point. In the Philippines a decent bottle can range from Php 500-Php800. Next to the price is choosing among the varietals of whites and reds. “I think the number one tip is to try all different varietals and find what you like and then really hone in on those,” offers Tolhurst. But if one had to choose, he suggests starting with Merlot and moving up to the more robust Cabernet blends for reds and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Reisling for whites.
Mix and match
Perhaps one of the most common questions when it comes to food and wine pairing is whether matching the color of the dish with the wine still applies. Should seafood in cream sauce always go with white wine, and red meat with red wine?
While it works generally as a rule, it doesn’t always follow, says Chalopin. “One can also drink very light red wine with fish in white sauce,” says Chalopin. He points out that what’s more important is the flavor and what the people would like to experience. When Celdran asks what he would pair with seafood in tomato sauce, he jests, “Coca-Cola.”More seriously, one can be on the safe side and go for wines that generally pair well with a whole course of a meal, from appetizers to desserts. The ANCX guests suggest sparkling wines such as Rosè as well as Champagne and Riesling which can go well with everything. Says Diaz, “In my family, we love Rosé because you can match and balance it with all the dishes from beginning to end.” It’s also cheaper than champagne, adds Chalopin.
A toast to adobo and lechon
All the guests agreed pairing wines with ethnic food can be tricky as these dishes tend to be too spicy and powerful—but hitting the right spot is not at all impossible. “My wife is Korean so if I’m eating kimchi, I really don’t know what kind of wine I will drink with that,” says Chalopin. However, he follows this by saying that Philippine adobo beautifully matches with red wine. Tolhurst, for his part, declares that “Rosé and lechon is the greatest combination in the world.”
In the end, each guest zeroed in on the importance of experiencing different flavors rather than sticking to the rules when it comes to wine pairing. By all means, place that White Zinfadel on the table for that grilled tuna, and that Cabernet Sauvignon for that ribeye steak, but sticking to protocols makes one miss out on so many other possibilities. “Just keep trying, keep tasting, it’s a journey. I mean, I’m 20 years into it and I’m still trying, still tasting,” says Tolhurst.
Perhaps in the world of wine pairing, the late wine and food critic, Roy Andries De Groot, summed it best when he said, “The 'perfect marriage' of food and wine should allow for infidelity". After all, we still have a whole list of great Filipino dishes we need to find a perfect match for.