• Summer poses fresh pairing challenges to the sommelier

    Matching fine wine with food is an acquired skill. For Mirko Benzo, head sommelier at The Connaught, pairing wines with the complex summer dishes of Helene Darroze is an even greater challenge.

    Matching fine wine with food is an acquired skill. For Mirko Benzo, head sommelier at The Connaught, pairing wines with the complex summer dishes of Hélène Darroze is an even greater challenge.

    mm By April 28, 2016

    For most sommeliers, trying to pick wines that work with a three course dinner is a hugely complex task at any time of the year. Come summer there is a whole new array of ingredients with unique colours, tastes and textures to work with, plus the added difficulty that we are one wine colour down – the chunky reds that get us through the winter have to make way for the crisp whites and rosés that both the food and guests demand. So Summer poses some very real pairing challenges to the sommelier.

    Hélène Darroze, CHEF AT THE CONNAUGHT
    Hélène Darroze at the Connaught has two Michelin stars

    We asked Mirko Benzo, head sommelier at The Connaught, to explain the thinking behind the wines he pairs with one of the menus served by Veuve Clicquot World Best Female Chef, 2015, Hélène Darroze, that captures the essence and unique tastes of summer.

    Before Mirko joined the Connaught he was sommelier at Trussardi alla Scala. He has plenty of experience of matching fine wines with fine food but Hélène’s summer menu poses fresh pairing challenges.


    Oyster “Fine de Claire”– caviar, white beans

    Wine pairing

    Champagne Reliance Franck Pascal N.V. 

    “Franck Pascal is a biodynamic wine grower who has four hectares in the Vallée de la Marne. He works principally with pinot meunier, and also pinot noir and chardonnay. Currently, he produces four Champagnes: Reliance, Tolérance, Harmonie and Quintessance. Reliance is a convivial fizz, perfect for starting a summer meal that you’d serve to your friends and family. It also goes well with seafood and the saltiness of the caviar.”


    Salmon – fennel, lime, horseradish

    Wine pairing

    Cuvee Bellugue Rosé  Chateau La Coste, 2012

    “This is an iconic summer wine, a rosé from Provence that is perfect for all gastronomic food. This wine is marked by a finesse and minerality – white fruits dominate alongside floral notes. It works well against the rich oiliness of the salmon and highlights the other flavours beautifully.”


    Asparagus – morel, ricotta, olive oil

    Wine pairing

    Sauvignon Blanc Seresin, 2010

    “We go to Marlborough in New Zealand to discover another organic producer. Organically and bio-dynamically grown, the grapes from Seresin estate are transformed into artisan wines through gentle, traditional winemaking. This sauvignon blanc displays passion fruit and herbaceous notes on the nose with a chalky mineral complexity. The palate is finely textured with ripe gooseberry, tropical fruit and citrus notes, framed by a fresh acidity to create a persistent finish.”

    Hélène Darroze at the Connaught


    Scallop – tandoori, carrot, citrus, coriander

    Wine pairing

    Atanasius, Gut Oggau, 2012

    “The market town Oggau, located at Lake Neusiedl in the Austrian province Burgenland, is a wine-growing village famous for its quality. Thanks to the biodynamic winemaking process and the focus on the essentials, Gut Oggau produces a small selection of authentic, typical regional wines. This red wine, made from zweigelt and blaufränkisch grapes, is perfect for our summer meal. It has a charming and accessible scent, open, affectionate and gentle. Very attractive on the palate, not shallow, it has a developed structure, is confident and full of youthful spirit.”


    Savarin Armagnac – raspberry, pepper

    Wine pairing

    Jurançon Moelleux, Domaine de Souch, 2012

    “We finish our gastronomic trip with a glass of Jurançon Moelleux. Situated near Pau and the Pyrénées mountains in the South West of France, Domaine de Souch is a 6,5 hectares wine estate. Since 1994, the vines have known no chemical treatments of any kind and are taken care of in the traditional way. There are three different grape varieties planted, petit manseng, gros manseng and courbu. This sweet wine is golden in colour, the nose is floral and elegant with hints of honey and vanilla, the mouth feel is pure and well-balanced with exotic fruits aromas, a perfect match for the raspberry and pepper flavours of this dessert, with a long and persistent finish.

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    Hélène Darroze at the Connaught





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