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Food & Wine Pairings for Summertime Entertaining

If you’re looking for inspiration for food and wine pairings for the summer season, Elena Venzo, General Manager at boutique liquor outlet and ecommerce supplier, Dry Dock Liquor weighs in with some delightfully delicious ideas.

By Lutho Pasiya | December 24, 2021 | Recipes

With our beautiful summer weather, there are still plenty of opportunities to relax with friends and family and make the most of weekend time while the sun (literally) still shines.

“In my mind, the most important decisions you have to make when entertaining is what you are going to eat and drink!” says Elena.

And to make this a breeze, we’re going to put some suggestions forward. In our opinion, entertaining eating and drinking is like anything that is done well: you need to plan for it to maximize enjoyment! Things also need to be easy so you can sit back and relax with your guests rather than slog over complex and time-consuming dishes! Nonetheless, we do want to know what we are doing, and the magic is actually all in the pairings, so here are our suggestions!

Apperitivo

Limoncello Spritz Spritz – a refreshing delight to wake up the digestive system and prepare your tummy for all the delicious things to come! This cocktail is a vibrant and straightforward aperitivo, and I am yet to meet someone I know who doesn't enjoy one at the beginning of a party to get things going cheekily. It is easy to make, wonderfully refreshing, and not too high in alcohol, so a great way to start a festive gathering on a hot summer's day!

Cocktails. Alcoholic Drinks made with gin, vodka, rum or whiskey mixed with soda water, fruit juices and garnishes with limes and cherries. Classic American bar drinks.

Bubbles

Whether you’re celebrating a special ocassion or savouring the joy of just being together, there is always a place for a good MCC! My pick for this year would be Genevieve' Brut' Blanc de Blancs Cap Classique 2016! I have always loved Melissa Genevieve Nelsen's bubbles; she is a bubbly queen! And while I make this sound casual and fun, which it is, I cannot stress more that this is also an exquisite and sophisticated glass of bubbles—100% chardonnay grapes from Bot River and aged on the lees for three years. The effects are undeniable in that this is an MCC that you can drink a lot of, but it also has a bit more depth and complexity if you want to engage with it in that way. For me, it is light to medium-bodied and has a beautiful texture and citrus, blossom notes with a lovely minerality.

MCC's like this, especially Blancs de Blancs, which are 100% chardonnay, pair incredibly with oyster and, this is what I would do if I were keeping it simple and I knew that all the guests loved those oceanic delicacies too! But this as your only pairing option is risky, so my other options would be some lovely battered white fish cubes, like hake or cod with a tangy fennel tartar dip, or a beautiful smoked trout salad; with bay rocket, fennel, and fried capers of course! If there is a vegetarian in the house, then Zucchini fried in tempura batter with a very subtle basil aioli is a winner!

White wine

Oldenberg Chenin Blanc! An absolutely fabulous Chenin from Oldenburg Vineyards in Stellenbosch. ! There is a lot of character on this whine and along its sumptuous mouth feel and fruitful expression it also offers a fresh and zesty lift with excellent acidity and superb balance! I love the texture and minerality and the intensity of flavors that comes from this wine!

I would pair this with croquet's de jamon serrano (ham and chicken croquettes)! A lovely crispy crunchy outer encasing a beautiful creamy cheesy inner with subtle sweet paprika flavours and cubes of cured meat, preferably jamon to top it off! Golden-fried cases of heaven go so well with this beautiful wine. This pairing is one of those moments where opposites attract - the acidity and zinginess in this wine find a beautiful dance with the creaminess and layered flavors of this dish! It also makes a great pairing because this wine stands up to the flavors in the croquette in such a way that they can only complement each other.

Red wine

Cederberg Cabernet Sauvignon, I have to put this wine forward; it impressed me this year! As a cooler climate cabernet sauvignon, I couldn't believe its elegance and nuanced flavours - the red fruit of cherries and other stone fruit being more prominent than the darker fruit spectrum. That one usually expects in a cabernet sauvignon to give this wine an incredible freshness. Even though this is a fresher cab, with really excellent acidity, one cannot deny the sheer intensity of flavour in this wine! It is superb! Being South African and loving my red meat (on a braai), I would pair this with a lovely dry-aged T-bone with salt, pepper, on a really, really hot wood fire! That is it! Some smashed fried potatoes tossed in butter and fresh thyme with a fresh garden salad. These are all beautiful things on their own, especially if prepared well but put them all together with this wine, and you have a tastebud symphony! We don't need to overcomplicate things by introducing fancy sauces etc., when things are this perfect together; you can keep it simple and enjoy! I love to serve my 1 kg T-bones on a board sliced up (tagliata style) so that everyone can tuck into the deliciousness together.

Dessert wine

A sorely misunderstood category of wine, my pick for the end of the evening would be the Boschendal Vin D`Or Late Harvest 2018. I think that the reason people are afraid of these fortified/ sweet wines is because these wines are designed for food - we don’t always allow them to stand out properly. By not pairing these wines with the correct ‘desserts’ - the wines don’t have a chance to shine. This is a combination of Weisser Riesling from Durbanville and Viognier from the Elgin Valley, both un-irrigated vineyards. This beautiful natural sweet wine is fabulously balanced with an incredible intensity from an extended hanging time on the vines. On the nose you are presented with incredible intense citrus, tangerine, and honeysuckle aromas. The flavours on the palate are tropical and intense but the acidity allows for a balanced expression of this Noble late harvest.

I would pair this with a good old fashioned cheese board! Make sure that your cheese board has a combination of different textured cheeses, I always have soft, medium and hard cheeses. I particularly love this wine with creamy brie and slightly ripe blue cheese! The way the different cheeses react with the wine is always a fascinating experience, I also love to put various nuts and fresh fruit onto the cheese board which add another dimension and textural elements to the taste experience.

Another tip is also to try and get your hands on unpasteurised and natural cheeses, there is a cheese shop called Cheese Gourmet in Linden which I highly recommend for top quality local cheeses! If you would like to go through a bit more effort to impress your guests then my personal favourite with this wine is a blue cheese, cheese tart with an onion marmalade on top of it. It ticks all the boxes of a savoury dessert with the incredible sweetness from the noble late harvest and the onion marmalade. It is also a mind boggle, but really delicious and surprisingly impressive!

This originally appeared on IOL