Review: Myrna Robins
WINE + FOOD: The Art of (the) Perfect Pairing, by Fiona McDonald, Vickie de Beer & Charles Russell (Libertas Vineyards and Estates)
With our being allowed to buy wine again from tomorrow, it’s an ideal time to get hold of this book and explore the gentle art of pairing.
Libertas – the name brings to mind the part of Stellenbosch that’s steeped in wine and home to historic giants like Distell, formerly SFW, and venues like the theatre, the slow food market, the choir, concert auditorium – a wonderful mix of culture and wine in a stunning Cape setting.
The original Libertas was one of the oldest farms in the area, established in 1689. Today its name refers to a group of wine farms and estates that owner Distell recently launched as a separate company of premium wine producers.
So, throughout the book the photographs – all by Charles Russell – pair the delectable fare on the plates with a wine from eight of these cellars, being Allesverloren, Alto, Durbanville Hills, Fleur du Cap, Nederburg, Plaisir de Merle, Pongracz and Zonnebloem. The wine text is by Fiona McDonald, one of the most experienced wine journos in the business, and the food – both recipes and pairings – by Vickie de Beer, who also edited the compendium, a challenging undertaking.
She, like McDonald, has been editing and writing for culinary publications and creating both trad and trendy recipes for decades. The result is, predictably, a stunning publication that keen cooks will love, while newcomers to the world of matching wine to menus will find a handsome guide that is neither learned nor prescriptive.
The contents of this large hardback are organised by wine type. But first the reader is given some straightforward tips on tasting wine: colour, aromas and flavours precede a general guide to the art of pairing wine with food, a far cry from the comparatively rigid rules that pervaded partnering 30 years ago. The following chapters cover a wide range of labels, starting with Methode Cap Classique sparkling wines and finishing with sweet and fortified wines.
Taking a look at chenin blanc, for example, we find a description of the many variations of chenin, a brief note on its history, then a page illustrating herbs, spices and foods that can make perfect pairings with chenin. Under cheese, feta, cream cheese and Gorgonzola are listed, while fruits include pears, apricot, coconut, pineapple, lemon, pomegranate, peach, spanspek, granadilla and guava. Meat, fish and vegetables take their place in the culinary circle. The flavours are further analysed according to whether they develop in the vineyard, during winemaking, or during bottle ageing.
Recipes with full-page colour photographs of fare that is enhanced by chenin blanc follow, starting with roasted pear and Gorgonzola salad. There’s poached kingklip in coconut broth with Thai salad and teriyaki prawn spring rolls with pineapple and ginger.
Moroccan chicken with saffron couscous would insist on chenin as a mate, as would roast chicken stuffed with feta and caramelised peaches. The section concludes with a plum and thyme tart with yoghurt ice cream and macadamia crumble. Alongside the cooking instructions is a box telling readers why the chosen wine will work wonderfully well with the dish or dessert.
The next 170 pages continue in the same vein, pairing white and red cultivars, red blends, sweet dessert and fortified wines with a few diverse and some quite complex dishes, both savoury and sweet.
The text concludes with a note on each of the cellars whose products are used in the pairings. A list of recipes organised according to the wine type in the front of the book takes the place of a recipe index at the end.