A good meal without wine is a like a day without sunshine and when I’m sipping my favourite beverage, I always imagine what food would pair with whats in my glass. When the two marry together, the symbiosis is magical. I’m starting a series of food and wine pairing articles where I ask industry experts who also know their food to offer up some opinions on what things we should be eating with what wine. I hope you find this fun and enlightening. I also want to uncover a few amazing wine gems along the way. Please leave a comment below with what your favourite pairing is too so we can all jump in on the conversation.
I am kicking this off with Sauvignon Blanc because its summer and its a wonderful wine to be enjoying right now. It’s also – in my opinion, one of the more difficult wines to pair with food so I thought we should get this challenge out the way first. I generally go to Chenin or Chardonnay when I want a white wine to enjoy with my meal, and love to quaff Sauvignon Blanc on its own. Perhaps with a few snacks on the side. I was thrilled with the amazing feedback I got from the experts here and I have a few killer recipes to match some incredible local Sauvignon Blancs.
Fresh and zippy, most South African Sauvignon Blancs are unwooded allowing the tropical fruit notes and slight green edge to make for an uncomplicated, clean-tasting wine. The line of acidity makes these Sauvignon Blancs ideal for enjoying with seafood and white meats, and here I definitely go for fish on the coals, such as Cape Salmon or yellowtail. But in a perfect world there is nothing like 12 oysters, fresh and plump, with Sauvignon Blanc – the wine accentuates the taste of the sea.
Favourites – Springfield Life from Stone, Diemersdal Eight Rows, Neil Ellis Groenekloof.
So the perfect pairing for Sauvignon Blanc is goats cheese – it really is a match made in heaven. We are especially fond of the hard, aged Crottin de Chavignol, shaved over salads like a nutty parmesan, or the softer, fresher ones baked in the oven until golden and bubbly and slid onto a simple green salad with a few walnuts scattered on top. Our Special Cuvée is the creamier and more feminine of the two Sauvignon Blancs we make, and suits the richness of the goats cheese very well. Our Life from Stone Sauvignon Blanc, on the other hand, is bold and zesty and filled to the brim with ripe tropical fruit, yet with a pleasing salinity on the finish. We love it as an aperitif with oysters, or even with a piece of grilled yellowtail – perhaps with a mango-chilli salsa? Naturally asparagus is wonderful with Sauvignon Blanc as well, and would work with any green or white asparagus dish, which would accentuate the herbaceous, vegetal notes in the wine.
The most exciting thing is that South Africa Sauvignon Blanc is now taking on diverse profiles and flavour-wise is no longer a one-trick pony. There are fresh and flinty wines, those with distinct tropical profiles and wooded wines of enormous complexity. So there is not one Sauvignon for you culinary combination.
“For fresh and flinty I most definitely prefer a fresh fish like yellowtail or galjoen that has been braaied over wooden coals. And with a wooded Sauvignon Blanc that has more palate weight, roasted leg of lamb – cooked pink and medium – is great. Oh, and did I mention that besides Sauvignon Blanc we have superb lamb in Durbanville!
With regard to Sauvignon blanc – full disclosure – it’s seldom my first choice of wine to drink or to pair with food… I prefer Chenin/Chenin blends or Sauvignon/Semillon blends generally. That being said, there are some great examples out there and I firmly believe that South Africa’s affection for this grape shows no sign of waning!
I am also a bit unusual in that I LIKE the rather flinty, gravelly and even (gasp!) ‘green’ Sauvignons that are currently copping a lot of flak from other critics who advocate better fruit expression, tropicality and ripeness. And what’s wrong with a bit of asparagus on the nose? Granted, that whiffy ‘cat’s pee’ is thankfully a thing of the past. (And yes, I’m old enough to remember the days in the 90’s when Thelema’s Sauvignon release would create a frenzy the first two weeks in July! If you didn’t get in and get your case or two then you missed out.) But I grew up in KwaZulu-Natal where summer afternoon thunderstorms with big fat raindrops hitting hot tar and giving off that wonderful dusty, flinty, baked earth smell is what I think of when I raise a glass of Sauv blanc to my nose.
OK – so choice would be: Klein Constantia Metis because of that mineral character it expresses – but also because Sauv blanc can be thin and austere with skinny hips but Klein Constantia’s use of lees (the dead yeast cells from fermentation) adds a bit of body and heft to the mid-palate of this wine.
Durbanville is ideal for Sauvignon Blanc because of its coolness – and Nitida’s Golden Orb Sauvignon Blanc is a delight. Lipsmacking with scads of ruby grapefruit flavour and a beaut firm core of that steely minerality, flint and gravel again. Another one which has extended lees contact – 9 months vs K Constantia’s 12.
And finally, you simply cannot beat Robertson’s Springfield for kick-ass ‘go-to’ Sauvignon Blanc. I’m a big fan of the Special Cuvee and make sure to always have a bottle on hand. Taut, zingy pithy citrus flavour with well judged acidity.
When it comes to food pairings… a freshly-braaied, moist and succulent snoek goes well – but then so do cheese-based quiche (Lorraine/asparagus etc), cheese souffle, pissaladiere with the sweet roasted tomato and salty anchovy contrasting the fresh acidity, Caesar salad – bacon or chicken, oysters (of course!)