K-Dining Spectrum : Hardys Wine Pairing Challenge Across Platforms
This content is translated directly from a Korean article, so there may be some awkward phrasing.
Until now, there has never been a wine pairing quite like this. Shall we call it the 'Hardys Wine Pairing Challenge'?. The pressure was on. Sommelier Kim Juyong had accepted the challenge: curate a wine pairing menu with no pre-set menu, sourcing solely through delivery apps, supermarkets, fancy restaurants. The stakes were high, but with Juyong at the helm, success felt practically guaranteed. And sure enough, the results surpassed all expectations.
Juyong's approach revealed a unique pairing philosophy, built on adaptability and resourcefulness. The secret weapon? Seok Si-kyung, Accolade Wine Korea's manager, who juggled delivery apps and real-time grocery shopping with the grace of a Michelin-starred chef. But the true magic lay in the Korean dining scene itself – a vibrant tapestry of flavors that pushed the boundaries of wine pairing possibilities.
Most importantly, the pairings themselves were a revelation. Unexpected twists and turns led beyond anticipated harmonies, offering a deeper glimpse into Hardy's own winemaking philosophy. This wasn't just a mission accomplished; it was a testament to the boundless potential of Korean wine exploration.
Manager & Sommelier Juyong Kim is over two decade of experience in the wine and hospitality industry. Above all, 10 years of experience in Five-star hotel and 7 years of experience in Michelin-starred restaurants in Seoul.
Upon receiving the mission, Sommelier Kim Juyong contemplated. Australia, with its vast land, produces a variety of wine styles, but when it comes to pairing Australian wine with food, it often appears to be approached in a simplistic manner. He raised his voice, "For example, search for Shiraz on Google. Most pair it with red meat, and it's hard to deny that it's the best pairing. However, this time, it might be good to exclude some of the conventional repertoire and broaden the scope of pairing." Simultaneously, he considered the public perception of Australian wine and the preferences of Korean consumers. He scoured delivery apps for top-trending dishes and reservation apps for the hottest tables, even braving notoriously long waitlists. Based on his knowledge and experience, Hardy's wine pairing, considering Korean dining culture and the Korean consumer’s perspective, began in this way.
Round 1: Eileen Hardy Chardonnay X Bibimbap and Chili Shrimp
The Chardonnay of Eileen Hardy, one of the top ranges of Hardy's wines, features carefully selected grapes from the cool-climate regions of Tasmania and Adelaide Hills. For the 2022 vintage, sommelier Kim Juyong made a distinctive choice by pairing it with Bibimbap, showcasing his expertise. Initially, he contemplated the grape variety. Chardonnay, often hailed as the queen of white wines, is occasionally excluded from choices precisely due to its preeminence. Some sommeliers may hesitate to incorporate Chardonnay in pairings as it seems like an lazy option. In the U.S. market, there have even been expressions of ABC (Anything But Chardonnay). How about Bibimbap, the comfort food for Koreans? It's a dish created by mixing a few leftover ingredients with a spoonful of Gochujang, a familiar and ordinary menu for Koreans. "In 2023, the most searched recipe worldwide on Google was Bibimbap," says Kim Juyong, presenting a recent article. Chardonnay and Bibimbap—an iconic combination. Together, they appear novel, like Cinderella meeting her fairy godmother. More importantly, let's explore the harmony of flavors. Deconstructing this comfort taste (the Bibimbap was delivered from 'Bonjuk & Bibimbap' nearby), the sweet and spicy taste of butternut squash gochujang sauce, the crispiness of stir-fried vegetables with a drop of sesame oil, and the chewiness of the rice all blend in the mouth. If the nutty notes of Chardonnay mark the sesame oil's richness, the wine's citrusy fruity aroma enhances the spiciness of the seasoning. The body of the food and the wine stand side by side.
Sommelier Kim Juyong, while tasting the wine, remarked, "The performance is quite strong. It exhibits a powerful aroma, and the boldness of oak, as well as the minerality of Tasmania, is well perceived." He continued, "It's a wine that truly showcases the charm of Chardonnay beyond Australia," adding, "It pairs well with a variety of foods and, being a full-bodied white wine with substantial acidity, it doesn't get overshadowed by the strong seasoning of Bibimbap, allowing its own character to shine through."
He suggested another option for Eileen Hardy Chardonnay, highlighting chili shrimp. "Geographically, in Singapore, which is close to Australia, you can easily find Australian wines. I chose this pairing remembering a personal experience of enjoying chili crab with Australian Chardonnay in Singapore. While seafood generally pairs well with white wine, there is a perception that when the sauce has a reddish tone, it may clash. However, a mildly spicy sauce with fries, incubating moist and crunchy exteriors, complements this wine well. Of course, it's also good with a creamy sauce.
Round 2: Eileen Hardy Pinot Noir X Sushi with Mackerel and Tuna
Eileen Hardy Pinot Noir, one of Hardy's premium ranges, has recently started importing to Korea with the 2021 vintage. Juyong makes another bold choice this time. 'While there is a tendency to associate white wine with sushi or seafood, I've had experiences where white wine paired with seafood enhances the fishy taste but surprisingly works better with red wine. When dealing with fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, red wine’s level of tannin is something to consider. Especially when faced with challenging seafood, I used to pair it with a light red wine with low tannins. Pinot Noir overwhelmingly dominates the wine choices consumers bring to sushi restaurants. I think it has been somewhat proven in that aspect.' For wine enthusiasts, tuna and yellowtail are often mentioned as perfect matches for Pinot Noir. As expected, the combination of tuna sushi and Eileen Hardy Pinot Noir was stable. However, opinions may vary when it comes to raw bluefish like mackerel. The kick was delivered by the slightly pungent taste of pickled ginger, which could counterbalance the potential fishy aromas of the mackerel sashimi. As the sommelier mentioned, the balance of power is more suitable for red wine, and various flavors explode in the mouth. Eileen Hardy Pinot Noir, made from Tasmanian grapes, matures for 9 months in 100% French barrels. Sommelier Kim Juyong, after tasting the wine, expressed his expectations: 'As it is still a young vintage, the fruitiness is prominent now, but over time, more earthy and gamey characteristics are likely to come out.'
Round 3: Tintara Shiraz X Tandoori Chicken and Chocolate Pudding
Tintara showcases the solid fundamentals of Hardy's range. While Barossa Valley might immediately come to mind for Australian Shiraz, Tintara's Shiraz sources grapes from McLaren Vale. This is because Tintara, often referred to as Hardy's home, was established in McLaren Vale. Sommelier Kim Juyong, paired Tintara Shiraz with a Tandoori Chicken and curry ordered through a delivery app, and chocolate pudding sourced from a department store's food section. He explained, 'Considering the spiciness and aromatic characteristics of Australian Shiraz, I chose Tandoori Chicken, which stands out for its spiciness and aromatic spices.' He added, 'When you have an Asian cuisine with strong flavors like fish sauce or mustard, Australian Shiraz could be a great option.'
Particularly, McLaren Vale's Shiraz is unique.. While Barossa Shiraz offers a richer fruity flavor and Coonawarra's version tends to be drier with noticeable minerality, McLaren Vale's Shiraz is characterized by woody scents like eucalyptus and mint, along with herbal notes. Tintara's Shiraz, with its strong aroma and good body, leaves an impression of being less intense than expected, offering a fresh aftertaste. The Tandoori Chicken, sharing a similar boldness and a well-matching spicy vibe, paired perfectly with the wine.
Hidden Cards Eileen Hardy Shiraz 2020
When sommeliers prepare a wine dinner, they carefully match various foods with the wine in advance to discover the optimal pairings for wine. What made this mission intriguing was that we were there to observe the process, not just presented with the result that sommeliers delivered. This allowed moments of applause that exceeded expectations for certain pairings, as well as instances where the pairing slightly deviated from the sommelier's anticipated outcome. The earlier conclusion regarding the Tintara Shiraz and curry pairing suggested that preferences might be divided due to the intensified spiciness mutually enhancing the heat, which spicy food enthusiasts might applaud but couldn't be unequivocally deemed the epitome of good pairing. However, unexpectedly, the Eileen Hardy Shiraz 2020, originally not on the wine list, ended up being a game-changer. With the same grape, this wine showcased a silky texture and a much superior complexity compared to Tintara Shiraz. It is definitely one of the perfect wines to pair with curry. Compared to Tintara Shiraz, rather than intensifying the spiciness but calming it down, effortlessly worked well with the strong food flavor.
Round 4: Eileen Hardy Shiraz 1999 X Sokkori jjim(Stewed Oxtail)
The focus of the 4th round pairing is time. Starting with the Eileen Hardy Shiraz 1999 vintage, Kim Juyong, believed that a Shiraz crafted in the last century essentially need a dish that equally took effort and time. The sokkori jjim(Korean stewed oxtail) simmered slowly for an extended period to tenderize the meat and infuse deep flavors, seemed like the perfect match, as it, too, demanded time. Fortunately, Chef Park Jueun prepared the restaurant's signature dish, The sokkori jjim, which carries a soul of its own. In the presence of a wine aged for a prolonged period, there is a sense of humility. Both wine and food can either become more casual or formal, and finding the right balance is crucial. While the pairing of sokkori jjim and Eileen Hardy Shiraz was remarkably moving, surprisingly, sommelier Kim Juyong expressed a slight sense of disappointment. He mentioned, " Eileen Hardy Shiraz are more elegant and drier than I expected, so the food might be a bit heavy." To be immersed in such delicate wines, he suggested that preserving the essence of the food with a simpler cooking method might be more suitable. He humorously remarked, "No wonder everyone recommends a good steak," emphasizing the importance of aligning the subtleties of the wine with the dish.
Round 5: Tintara Cabernet Sauvignon X Ragu Lasagna and Bossam
"Now let's explore Cabernet Sauvignon. According to Sommelier Kim Juyong, Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular red grape, yet it is a wine that is not often used in pairings at restaurants in a different sense than Chardonnay. 'But there’s no wine quite like it,' he added. With excellent acidity and a very distinct grape character, Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine with a much broader range for food pairings. Reminding him of Bossam, a traditional Korean dish of boiled pork, paired with shrimp paste and well-matched with kimchi. Taking a big bite after dipping the pork in shrimp paste and wrapping it in kimchi, followed by a sip of Tintara Cabernet Sauvignon, creates a satisfying and harmonious combination. It also pairs well with lasagna generously filled with cheese. Sommelier Kim Juyong commented, 'Tintara Cabernet Sauvignon has a refreshing effect on the palate, making it versatile for a wide range of pairings,' and he recommended it for dishes like kebabs, hamburgers, or pizza.
Round 6: Thomas Hardy 1999 X Lamb Skewers and Comté Cheese
Once again, an old vintage emerges, and this time, it's Thomas Hardy, named after the founder of Hardy’s and considered their premium signature wine. The 1999 vintage used 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River. While the label of Thomas Hardy suggests cellaring until 2015, it was a humble statement, as even now, eight years later, the wine exhibited vitality, showing only a slight brick color. Sommelier Kim Juyong praised it highly, stating, 'It's such a well-made wine that it immediately arouses your appetite on its own.' He added that the pairing of young lamb and Bordeaux red is well-known as a classic, noting, 'Cabernet Sauvignon and lamb always go well together. The smoky meat and spicy aromas blend seamlessly.' Thomas Hardy and lamb skewers were like a Möbius strip – once you start, you seem to go with this pairing forever. He recommended it for grilled dishes with an animal character, saying, 'It would go well with sausages or blood sausage,' and it paired excellently with aged Gorgonzola cheese.
Hardys Wine, Fully Distinctive
As mentioned earlier, Sommelier Kim Juyong pointed out that some pairings didn't pan out upon his expectations, and one surprising example was the combination of Tintara Shiraz and chocolate pudding. He often received the question, 'What wine goes well with dessert?' However, the hidden implication was usually 'not dessert wine or port,' so he had frequently suggested Australian Shiraz as a reliable option. However, he overlooked the fact that Hardy's Shiraz was a bit different from the typical Australian Shiraz in his mind. Upon tasting, the difference turned out to be more significant. He had expected a richer wine with plenty of fruity sweetness, but it turned out to be much drier and fresher in style. Reflecting on this intriguing wine-pairing journey, he recalled an interview from a few months ago with Helen McCarthy, the senior winemaker at Hardys. She had mentioned, 'The truth of Hardys lies in an elegant style,' and that 'Hardys is different from what you might expect from typical Australian wines, with more developed acidity and ageing potential.' Trying Hardys wine with food highlighted its distinctive character.
Writer EunYoung Kang Photo WINEIN.