– With Peter Bourne
The warmer weather of our summer months lures us out of our wintery shells into the dazzling sunshine – and the heat. Cool flavours are what we seek – be it food or drinks. When it comes to food, the duo of Australia’s abundance of seafood and our incredible array of multicultural cuisines offers fresh, bright flavours that suit the balmy weather. Oysters, prawns, tuna, salmon and all-sorts of cephalopods – served a la natural or cooked with exotic spices and served with a wedge of lemon.
The barbecue becomes the focus with grilled sausages, chops and steaks served with simple salads. In fact, led by cooks like Yotam Ottolenghi, those salads are becoming more complex with healthy grains and pulses giving them the protein boost for a stand-alone lunch or for a light evening meal.
So let’s explore the amazing range of summertime wines. Oh, and remember to cool your reds on a blazing hot day…..
Outdoor eating takes on a whole new guise when it’s packed in a picnic basket, lugged for miles before being set up in a cool, grassy glade. Equally heavy is the mandatory Australian icon — an Esky brim full of cold beer and appropriately chill-able wines.
One of the best tips when matching food and wine is to balance the weight of the wine with the complexity of the food. Picnic food is fresh and tasty, so select equally refreshing whites and juicy, light-framed reds. That hefty basket may include a quiche, frittata, pâté, terrine, a plethora of charcuterie and some stinky cheese.
Eschew your heavyweight shiraz and cabernets for alfresco reds that welcome a gentle chill. Pull them out of the icy Esky to allow them to come up a few degrees before serving. The savoury, spicy Colab & Bloom Grenache works well with salami or pork and pistachio terrine. Pair the raspberry and aniseed flavoured Willunga 100 Tempranillo with a Manchego cheese for a true Iberian experience.
One of the great benefits of Australian winegrower’s universal move to the screwcap is that forgetting a corkscrew is no longer the picnic disaster that it was in the olden days of cork!
Australia’s incredible wealth of seafood offers the opportunity to indulge in a feast of fresh and simply cooked crustacean, whole fish and other underwater treats. Oysters are a delicious starter and just perfect with a crisp, dry riesling from the Eden or Clare Valleys. The riesling’s citrus bright acidity replaces the need for a squeeze of lemon. Semillon is another wonderful seafood white — try a zippy young Hunter Valley semillon with a salt and pepper squid. Sauvignon blanc is equally seafood friendly – try the Leura Park Estate Sauvignon Blanc with a Thai style prawn and glass noodle salad.
Whole fish makes a great centre point to a seafood feast. Pair breezy white like the Buller King Valley Pinot Grigio with a snapper spiced with lemongrass and ginger or a delicate pinot noir with a whole baked Tasmanian salmon. The pinot’s mildmannered tannins and tangy acidity will cut through the oily (Omega 3 rich) texture of the salmon like a hot knife through butter. Speaking of butter, if the budget allows, split a fresh crayfish and grill it with a smothering of herb infused butter. Serve it with a buttery ‘old-school’ chardonnay for a marvellous food and wine match. Salmon also lends itself to Japanese dishes like sashimi or sushi – serve with lightly chilled sake for a nice (nationalistic) match. Salmon also shines as the base for Nordic-inspired gravlax. Damien Pignolet, of Claude’s and Bistro Moncur fame, marinated the salmon in sauvignon blanc for his legendary gravlax – so there’s an obvious synergy in serving a savoury sauvignon blanc.
Bouillabaisse is the ultimate seafood dish, its gusty (saffron) spiced flavours typically paired with an acid-etched Beaujolais Nouveau. An alternative is a frisky rosé with soft redcurrant flavours and an incisive acidity to cut through the seafood rich bouillabaisse and its garlic-laced aioli. Serve by lapping water to emulate a truly Mediterranean experience.
LONG & LAZY SUMMER LUNCH
School and public holidays offer the opportunity to invite family and friends for a long, lazy lunch. Kick things off with a fruity, low-alcohol wine like moscato or an offdry riesling (labelled as kabinett in Germany) with those from the Mosel the exemplar of the style. Served well chilled, the wine’s sweet’n’sour flavours echo those of an icy lemon sorbet. Served at 11am with a platter of fresh fruit, at 5-7% alcohol, an extra glass or two of moscato won’t impede the pleasures of a lengthy lunch.
Step the pace up a bit with a Champagne or sparkling wine. Australia’s top bubbles stand proudly alongside the French stuff, as they’re made with the same grape varieties using the methode traditionelle technique. The only thing missing in Australia is Champagne’s terroir Defining chalk. Serve the Saddler’s Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir with freshly shucked Port Stephen’s oysters for the ultimate palate cleanser.
It’s time for an entrée – perhaps a retro prawn cocktail served on a bed of shaved iceberg lettuce and doused in Marie Rose sauce. A crisp dry rosé such as the Leura Park Estate Rosé is a blushing companion to the equally rosy prawn cocktail.
Turkey and ham sneak their way into many family lunches with yester-year’s roast vegetables replaced by complex salads in the Ottolenghi style. A fuller white such as Monterra Chardonnay would work with the dense protein of the turkey. However, for a curved ball, try a sparkling red with the ham. The French despise the concept but sparkling red is as Australian as an Akubra hat. Sparkling reds are traditionally made with shiraz but the Saddler’s Creek team use cabernet sauvignon as the base for their Bluegrass Sparkling — and it’s a ripper. Serve the ham with your choice of mustards and don’t over chill the Bluegrass.
Now for dessert, a rare course for a weeknight meal, but the mandatory finale to a long lunch. Grandma’s pudding is legendary, usually accompanied by a brandy infused custard. Now’s the perfect moment to serve that port stuck at the back of the drinks cupboard. Buller Tawny is lush and plush, its raisiny flavours just perfect with grandma’s pudding. It’s now time for an afternoon nap.