Food and Wine Pairing at Cork Kerry Food Market this weekend

There are a surprising amount of food professionals who carry a soft spot in their hearts for the animated film, Ratatouille, about Remy, a little French rat with a truly epicurean heart who dreams of becoming a great chef. At the beginning of the film, Remy assembles several ingredients—strawberry, mushroom, cheese—all wonderful in their own right, but it is when they are fused into one dish courtesy of a lightning strike that he tastes something truly remarkable and so it is with pairings of food and beverages, in abundance here today. A wonderful foodstuff can reach entirely new heights when paired with a beverage that truly complements and when done properly, the symbiosis works both ways.

One of the more common ‘tricks’, when it comes to pairing food with wine or other beverages is to look at the provenance of the food or dish, to identify where it comes from and then start looking at wines from the same region because, as the terroir (growing conditions of the land and climate) is shared, a pairing from the same region is likely to hold complementary traits, in other words, ‘if it grows together, it goes together’.

Well, you’ll find this exhibition has that angle covered in spades: you’ll have no bother seeking out suitable pairings because every foodstuff and beverage in the hall comes from within a very specific, local region, Cork and Kerry, in the South West of Ireland; we mightn’t share the Sam Maguire too often but we share an awful lot when it comes to food.

But what about the wine, says you? Aren’t we a little shy when it comes to Cork Chardonnays or Kabernets from Kerry? Certainly, we are some way off the commercial production of wine around these parts—and from the point of view of climate change, long may that remain the case—but, as a quick trawl around the hall will confirm, we produce a magnificent range of alternative beverages and each of them pair with food equally as well as —and sometimes even better than—wine.

Sometimes the local non-wine alternatives can even be the superior option. If you’re sampling something hot and spicy, then a fine Irish craft beer can be the perfect match, those effervescent bubbles reinvigorating the spice-pummelled palate with each swallow while cider is a superb alternative to wine and we are blessed to have two of the finest in the country, Stonewell and Longueville, available for tasting over the weekend.

Then there is the question of whether to complement or to contrast: do you want your chosen beverage to echo the weight (ie is it a full bodied beverage you are pairing with your ‘heavy’ dish?) and flavours of the foodstuff, for example, a light, fruity beverage such as Stonewell Tobairín with a spoonful of Clothilde’s Apple & Pear Fruit Compote; or do you want to contrast, for example, a very sweet fortified wine with a salty cheese or a crisp acidic wine with a fatty dish.

Pairing ‘sweet’ with ‘sweet’ can be a little trickier and ideally you need an even sweeter beverage to cope with a sweet dessert or else the beverage ends up tasting sour, even sharp or bitter, but if that sounds like a rule, then, hey, rules are made to be broken.

Ultimately, there are no hard and fast rules, only guidelines but the best way to learn more about the subject is to try it yourself: grab a bite of something from one part of the hall and then wash it down with a drop of something from another stall; even if it isn’t a match made in heaven, as long as you ask yourself why it didn’t necessarily work, that combination will have taught you a valuable lesson about pairing food and beverages. Sláinte beath!


Written by Joe McNamee

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