There can be but a few places on earth where the natural partnership of wine and food is embraced more wholeheartedly than at Creation Wines on the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. That Creation wines are exceptionally versatile and food friendly is no secret. This is due to the refreshing natural acidity, the multifaceted complexity and the harmonious balance of these cool-climate wines. Add to this owner Carolyn Martin’s passion for flavour profiling and it’s also no wonder that the estate is regarded as a trendsetter in the field of wine and food pairing.
Carolyn recently proved her considerable skills once again at a demo held as part of the Hermanus FynArts festival. Titled ‘The Facts & Fun of Wine & Umami Pairing’, the event was held in the Creation Tasting Room on Wednesday 12 June and attracted an enthusiastic audience, eager to learn more about this fascinating subject. Umami, literally translated, means ‘good taste’ and there are three main types of umami: glutamate which is found in seaweed, guanylate which is found in mushroom and inosinate which is found in fish. As a pairing example Carolyn cited the sensational match of the Creation Reserve Pinot Noir with a dish of Linefish, Beetroot, Beurre Rouge, Radish, Sea Lettuce and Herb Oil.
Referring to the alchemy of wine and food pairing, where the combination of the two components creates a magical third dimension, Carolyn says: “The greatest culinary experiences are achieved by blending time-honoured methods with innovative techniques, transforming craft into art.” So, is wine and food pairing an art or a science? Well, art it certainly is; starting with the concept through to the imaginative presentation created by fine food experts in the kitchen and finally, the creative interaction between host and guest at the table.
The successful matching of wine with food is however also a science and in this respect Carolyn has developed a 5-step plan. It involves Taste, Smell, Temperature, Texture and Mood/Experience, each of which is broken down into greater detail. Taste, for instance covers Sweet, Sour, Salt, Bitter and Umami. Click here for some basic guidelines pertaining to the latter.
Thus the Creation kitchen and Tasting Room can be likened to an artist’s studio, a stage as well as an alchemist’s laboratory! But where did Carolyn’s love of wine and food pairing originate? Among her fondest childhood memories are those of her grandparents’ wine farm Hartenberg in the Stellenbosch region, and more specifically of her grandmother, Eleanor Finlayson. “We had a fantastic pantry, our own chickens, pigs and cows with a dairy. We grew a wide variety of fruit and veggies and I learnt to appreciate fresh, simple food. My grandmother and I would cook up a storm, and this is also where I learnt the basics of wine and food pairing.” A charming anecdote is of a five-year-old Carolyn who, when guests arrived in the Hartenberg tasting room and her grandmother was otherwise engaged, simply took over, conducting her first tasting to a very surprised group of guests. “I knew they had to be looked after, and I reasoned that I’d heard and seen enough to get by. Eventually we found Grandma halfway through a cellar tour.”
Today Carolyn continues doing what she enjoys most: making sure that her guests are made to feel special. “At Creation we like to think of our Tasting Room not only as a place where we can pamper and surprise our guests but also as a space where we can interact and learn from each other.”