Scottish Field wine columnist Peter Ranscombe meets up with Creation Wines co-founder Carolyn Martin at the Brazilian steak restaurant Fazenda.
RED wine only goes with meat, doesn’t it? And white should only be served with fish, right?
It’s time to rethink those old clichés when it comes to food and wine matching.
While some guidance has stood the test of time for good reason – like pairing lower-alcohol wines with hot chilli dishes so they don’t exaggerate the heat or serving wines that are sweeter than their matching pudding so they don’t taste sour – that still leaves plenty of room for experimentation.
And experimentation was very much the name of the game when I joined Carolyn Martin, co-founder of Creation Wines in South Africa, for lunch at Brazilian steakhouse Fazenda’s branch in Edinburgh.
I’m a big fan of the wines created by Carolyn’s Swiss husband, JC, but I’ve been equally impressed with her talent for food and wine matching, especially after visiting their winery in the beautiful Hemel-en-Aarde last autumn.
After raiding Fazenda’s lunch menu, we had great fun playing around with which of JC’s creations worked best with which type of dish.
Sobrecoxa de Frango: The fresh acidity in the 2017 Creation Reserve Chardonnay (£29.40, Exel Wines) was ideal for cutting through the juicy and salty chicken thighs. With its lemon, biscuit and buttered toast flavours, the chardonnay is great on its own too.
Presunto com Abacaxi: Back to the 80s with gammon and pineapple, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about how the tropical pineapple and peach notes in the 2016 Art of Creation Chardonnay (£55, creationwines.co.uk) were brought to the fore by the food. On its own, the fruit flavours are much fresher, focusing on lemon rind and butter.
Barriga de Porco: The pork belly presented an interesting challenge for food and wine matching because it was served in a honey and cinnamon sauce. The acidity in the Creation Reserve Chardonnay cut through the fatty belly pork, just as it did with the chicken thighs, but it was the 2017 Creation Viognier (equivalent to £15.11, The Fine Wine Company) that triumphed for me, balancing the roundness of the wine with the sweetness of the sauce.
Linguica Gaucha: A pork sausage with a unique recipe, this posed the most interest conundrum for me but, in the end, I opted for the 2016 Creation Syrah Grenache (equivalent to £20.85, The Fine Wine Company), which had the dryness I wanted to balance the succulent sausage.
Cordeiro: Perhaps the most surprising match of the day was the Creation Viognier with the lamb; the mint sauce in which the lamb was brushed brought out some delicious herbal notes in the white wine.
Tritip: Pinot noir is often passed over when it comes to steak matches or relegated to fillet duty. Yet the slightly higher tannins of South African pinot noir and the fresh acidity in the 2017 Art of Creation Pinot Noir (£55, creationwines.co.uk) were more than up to the job when it came to the bottom end of the sirloin, which brought out more of the red fruit notes in the wine.
Alcatra: It was back to the Creation Syrah Grenache for me when it came to slices of the rump steak, which emphasised the savoury notes in the wine.
Picanha: And it was a similar story with the cap of the rump, Fazenda’s signature cut, which brought out the Creation Syrah Grenache’s herbal notes.
‘The sides bar’: Although Fazenda might be a steakhouse, it also boasts one of the most-impressive salad bars I’ve ever seen. Ladened with everything from green salad to cold meats and cheeses, the 2017 Creation Sauvignon Semillon (equivalent to £17, creationwines.co.uk) blend was the order of the day, with plenty of acidity to cut through the humus – which emphasised the wine’s lemon flavour – and the smoked salmon.