Popular opinion says that our favorite drink is tea and favourite food the french fry. But could it be that our tastes are becoming just a little more sophisticated around these parts? Last summer’s Right Some Good offered a “foodie adventure” pairing local food with top chefs from around the world; local farmers markets are growing, literally, as is interest in locally sourced foods; and this weekend there will be three Sommeliers (sounds like “sum mall yea”) in town sharing their knowledge with eager audiences wanting to learn more about how food and wines work together.
On Saturday, March 24, two events will put our tastes to the test. At Flavor 19 Jonathan Wilson and Craig Michie will be doing battle over which wine goes best with a balanced and challenging 5 course meal by Nathan Susin in Sommelier Survivor. Meanwhile, Kathyn Harding from Bishop’s Cellar will be at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design for Stems and Legs Fine Wine Tasting, offering 15 wines to taste along with canapés from Trio designed by chef Dean LeGros. Both events promise to jumpstart your knowledge and provide a really good opportunity to play with your food.
Wine, like music, art and what’s appropriate to wear out of the house, is a matter of personal taste. I still have trouble getting past the fact that a bottle of wine with a screw cap, rather than a cork, can cost more than $5. Enjoying wine is easy, but understanding why can be intimidating. Whether it’s trying to pronounce new names and regions, understanding why acid in wine is OK, wondering “is there really chocolate in this wine”, or “is corkage a new sport?”, there is a lot learn. With the efforts and guidance of Sommeliers, I’ve learned to overcome my preconceived biases and throw my lip over the edge of wines that I never anticipated I would enjoy.
I learned through conversations with Jonathan Wilson that a Sommelier is a wine expert who has gone through extensive training and certification, and teaches about wine, creates wine holdings or cellars for individuals and restaurants, helps in customers’ wine selection, and takes care of wine.
Wine pairings can be like the age old question of which came first the chicken or the egg, as in “that’s a great bottle of wine – what’s to eat?” or “a wonderful meal – what wine goes with it best?”. I asked Nathan Susin, chef at Flavor 19, what was his logic in a challenge for the Sommeliers. Nathan explained how the meat and proteins like the Braised Pork Belly would call for one type of wine while the sauces, like the spiced coffee reduction, call for another. How each Sommelier solves the challenge involves two continents worth of wine and the tasters’ favorite wins the day.
Kathryn Harding explained the title of the Centre for Craft and Design’s event, “Stems and Legs”. It isn’t a flower show that walks around, but references stemmed wine glasses and how the wine is gently swirled to release the aroma and colour. As the wine swirls, the sugar in it drifts down the glass into rivulets which are the “legs” and will vary from wine to wine. For Stems and Legs, the wine selection came first, and will be offered in sections with a definite direction designed to get the most out of the wine. In this instance the canapés will indicate which wine will flourish when tasted.
So if you’re looking for something different to do this early Spring Saturday night, there are two interesting possibilities: sip, nibble, and learn surrounded by art at Stems and Legs ($40 per person, 7-9pm, Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design), or sip, dine and see who will survive at Survivor Sommelier ($65 per person, 6pm, Flavor 19). And about the screw cap, I was pleased to learn that the cap lets the wine age and is safe to travel or be stored sideways or upright.