Wine pairing in Cairo

It takes talent and expertise to become a professional sommelier, or wine steward. A fixture of fine restaurants, a sommelier is one who specializes both in wine service and “wine pairing”–matching wine with food to maximize the tastes of both.

“There are many courses you can take–some at the Wine and Spirit Education Trust in London, and there’s the Court of Master Sommeliers in the USA,” explained Matthew Hudson, Hotel Sommelier at the Fairmont Nile City. The Fairmont recently put together their Springtime Wine Dinner at the Napa Grill in the first of what is expected to be a seasonal wine pairing event.

The pairings for the evening:
Basil crab cake with a Californian Chardonnay
Baby carrot soup with a Verdicchio from Marche, Italy
Seared scallops with a French Gewurztraminer Reserve
Grilled beef tenderloin with a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon
Roasted reach with a chocostretto parfait (coffee chocolate cake-like dessert) with a Sauternes Reserve (white dessert wine) from Bordeaux, France

Of course, every guest at a wine pairing event walks away with some understanding of what wine should go with what. For the beginner, it becomes apparent that white wines are lighter, better paired with seafood and that reds work well with beef or red meat in general. Perhaps an attendee at the Fairmont Springtime Wine Dinner would note the light crispness of the Chardonnay and the smooth, full bodied flavor of the Verdicchio. The Gewurztraminer was noticeably floral, particularly its scent, which is accentuated by the narrow white wine glass.

“This is a new concept for Egypt,” said Chris Khalifa, a guest at the Springtime Wine Dinner, “and it’s actually great food and great wine.” The banter at the tables seemed to emit the same reaction: slight surprise at the professional nature of the event and even more at the quality and variety of the wines, most of which are not readily available in the Cairene dining scene.

“It’s a concept that the Chef de Cuisine Matthew Gilbert and Executive Sous Chef Ryan Sonson from San Francisco came up with,” said Farah El Alfy, Public Relations Manager at the Fairmont Nile City, “wine pairing events are very popular there with the proximity to Napa Valley, one of the most famous wine producing regions in the US.”

El Alfy considered the night was a great success and that guests were involved in the process enough to have started up debates about the third wine on the menu, the Gewurztraminer. “Some said it was floral, others complained it was syrupy. And those who liked it were very vocal about their admiration for the flavor combination.”

But no one seemed to complain about the opportunity for knowledge and some expressed excitement about the possibility of trying out new wines now in restaurants, both in Egypt and abroad. “People are often intimidated by an imported wine list,” said Nahla, another guest at the Fairmont event. “I think I could now choose a nice wine to match a seafood dinner.”

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