Pairing South African wines from Stellenbosch with Nikkei Cuisine:
I’m something of a sucker for Nikkei food. Luis Hara is well known in London and further afield for his excellent Nikkei supper club (and for a comprehensive recipe book which we reviewed earlier this year). So, I was intrigued by an invitation to his home for an evening pairing his food with the wines of Stellenbosch. In addition to being an excellent chef, he’s also a food and travel writer and it turned out he’d visited Stellenbosch and somehow managed to return with a commitment to host a supper club! Well, I wasn’t complaining, the idea of an evening of delicious food and wine with convivial company including many of the wine makers themselves seemed too good to pass over.
We started the evening with a glass of l’Avenir MCC Blanc de Blanc 2011 accompanied by two canapes – Leek and Tofu Gyoza with home-made garlic teriyaki sauce and Shichimi flavoured popcorn. Of course it may help that I generally like Blanc de Blanc – a methode champenoise 100% chardonnay wine that I find makes the ideal aperitif. And, in the charming surroundings of Luis’s home, this South African wine seemed perfect.
The dinner was made up of five starters with paired South African wines. First up, two 2015 Chenin Blanc wines from Kleine Zalze – vineyard selection and family reserve. Both were delicious – the family reserve range is the flagship line and the Chenin Blanc was soft, minerally and perfect with the ‘deconstructing sushi’ (grilled scallops on rice with tobiko caviar, nori seaweed and spicy creamy sauce).
If anything I felt it was slightly overwhelmed by the salmon Sicilian prawn and fennel Nikkei ceviche, a deliciously piquant dish with a passion fruit and aji amarillo tiger’s milk.
The vineyard selection, slightly more acidic, was paired with a wonderful tuna tataki – a seared tuna slice with a citrussy yuzu ponzu dressing. Perfect.
Next, a delicate dish of chilled green tea soba noodles with fried aubergines in a cold dashi broth, paired with Jordan Wine Estate Nine Yards Chardonnay 2014. Having dined a week or so earlier at High Timber, the Jordan family’s own restaurant and wine bar in London, I was thrilled to actually meet them in person and to hear more about their wines.
“Tempura” was a real showcase for Luis’s culinary skills. He’d managed to find courgette flowers at New Covent Garden Market and had filled them with a light mousse of scallop, silken tofu and lemon, oyster mushrooms and red pepper, before dipping in tempura batter and frying. An amazing, melt in the mouth dish that also paired well with the soft, delicate chardonnay.
Our main course was Iberico pork cheeks with a daikon fondant and foie gras, slow braised in soy sauce, sake, brown sugar and ginger and served with two delicious vegetable accompaniments which could have been meals in themselves. Japanese rice with Hijiki seaweed, carrots and abura-age (deep fried) tofu in a light dashi and a dish of green vegetables – broccoli, fine green beans, sugar snaps and asparagus in saikyo miso and black sesame sauce.
There were three red wines to try and if I am perfectly honest I was at the point of being slightly overwhelmed. I do remember enjoying each one and getting a real appreciation for some of the comments made earlier in the evening. Unlike the wines of the New World, these reds would have been an excellent match for anything from France or Italy. Spier Creative Block 2015 was a Bordeaux style wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Ok, not a classic French blend, but for me, it tasted just as good. Waterford Estate The Jem 2010 was a rich, opulant wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Mourvedre, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Grenache and Barbera. And, our last red wine, the Stellenbosch vineyards Flagship Cabernet Franc 2010, 100% Cabernet Franc was beautifully rich, fruity and chocolatey.
Dessert came in the form of an Asian take on Tarte Tatin, with Star Anise, Rosemary, Almonds and Sarawakan Cinnamon. Our pairing was none other than the beautiful naturally sweetened apricoty Jordan Wine Estate Mellifera 2013, which I’d enjoyed at High Timber a week or so before.
Of course the food was superb. I expected nothing less. And, the wines were exceptional, with the helpful introductions provided by the winemakers themselves adding to the experience. What for me was most remarkable was how well what I had previously thought of as new world wines paired with the delicate and complex Japanese and Nikkei dishes.
As our hosts explained, these are traditional wines with all the finesse of the best of European enhanced by an exceptional climate and terroir. Now, I just want to find out more and visit Stellenbosch for myself.
with many thanks to Luis from the London Foodie and to Stellenbosch Wines for a wonderful evening.