Why does good food and wine pairing really matter?

31st August 2021
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Our Sommelier and Restaurant Manager at the Cavendish Hotel at Baslow, Stuart Bond tells us why good food and wine pairing can really enhance the enjoyment of a dish.

Why does good wine pairing really matter?

It is an intrinsic part of the dining experience. It is about a journey of discovery and delivering eminent sensations on the palate in terms of both food and wine.

How do you choose a particular wine to match a dish?

When choosing a particular wine to match a specific dish I would look not just at the main component of the dish, but I would also think about the sauce and any other elements that make up the dish. I would then look at the tasting notes of a particular style of wine to make a final decision on which wine I will choose to accompany my food.

How much work goes into matching the wines to the tasting menu at the Gallery Restaurant?

I work closely with Executive Chef Adam Harper when we have any dish changes to our Tasting Menu. We will have a cook off and I will pair the wines accordingly for Adam to taste. Wine pairing is not an exact science which leaves lots of scope for creativity.

Wine pairing at the Cavendish Hotel Baslow

Where are your wines sourced?

Our wines are sourced from Enotria & Coe, Corney & Barrow and Bibbendum. We source from these particular suppliers because they have great reputations within the wine industry, and offer a variety of quality wines at fair price points. They also help to support smaller growers and wineries around the globe, encourage and promote sustainability.

They host various wine tastings around the UK so industry professionals can sometimes get to meet winemakers and growers at a mutual venue like the Ritz, London. Finally, they provide numerous wine training sessions for staff, which can lead to certified wine qualifications like WSET, which is internationally recognised.

For those of us who are interested in learning more about perfect wine pairing, what would you say are the basic food and wine pairing rules to get us started?

People can make recommendations on the perfect pairing, but we all have different palates and we all know what we like. I believe it should be a journey of discovery as there are 1,362 different grape varieties out there waiting to be tasted. People who trust their own palates, will be surprised with what pairings work.

You can look at congruent pairings which means basically that both the food and wine share many compounds and complement one another. When we talk about compounds you need to consider, salt, acid, bitter (highly flavoured) fat/oil, hot (chilli - piquant), sweet and savoury (umami) compounds. For example a rich beef or venison dish will pair well with a rich, full-bodied red wine like an Amarone or Cabernet Sauvignon. A contrasting pairing is when the food and wine share few compounds, but come together to complement each other. For example blue cheese (salt, acid & fat) and a vintage port or a sweet dessert wine like Tokaji.

What are your particular favourite wines and why?

 I tend to have more of a savoury palate so I prefer red wines. Generally you will find people who don’t have sugar in their tea or coffee will have more of a preference towards red wine like myself. My favourite wine is Amarone Della Valpolicella, Valpantena, DOCG from Veneto in northern Italy. I would describe this particular style of wine as big & rich, voluptuous – seductive, sexy, fine wine, full-body with a supple texture.

Tell us about your background - what led you to become a Sommelier?

I have worked in hospitality and catering for 24 years and been a Restaurant Manager for 7 years. Two years ago I met a Lady called Heather Scott who at that time worked for the wine merchants Bibbendum. Heather is Dipswet qualified and assessed at wine diploma level. She has helped me massively as a mentor.

During the first Lockdown she provided me with lots of materials to help me achieve sommelier status. I spent 6 hours a day (research, read and repeat!) during the various lockdowns, breaking down the Cavendish wine list in terms of technical information and more importantly wine descriptors, and what they actually mean. By utilising my time during lockdown in this way has given me a greater knowledge and understanding of wines, which I can pass onto both customers and staff alike. I am technically a wine geek.

If you'd like to see Stuart and the rest of the team in action, reserve your table at The Gallery Restaurant here. We've been recognised with three AA rosettes and offer a wide range of Sommelier selected wines.

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