Gina Neilson – 9th Avenue Bistro, Morningside, Durban

In this popular series we feature selected sommeliers from top restaurants around the world. Each chooses his or her favourite Creation wine, tells us why and recommends a matching dish. This week we welcome Gina Neilson from the modern, elegant 9th Avenue Bistro in Durban.

About 9th Avenue Bistro :

Having worked in top establishments in the USA, the UK, Bermuda, South America and South Africa, Graham and Gina Neilson came to the conclusion that there was no place like home. So they returned to Durban where they now own and run this warm, unpretentious and successful eatery in the heart of Morningside. In the kitchen Graham and Chef Charles Lakin strive for perfection with the focus on fresh and creative cuisine and the emphasis on high quality seasonal ingredients. In the meantime Sommelier Gina and the front of house team deliver smooth, knowledgeable and professional service. The wine list changes regularly, offering the finest from smaller boutique wineries as well as more affordable options.

Gina says:

One of my favourite places on earth is the Hemel-en-Aarde; it is surely one of Mother Nature’s proudest achievements. I’ve had a love for this wine producing region for ages, but especially after we’ve visited last year. Creation stands at the very top of the valley. If you haven’t been yet, I urge you to go. I find Carolyn and Jean-Claude’s passion for producing wine remarkable and it shows in every bottle. They also have a passion for the environment: Creation is a member of the BWI and IPW and is one of the only nine wine estates in South Africa meeting the EnviroWines accreditation standards. At 9th Avenue Bistro we are as passionate about the environment and have a blog about sustainability – ‘The Responsible Restauranteur’ – so Creation is the perfect wine pairing partner for us!

When you arrive in Durban you are in Sauvignon Blanc country. We love the crisp freshness on a hot day – or on any day for that matter. So I have chosen the Creation Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon as this to me is a true representation of Durban. The Semillon component adds elegance and gives it more depth – making it a true ‘foodie’ wine. As a sommelier I find blends more interesting and layered, offering the diner more.

When choosing a dish to pair with this white Bordeaux blend my immediate thought was fresh linefish but it seemed too obvious; a complex wine needs a complex dish. Charlie (Chef Charles Lakin) and I decided to pair it with Chicken Breast accompanied with Goat’s-milk Cheese and Chicken Leg Crostillant, Beetroot, Pineapple and Macadamia Nut Butter. When I pair wines with food I look at the dish in its entirety. The wine has fresh tropical fruit which is balanced with a salty mineral quality – great with the dish as a whole. And then individual components such as the sweetness and acidic quality of the pineapple and beetroot are in happy harmony with the blend as is the buttery texture of the macadamia.

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