Wine Australia’s Great Aussie Taste-Off brought a variety of standout food and wine matches to Chef’s Table at Imbibe Live, but only one wine professional could win the face-off. Caprice Holdings’ Clément Robert MS pipped consultant Sam Caporn MW to the post in a tasting that demonstrated the flexibility and variety of Australian wine when it comes to food pairing.
Both wine experts were tasked with choosing Australian wines to pair with three dishes crafted by chef Roger Jones of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn. They presented each of their selections to the audience, who then sampled them and voted on a winner.
The showdown kicked off with a vibrant sea bream ceviche with crab, pickled ginger, shiso leaves and pineapple and chilli jam. Robert explained his pairing, Pewsey Vale The Contours Riesling 2012, first. ‘I think this is the best Riesling in Australia,’ he said, detailing how its notes of fresh mango and ginger marry with the spicy elements of the dish, while the zingy acidity cuts through the creamy dressing.
For her selection, Caporn nabbed Turkey Flat Vineyards Grenache Rose 2018. ‘When I’m matching food and wine, I’m looking for the dominant flavours. Here, it’s sweetness and spice,’ she said. 2018’s particularly warm vintage produced a wine with ample residual sugar and crunchy red fruit, which she was certain would match with the pineapple jam and moderate the chilli heat.
After an audience vote, Robert took the first round – but the competition was just heating up. For their next challenge, Caporn and Robert had to pick a wine to go with a luxurious dish of venison carpaccio, duck heart, perigord truffles, cep and chicken cream, pea shoots and PX caramel.
Caporn chose to focus on the venison, duck and mushroom elements, selecting Tolpuddle Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 as an example of a classic pairing. With French oak, its savoury, spicy character was rich enough to stand up to the food without overpowering it. However, Robert’s match once again stole the show – Peter Lehmann Black Queen Sparkling Shiraz 2015 managed to bolster the meatiness of the food, but its effervescence kept the match from being too bold and heavy. ‘You get the spice of Shiraz, and notes of sage, rosemary and black olive,’ he said, ‘but you also get the refreshing quality of the bubbles.’
The final dish was a bit of curveball: chargrilled aubergine with thyme, pistachio and coriander chutney, alongside a garlic, honey and mint yoghurt. ‘The aubergine is nutty, herbal and chargrilled, so I wanted something with a good amount of toast and oak and a structured texture,’ said Caporn. Her Petaluma Chardonnay 2016 delivered on both fronts – the oak’s complexity and warmth brought together the various elements of the dish and matched the creaminess of the yoghurt.
Robert, meanwhile, had picked out Henschke The Rose Grower Nebbiolo 2014, an unusual yet lovely example of ‘how Australia is embracing alternative varieties’. ‘It has a barbecue character and a meaty aspect, but it’s also got this crunchy, tart acidity,’ he said.
Capon’s Chardonnay took this final round thanks to its superb structure, but as Robert had already won the first two, he was crowned the Taste-Off champion. Though given the high calibre of matches the Imbibe Live audience had just sampled, it’s clear who the real winners were...