|Cicerone Don Farion, Chef Vianello, Sommelier Michaela Morris|
What came first, beer or wine? Beer references date back to at least 3100 BC along wine production dating back further to 6000 BC. Both glorious man made beverages still with us today. It has only been in the last decade that the two have competed head on as the best beverage to pair with food.
One of the great games for a sommelier is the pairing of wine and food. We think in terms of complementing or contrasting flavours, textures, creativity, and regionality when trying to create the best pairing experience for the dining guest. The equally passionate Cicerone (beer sommelier) strives for the same success using a lower alcohol carbonated beverage. Both camps are trained professionals, Somm’s can train through the International Sommelier Guild, WSET, and the Court of Master Sommeliers. Cicerones have the Cicerone Certification Program, the Prud'homme Beer Certification, Siebel Institute of Technology, and World Brewing Academy in Germany, and the Beer Academy Accredited Sommelier program based in the UK. Like the Sommelier training programmes, the cicerone/beer sommelier programs, despite being relatively young in origin focus on levels of training with detailed syllabus and accreditation levels. The US based Cicerone Master Cicerone program has only had seven graduates with an annual pass rate similar to that of the WSET Master of Wine programme since its inception since 2007.
This year’s face off during Vancouver Craft Beer Week was with Sommelier Michaela Morris of House Wine and Cicerone Don Farion of Bomber Brewing/ BierCraft Restaurants paired with the creative food of Chef Alessandro Vianello at the Fairmont Pacific’s ARC. This was cicerone Don Farion's second win over a sommelier.
1st Course| Vinho Verde vs Flemish Red
Pacific Octopus Carpaccio with kelp and rhubarb beads
Loureiro Vinho Verde DOC Portugal
Straw green with aromas of lime and green tree fruits. Medium-bodied, zesty acidity, nicely structured with a rich mid palate and flavours of lime, pear, a hint of melon, faint vanilla, and some herby complexity.
Rodenbach Classic Flanders Red Ale 5.2% Belgium medium-bodied with sour berry, plum, fig, and subtle balsamic notes. Lightly carbonated.
On paper the Vinho Verde should have won based on regionality. Portuguese whites shine with abundant Atlantic seafood. In reality the Rodenbach paired better with the salinity of the dish and the wildcard the rhubarb beads. The flavours of rhubarb were a perfect complement to the beer's sourness. Beer Wins.
2nd Course Riesling Vs German Hefeweizen
Smoked Potato Peroganeni with House Made Lardo, Saurkraut, and Crème Fraiche
2010 Chapoutier Schieferkopf Lieu-Dit Fels Riesling Alsace AC, France 14%
Yellow gold colour with aromas of ripe lime, apple and a hint of petrol. Medium-bodied, bone dry, lots of concentration, citrus, mineral, apple, and petrol flavours. Complex.
Maisel’s Weiss Hefeweizen 5.4%Germany
Cloudy unfiltered old gold. Medium to full-bodied with typical “hefe” notes of banana, spice (clove), and grapefruit. Good amount of carbonation.
This dish was a good pairing for both the beer and wine. The carbonation level along with fruit and spice flavours of the beer were great with the smoked potato and creme fraiche. The body, structure, and concentration of flavours of the Riesling paired with all the elements of this richly textured dish. Wine Wins.
3rd Course Frappato vs American Porter
Salt Baked Heirloom Carrot with Ferro salad, cumin, dill, micro cilantro, with cocoa nib soil and Sherry Vinaigrette
2011 Valle dell’Acate “Il Frappato” Vittoria Frappato DOC Italy 13%
Cherry red colour. Intriguing aromas of red cherry liquorice, herbs, and minerals. Medium-bodied, soft tannins, good acidity, and flavours of cherry, raspberry, dried mint, flowers, and a touch of dried orange. Served slightly chilled - brilliant.
Deschutes Black Butte Porter American Porter 5.2% Oregon
Very dark mahogany colour. Aromas of cocoa, coffee, and roasted malts. Medium-bodied with a creamy texture and flavours of roasted oats, chocolate, coffee, and some charred spice notes. Lightly carbonated.
Another on paper, win for wine, although this dish paired better with the Black Butte Porter. The wine with its refreshing acidity and racy red fruit and herby flavours paired well with the spices and earthiness of the farro; but lost out to the overtly chocolatey nutty notes in the cocoa nib soil. The porter mirrored flavour for flavour with the soil, Sherry nuttiness, and the earthy notes of the farro. This dish was very close to pick a winner. Beer Wins
4th Course Cabernet Sauvignon Vs Bier de Garde
Lamb Short Loin & Corned Lamb’s Tongue with Sweetbreads, Peas, Mint, and Lamb Dressing
2009 Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Australia 14%
Opaque and inky. Aromas of mint, menthol, and cassis. Full-bodied, excellent balance of acidity and tannins. European styled with complex notes of blackcurrant, leafy wild berries, cedar, and warm spices.
The Commons Biere de Garde Farmhouse Ale Saison 5.4% California
Light amber colour with aromas of Normandy apple, herbs, and a hint of hops. Medium-bodied, good carbonation, and flavours of earth, herbs, malt, pepper, and restrained hops.
Lamb and Cabernet a perfect match! The savoury herb notes of the minted peas was a perfect balance for the flavours and and aromas of the Australian Cabernet. The restrained styling of the wine, reminiscent of a richer vintage Bordeaux, paired extremely well. The sweetbreads were not an ideal wine pairing, the tannins of the wine enhanced the offal like flavours of the ingredient.
Cicerone Don Farion mentioned the challenge of matching greens with beers, this saison however was a wonderful pairing, to the mint and peas with its complementing earth and subtle herb flavours. The sweetbreads faired better with the beer by balancing the earthy flavour profile. A tough personal call; but the wine was a better overall match. Wine Wins.
5th Course Moscato vs Strawberry Beer
Strawberry Shortcake with white chocolate blanket, pink peppercorns, roasted strawberry, and sorbet
Straw yellow with aromas of orange and apricot sorbet. Light-bodied, elegantly sweet with balanced acidity and some petillance. Flavours of orange, nectarine, and a hint of savoury herb and green tea.
Friuli Belgian White with Strawberry. 4.1%
Light red amber colour. Aromas of strawberry shortcake. Light-bodied and very sweet with strawberry, orange, and a hint of coriander. Good carbonation.
Another tough pairing with both the wine and beer working well with the dessert. The tart strawberry sorbet was brilliant with the lovely acidity and petillance of the Moscato. The very reasonable priced beer won hands down with the complementing flavours and sugar level. Beer Wins
Final Score by 48 Diners| Beer 26, Wine 22
It was interesting that neither the cicerone or sommelier paired anything local with the food matches. As a Sommelier, I would have also looked further afield for wine matches, based on the menu. BC wine is still a challenge based on price point and value. Possibly next year's competition could incorporate a local craft beer and wine into one of the dishes or consider even one blind beer and wine pairing to enhance the challenge? Overall a great night that proves both a glass and a pint make good friends over food.