To celebrate Bastille Day, Fresh In The Kitchen has a tribute to all things French. And when you are talking France, wine is a must! Here Frenchman Jean-Marie Pratt talks tricks on tasting and cellaring wine in NZ. Magnifique!
How do you follow up a career as head sommelier in Gordon Ramsay’s three Michelin-starred Chelsea restaurant?
For Frenchman Jean-Marie Pratt, the answer was obvious … tour the winemaking world, find out where the best tipples are being made, by who, and how. His odyssey brought him to New Zealand over the past several weeks, where he has been hopping from vineyard to vineyard tasting the best the country has to offer.
“New Zealand is in a unique position in the winemaking world,” Pratt says. “The cooler climate gives the wine an elegance and balanced alcohol level, which eludes hotter wine-growing areas” – such as Australia and parts of the US.
And although Marlborough sauvignon blanc is still the wine most associated with this country in Pratt’s former British stomping ground, our pinot noir is fast gaining ground, as are some syrahs, chardonnays and aromatics, he says.
For Pratt, the standout surprises of his trip were Hawke’s Bay’s syrah and Bordeaux blends and the pinot noir coming out of Marlborough. His list of favourite Kiwi wineries includes Pegasus Bay, Pyramid Valley, Herzog, Ata Rangi, Felton Road, Rippon, Quartz Reef and Gisborne’s Gem Wines. Gem winemaker Corey Hall is a mate of Pratt’s and has been his guide around the country.
The key thing with food and wine matching, according to Pratt, is to remember that it will always partly come down to personal preference. And even with his years of experience, he is still surprised by pairings that unexpectedly work – or don’t.
“Good food and wine matches happen often, but perfect pairings are rare,” he says. “The same wine doesn’t taste the same every day; the seasoning of the dish can alter the pairing a lot, as does the temperature of the wine. That’s why in a restaurant it’s important to regularly taste the food and wine together with the head chef.
“As a sommelier we try to get as close to perfection as we can.”
CELLARING AND SERVING:
* Wine should be kept in a cool and dark place. The ideal temperature is 10 to 12°C.
* A damp cellar is important for cork sealed bottles to keep the cork, if it has one, moist.
* After a dinner party, don’t leave unused bottles in your fridge.
* Screwcap bottles can be stored upright. Cork closure bottles must be stored laying down to ensure that the corks do not dry out.
* Don’t serve the whites too cold or reds too warm. A white should be servedataround 8°C, it will take 2° in the glass when poured and continue too warm up. Young reds should be servedataround 16C to 18C. They will also slightly warm when poured in the glass. Young reds can be served cooler and pinot noir can be delicious served cool.