At the Fine Wine and Sensational Vegetable Dishes event, as six mini dishes were matched to 12 wines from around the world - four wines for every two dishes sampled - it promised to be a fascinating exploration of flavours on an otherwise routine Monday evening.
We kick-started proceedings with an aperitif of Berrys' own Crémant de Limoux from prestigious producer Antech - dry, palate-cleansing, and just what was needed.
This contrasted beautifully with the Raventós i Blanc de Nit Rosé cava 2011 - soft and elegant with hints of strawberry and peach, and made in the same traditional method as champagne. We sampled it with asparagus and smoked rapeseed mayonnaise, and a second dish of heirloom tomato tartare with a Niçoise garnish.
A minerally, stone-dry Willi Bründlmayer Riesling Ried 2012 took away the acidity of the tomatoes while enhancing the overall flavour. Other wines, such as the Cretan Diamantakis Vidiano 2012, were almost spirit-like and viscous on their own but when paired with the same dish, lost potency, opening into something more mellow.
The Domaine Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier Burgundy 2009, a medium-bodied, fruity white, more than stood up to a dish of heritage carrots with spiced carrot purée and curry granola, whereas light reds, such as the structured Catherine Marshall Pinot Noir 2010 from South Africa and the leathery Bodegas R.López de Heredia Rioja 1994, with high acidity, matched a zingy dish of peas, broad beans, mint, panzanella and creamy burrata.
More dishes and wines followed. After two hours you leave the cellar with a happy belly and precious new nuggets of knowledge to play with.
In general terms, there are two ways to make a successful food/wine pairing: either choose a wine that shares characteristics with the dish, such as high acidity or vegetal notes, or alternatively, serve up a contrast - for example, a cool, crisp wine with creamy or fatty food, such as cheese.
Most wines can be matched with food but some pairings will be more successful than others. A beautiful marriage can change your entire sensory experience, while other combinations will never quite work, though the food and wine are otherwise lovely. The learning is to be found in the experimenting.
Our class tutor, Barbara Drew, was fun and knowledgeable, relishing the introduction of unusual wines. Always encouraging, no opinion was dismissed and it was fun to hear the varied wine reviews from other classmates.
Classes and tastings at the Berry Bros. & Rudd wine school run from September to July each year. Perfect for connoisseurs and novices alike, they also make great birthday or wedding gifts if you're looking for something out of the ordinary.
For more information, visit www.bbr.com/wineschools.