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So where did your personal journey begin with wine?
6 years ago my sister and I went travelling around South America and southern Africa for a year. We used to live in Harrogate but we said that because we'd had such a life changing experience we didn't want to just go back to the same old jobs doing the same thing. We wanted to set up a business but we just weren't sure exactly what we wanted to do. That being said we'd been to Italy 10 years ago and talked about setting up a wine bar there and so we kind of revisited that. We'd visited lots of wine bars and vineyards so we thought we want to bring a little bit of this back. We decided on York, partly because of the tourist trade, but also as it was close to friends without moving back to Harrogate. It took about 3 years to get to where we are as we wanted to get a feel of York and make sure it was the right decision and then after looking at premises it took a year after finding this place until we opened.
Would you say there are any rules when it comes to pairing food and wine?
There are certain rules but then a lot is down to personal preference! Dishes that are high in sugar should be paired with a wine that has at least as much sugar. Foods that are high in umami (savoury taste) for example mushrooms and eggs are quite difficult to pair but you should look for wines that are more fruity than tannic. Spicy dishes pair well with fruity white wines or low-tannin reds, both with low alcohol. People vary in their sensitivities and preferences so what is one persons perfect pairing doesn't necessarily mean it will be yours.
What is some advice for choosing wine from a menu as we often just go for the second cheapest bottle?
Don't go for the second cheapest based on price. The majority don't want to look like penny pinchers but if you go for the house wine that should represent the house that's holding it, so the house wine should actually be good. Our house wines are very popular, they are the best quality for that price range. The second cheapest is often not any better quality, but past experiences have shown some wine lists will have a higher mark up on these because they know most will choose it.
What is the process behind becoming a sommelier or master of wine?
A lot of work goes into becoming a Master of Wine, there are only 341 in the world. Becoming a Sommelier is a little easier. The WSET (Wine Spirit Education Trust) is one of the most widely recognised qualifications. There are four levels. I have completed the level 3 in wines and spirits, the level four is a diploma which I'm still unsure whether I would take on the challenge. I've done level three to be able to talk about wine to people but some of the things that I've learnt go into so much detail people aren't interested. It's an intimidating wall when you go into too much detail. The other week we had a couple who had been given a tasting experience as a gift and the woman was terrified to come in. She thought I was going to bore her death about soil and climate and all she wanted to do was drink the wine which I totally understand as I would want the same.
What do you offer at Pairings which is different?
I think wine descriptions in general can seem very intimidating. When you listen to a lot of sommeliers and masters of wine they come up with some very random and bizarre descriptions but I think it's down a lot to personal association.
All our wines are sold by the glass and under £35 by the bottle to keep within a reasonable price range. By doing them all by the glass it allows people to try those wines that you wouldn't normally try unless you go out as a group. My husband didn't used to drink white wine and so when I used to go out I would be so limited what I could order, between a Sauvignon, a Pinot Grigio and a Chardonnay. We offer a £19 tasting experience where you try six different fine wines. Then we also offer a food and drinks pairings package, where six drinks are paired with foods from the menu. Often people buy them as gifts which is really nice and otherwise it's perfect for someone who's getting into wine or trying to work out what they like.
What is a drink that you think is often underrated and people should try?
I think a Riesling has a very bad reputation and I actually think they have some really great ones out there. It really depends on the producer but we do a great one here at Pairing's
What is your favourite cheese and wine pairing?
I would probably say my favourite cheese and wine pairing we've got would be a Morning Fog Chardonnay which is oaked from Napa Valley in California paired with the Wookey Hole vintage cheddar, the butteriness of the Chardonnay and sharpness of the cheese of great. In terms of red we've a Bogle Petit Sirah which again is from California which goes really well with the Yorkshire blue cheese. They're probably my two favourite.
Where would you say is a new area of up and coming wines?
American wines are up and coming but they can be quite pricey because of all the export charges to pay. China seems to be producing a lot of wine and countries like Croatia are producing very good wines.
What is the difference then between Champagne, Prosecco and Cava?
Champagne is French, Prosecco is Italian and Cava is Spanish and they are all sparkling wines. Prosecco is produced using the 'tank method , whereas champagne and cava is produced using the 'traditional method', both cava and Champagne spend time on lees making their characteristics more similar to each other. Prosecco can seem a little sweeter than both Cava and Champagne which is why it has become so popular and it has a much more affordable price tag than Champagne.
What you see for the future of Pairings?
We have the room to expand downstairs, where we would like to host more private tasting events. In two or three years maybe open another Pairings but we're still unsure where this would be. At present we are focusing on this one, it's taken a little while to get the word out that we're here, but things like Tripadvisor and Facebook have been giving us some great feedback.
28 Castlegate, York
Tel: 01904 848909