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The Pointlessness of Pairing: Part Two

In February last year I wrote a piece on the frustration I feel about the effort expended on attempting to pair food with wine This was not an attempt to undermine the work of sensitive sommeliers. The best listen to their customers and their preferences, basing suggestions on information gleaned as much as any alleged suitability to the dishes being ordered. No, my concern is based on the idea that wine consumption, particularly in developing markets like Taiwan, can be increased by highlighting a particular wine region’s ability to pair well with ‘Asian Food’. Let’s forget the bizarre even arrogant notion of any one wine going with something as varied as the food of a continent that brings us the beaming chilli heat of curries produced in southern India through to the delicate and sensual nature of the finest sashimi (can you imagine a Sake producer from Japan turning up in France proclaiming that their offering was perfect with French food? Which French food exactly? Boudin Noir? Boeuf Bourguignon? Bouillabaisse?). The truth is that the vast majority of people, even wine nerds like me, buy the wine they want to drink and the food that they want to eat and barely consider any supposed synergy that might exist beyond that of choosing red for meat and white for fish.

This topic took centre stage at a recent and enjoyable tasting of Blaufrankisch from the Groszer Wein Estate in Sudburgenland. The affable and very engaging owner, Matthias Kron asked us to try some local Taiwanese food (that included spiced prawns, mackerel, bean-curd etc) with his reds suggesting that they went surprisingly well with these Taiwanese staples. In reality the pairing was merely adequate. Perhaps in comparison to the generic Merlot from Bordeaux that was also tasted, the pairing was indeed more successful. This may have been the result of the extra acidity in the Austrian wines that sliced its way through the robust flavours emanating from the small plates in front of us but it may also have been that the Blaufrankisch’ were, in this instance, simply better.

There is no doubt that people who make wine, especially Europeans, feel more comfortable if they can foster the belief in export markets that their wines sit well with the local cuisine. This is the result of being raised on a continent where wine is food (at least it is considered as such amongst the producer countries) and also on a belief that restaurants are where brands are built and trends are started. This is not the case in Taiwan. Wine consumers here drink Bordeaux and Burgundy not because it goes well with the local cuisine, but drink it because they like it and because the received opinion is that it is good.

This is what Blaufrankisch needs to thrive. It needs presence in the market, it needs champions in the media, it needs representation. When people are able to say ‘I love Blaufrankisch’ because it has become relatively familiar to them, the ability to pair with mackerel, bean curd or a spiced prawn will be irrelevant; people will buy it because they like it.

Below are notes for two of the delicious wines presented by Matthias, I urge you to drink them..with whatever and whomever you like.

Groszer Wein Estate, Der Gemischte Satz Rose 2014, 11.5%
Grape: Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt and Merlot
Winemaking: Steel
Note: Crisp and fresh, slightly unripe red fruit, redcurrant, strawberry with saliva inducing acidity and a pleasing drag of tannin across the tongue that provides interest and drinkability. Simple but thirst quenching stuff that encourages consumption.
Price: 950NT (for a 1 litre bottle)
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: Elf Land 

Groszer Wein Estate, Blaufrankisch ‘Vom Riegl’ 2012, 13.5%
Grape: Blaufrankisch
Winemaking: Mixture of different sized oak
Note: Perfumed yet earthy with an alluring stewed cherry character, this is brisk and refreshing with a verve that permeates all of Matthias’ wines. The presence of fine and pithy tannins promises enjoyable drinking over the next five years.
Price: 1350NT (for a 1 litre bottle)
Score: 17/20
Available from: Elf Land

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