Story By Charles Fredy
If you plan to attend this year’s Kapalua Wine & Food Festival, I encourage you to spend some time talking with the master sommeliers who annually make this one of Maui’s most anticipated events. As always, the festival will offer opportunities to meet with and learn from outstanding chefs, winemakers, and winery owners. So why seek out the sommeliers? Because sommeliers bring the two disciplines together. They are the go-betweens for food and wine, enhancing your enjoyment of both.
Knowing how to pair food and wine appropriately–even inspiringly–is an essential part of the sommelier’s training. Of course, winemakers and winery owners are extremely knowledgeable about the wines they produce and the foods that pair well with them. The sommelier’s experience is wider ranging. It starts in the vineyard and expands throughout the world.: learning the wines of a specific region and how they are traditionally paired with the region’s fare; then how a particular wine might pair with another region’s cuisine.
Such knowledge takes the enjoyment of dining to another level., since the right wine cane enhance the flavor of a particular food, and vice versa. It’s far more than just being able to pull a cork and sample a wine. Master sommeliers are tuned into the structural elements of the wine–the acidity, sugar and tannin levels–and how they react with food.
For example, Muscadet and oysters, or goat cheese and Sauvignon blanc, have natural affinities for each other. Sauvignon blanc may seem too intense on its own; pairing it with goat cheese balances the wine’s acidity and makes the flavors pop. That is what food and wine pairing is all about., and what the master sommelier does well: finding the balance and compatibility that the average consumer has a hard time finding on his own.
“The level of knowledge the master sommeliers bring to the Kapalua festival is an opportunity for attendees unique among wine festivals,” says Geoff Kruth, M.S., director of operations for the Guild of Sommeliers.
How best to avail yourself of all that wisdom? Simply ask. Approach a master sommelier and ask, “What is your favorite wine–and why? What foods do you enjoy with it?”
A sommelier can also help you expand your list of favorites by suggesting wines that are similar to your favorites, but different–like a Malbec from Argentina, instead of an Australian shiraz.
As I’ve said before, the best way to attend the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival is to go with a sense of adventure. Spending time with a master sommelier lets you take that adventure in the company of a skilled and knowledgeable guide.
Charles Fredy is an advanced sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and a certified wine specialist with the Society of Wine Educators. A thirty-one-year veteran of the wine-and-spirits industry, he is vice president and director of sales and marketing of Chambers and Chambers Wine Merchants.