Honest approach to appreciating food and wine

Levene was specially flown in to create the De Bortoli wine tasting menu.

WHEN it comes to wine pairing menus, it is best to keep this philosophy: Do not get too crazy. Just match the food with the wine.

At the wine tasting dinner at Favola in Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur, this was the adage Ben Levene held on to in his four-course menu for the promotion featuring a series of De Bortoli wines from Australia’s Yarra Valley.

Levene, who was specially flown in for the occasion, is the head chef of Locale, a restaurant located in the De Bortoli vineyard.

He started the meal with a trio of flavourful canapes — stuffed saffron rice ball with peas, served with a dollop of aioli, a sliver of buffalo mozzarella basking in salsa verde and a thick egg omelette, embellished with red and green capsicum squares.

Opening the palate for this savoury start is the Rococo Premium Cuvee, a dry, sparkling white featuring a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.

A kingfish cured with Chardonnay, garnished with sliced grapes and roasted hazelnuts came in as a starter. So delicate was the fish carpaccio, the flesh gave way at the slightest prod of a fork. Fragile and subtle, the strongest element in this dish was the roasted hazelnuts.

Paired with this mild dish was the Villages Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2017, a light-bodied white carrying a blend from three vineyards — Dixon’s Creek, Tarrawara and Woori Yallock. These areas are where local high-end producers of quality wine are flocking to due to the soil type and micro-climate.

Carrying a bouquet of freshly cut grass, it offered hints of nutmeg and impressed the palate with a buttery finish. Slightly spicy with woody notes, this wine is vegan-friendly as it has not been fined with egg white.

A duck tortellini with slices of caramelised pear, walnut pesto and slices of Parmigiano- Reggiano came next. Plumped with a filling of roast duck, mushrooms and vegetables, the tortellini coverings had a pleasantly chewy al dente texture. The meat was slightly gamey but this served to heighten the fruity notes of the pear slices which had been caramelised with onions.

Pairing with Levene’s Italian version of the Chinese dumpling is the Riorret Balnarring Pinot Noir 2015. Aromatic, this red is slightly sharp with rich notes of plum and berries. A slight pungent flavour gives this label a unique character which may go well with Asian dishes like tau yew bak (braised pork in dark sauce), provided enough garlic has gone into the braising.

For the main course, a spiced lamb shoulder ragout with potato gnocchi came garnished with a dollop of whipped ricotta. Hearty but tender, we were told the meat had been marinated with turmeric, thyme and rosemary.

It was paired with a medium red in the Yarra Valley Single Vineyard Section A8 Syrah 2013. Carrying hints of chocolate and berries, it was woody but smooth. We learned that Section A8, the plot of land where the vines are cultivated, is situated near a mountain range where cool air comes from fog rolling down the mountains every morning. This is what gives the wine its zippy character.

To end the meal, a Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2010 was presented as a dessert wine, along with a smooth, creamy tiramisu.

The sweet, honey-like characteristic of this wine is credited to the parasitic botrytis fungus, as its namesake implies. Known as “noble rot”, stricken grapes will shrivel, resulting in a concentration of flavours.

Levene had infused this wine within the tiramisu, soaking the sponge fingers with coffee, added mascarpone to the sabayon for richness.

But the secret to a silkily textured tiramisu actually lies in the sabayon. Eggs, sugar and cream must be stirred gently over bain marie until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. The method is to wave the wooden spoon in line to the alpha symbol to fold in the cream.

For maximum pleasure, both must be served chilled.

De Bortoli are distributed locally by Sunrise Wines.

This is the writer’s personal observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro.

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