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MWs vs MS Taste-off: Wine with classic British dishes

Who can pick the best wine match for these three classic British dishes - the Masters of Wine or the Master Sommeliers? Find out below.

Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers went head-to-head in a battle to match food with wine at a competition organised by Wine Australia at its recent Australia Day Tasting in London.

Wine with classic British dishes: the results

Final Score:

Dish one

Citrus- and salt-cured wild salmon with crème fraîche, chives and a caviar-flavoured macaroon with fresh caviar (If you can’t recreate chef Roger Jones’s caviar macaroon, try getting the sweetness you need in the dish by sugar-curing your salmon)

The wines

Natasha Hughes MW:

Turkey Flat, Rose, Barossa Valley, South Australia 2015

£69 x6 bottles / £11.50 per bottle WineDirect UK (in bond) / A$19.90 Auscellardoor Australia

‘This was a big challenge,’ said writer and consultant Natasha Hughes MW. ‘The dish is salty from the caviar, sweet from the macaroon, oily and rich from the salmon and then we have the crème fraîche.

‘Looking at the textures and flavours, I originally thought of an aged Hunter Valley Semillon but the wine’s acidity didn’t sit well with the saltiness and sweetness.

‘Then I thought about something with a touch of residual sugar but a weight of fruit too. For me, this rosé was the answer as it has the acidity to cut through the richness of the dish.

Clément Robert MS

Tahbilk, Museum Release Marsanne, Nagambie Lakes, Victoria 2009

£15.95 Tanners UK£83.94 x6 Armit UK / $18.99 Southern Hemisphere Wine Center California

Robert, head sommelier and wine buyer at London’s 28°-50° group, agreed the main challenge was to find a wine that could balance the salty and sweet components of the dish.

‘Originally I thought of an off-dry Riesling, but then I thought that sweetness might be too much. Then I tried this Marsanne with some bottle age. The wine’s purity, minerality and drive plus its oily, full-bodied texture really carries the dish well.’

The audience verdict: Marsanne

The Marsanne was deemed the winner, with about 65% of the audience vote.

Dish two

Carpaccio of venison with foie gras toffee, cep cream, truffle and cep tuille.

Chef Roger Jones said: ‘The toffee is the trickiest bit of the dish. It involves reducing a bottle of PX Sherry to a syrup and then mixing it with the foie gras. It’s very rich and sweet.’

The wines

Natasha Hughes MW

Teusner, Avatar Grenache-Mourvedre-Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia 2012

£26.99 Noel Young Wines (UK) / £26 Hallowed Ground / A$29.99 Jim’s Cellars (Australia, NSW)

‘Looking at the sweetness of this dish you might think that you would want a sweet wine to go with it but actually that would be too much a good thing,’ said Hughes.

‘So I then looked for a wine that would pair with the earthy ceps and meaty venison. For me, Mourvedre is the perfect grape to do that, and Australia makes great examples.

‘Initially with this wine you think the sweetness of the ripe fruit will get in the way, but actually it enhances the gaminess of the venison and the acidity cleanses the palate.’

Clément Robert MS

Ulithorne, Fruz Flugis Flamma Sparkling Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia NV

£39 Hallowed Ground (UK, importer/merchant)

Robert said a number of people would not agree with him on his choice of a fizzy red for this dish, but he urged them to give it a try.

‘Sparkling Shiraz is an amazing and original style of wine and this is a great example,’ he said. ‘It’s essentially dry, but with just a touch of residual sugar which helps with the sweetness of the dish. The bubbles add a certain texture that refreshes the palate and cuts through the richness and sweetness of the food. It has also been bottle-aged for three years so that complexity helps.’

If sparkling reds are a step too far out of your comfort zone, our experts also suggested trying a lighter-styled Grenache served a slightly cool.

The audience verdict: sparkling Shiraz

A close call, but the sparkling Shiraz won by one or two votes.

Dish three

Lobster, shrimp and turbot dumpling with chilli, pistachio and coriander and a spiced carrot sauce.

Jones said: ‘For me, the perfect match is a seamless harmony where the food highlights the wine and the wine enhances the food; neither should overpower the other.’

The wines

Natasha Hughes MW:

Arras, EJ Carr, Late Disgorged, Tasmania 2002

£321.90 x6 bottles (UK) / £59.99 Liberty (UK, importer/merchant)

With neither Master of Wine nor Master Sommelier knowing what the other had chosen until the taste-off, it was a surprise to see both had looked to the cool climates of Tasmania for their wines.

‘When I first tasted this dish it had more carrot sauce which lent quite a sweet note to the dish,’ said Hughes. ‘For that reason I was on the lookout for an Australian version of an Alsace Pinot Gris with a hint of residual sugar, but sadly that kind of wine doesn’t exist in Australia.

‘So I changed tack and instead of looking for a complement to the richness of the dish I focused on the opposite – a wine to cut through that sweetness and richness but which still had depth.

‘Sparkling wine was the obvious choice and the best in Australia come from Tasmania. This one has beautiful development with a textural richness to balance the sweet shellfish and spice.’

Clément Robert MS:

Stefano Lubiana, Chardonnay, Tasmania 2008

£37.50 Whirly Wine (UK)

Robert also focused on an island wine to offset the sweet, rich lobster and sauce.

‘Stefano Lubiana is one of my favourite producers who makes very European-style wines from his unique Aussie terroir,’ he said.

‘This Chardonnay is pure and restrained – perfect for seafood. It has the acidity and drive to go with the sweet greenness you get from the lobster and brings a much-needed acidity to the dish.’

The audience verdict: The Late disgorged sparkling wine

A clear win for the Tasmanian sparkling.

Final Score:

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