Matching food and wine - medium bodied whites

Sydney International Wine Challenge 2009

By Louise Johnson
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BBQ spatchcocks with tarragon sauce - 2009 Sydney International Wine Competition

BBQ spatchcocks with tarragon sauce - 2009 Sydney International Wine Competition


Those who love good food and wine often struggle with the rules for matching the two. The Sydney International Wine Competition (SWIC) does things a little differently to most wine shows; wines are judged in weight classes alongside food to give diners the chance to make good food matching choices.

The medium bodied white wine category is the easiest category to match to food says competition director Warren Mason.

“The medium bodied dry whites and the medium bodied dry reds are I think probably the two most interesting categories amongst the award winners. You’ll see a tremendous diversity of grape varieties in there which share a common characteristic of being of a medium palate weight,” he says.

“It also covers a very wide spectrum of dishes that they will complement. The medium bodied wines are quite capable of handling rich, heavier bodied dishes as well – they compliment quite a wide range of dishes. In that respect also it’s a safe bet to choose from medium bodied dry whites if you’re not too confident about making the perfect compliment between wine and food.”

Warren says the reason the SIWC publishes the judges’ comments is to help the customer make a decision without having to go out and buy a bottle.

Below we include one judge’s comment for each wine to give readers an indication of how these individual wine judges go about this process, however it is important to note that the final results are a composite of all 6 judges on the panel, who - in typical wine judging fashion - may not all agree with each other. Wine tasting is a very subjective process and even more so when the element of food is introduced, especially with a dish such as this with a delicate tarragon sauce.

The tasting notes and final conclusions from all other judges are included on the SIWC website; whilst one judge may not have liked this particular wine/food combination, another may have thought the opposite; hence the use of cumulative scores, to which the reader is referred.

The wines (matched with barbecued spatchcock with tarragon sauce):

Trophy winner: TE WHARE RA PINOT GRIS 2008
Very young. Estery nose. Gentle pear and subtle spicy notes. The slightly nutty, yeasty character comes through on the palate as well, but the wine is more together than some of the other very young wines. The concentration of the wine competes quite well with the power of the food. Warren Gibson

Medal winners:

There was obvious Sauvignon grassiness on the nose and palate of this wine yet this was broadened by Semillon’s lanolin and beeswax characters. On the palate, it was well balanced, well rounded and yet with a zippy centre thread of acidity cutting through it. It was a fantastic or excellent food match. Beeswax smoothed out the palate, cleansing it in anticipation of the next mouthful and yet the wine allowed the food to show beautifully. Cathy van Zyl

Quite restrained probably with some oak influence. Complex, fine, tight. Good mouth feel with good power and quite grippy to finish. With the spatchcock, the oak provided a frame for the wine without showing the overt characters that were evident when it was tasted alone. The wine’s power and weight were also emphasised when it was tasted with the spatchcock. Peter Forrestal

Very grassy green and herbaceous. It has a nice weight and texture. The grassiness carried through to the finish. It’s definitely for the lover of cool climate, aromatic, grassy Sauvignon. It almost added another level of herbs to the dish. The fresh green herbs in the sauce, the mint and the tarragon etc. and the green beans, mirrored many of the flavours in the wine. Tony Allen

Lovely, nutty, nougat, peach and fig notes on the nose. Wonderful balance on the palate. Finishing with a little bit of salty acidity. A great match. Very good fruit and lovely texture with the spatchcock. A wonderful match with the spatchcock, pea and potato salad. Stephen Harris

Excellent colour for age. A medium straw yellow colour. The nose shows restrained fruit with some complexity. Quite a nice line on the palate. Possibly slightly short but this was better with food. That good primary fruit became more apparent. The palate became longer and that mid palate richness married very well with the food. Ken Dobler

Medium weight. Nose of lees, oak and a bit of toasty note with some apricot. Not too nutty and overblown. So just in between. The palate was a little bit disjointed and will improve with a bit of age. It was a good match with the spatchcock. Stephen Harris

Light straw colour with a green edge. Excellent mineral and talc on the nose and also some complex fruit aromas. The palate shows this minerality and some citrus characters. Extremely well weighted and structured wine. The lovely savoury notes of the wine married extremely well with the food. The primary fruit was accentuated, making it a very good combination. Ken Dobler

Good colour. It had more matchstick, flinty character, that overlaid the pears. Good complexity. Lots of layers. A fuller bodied wine and quite well done. Sugar and acid balance in particular worked well, with a complex, layered palate which is praiseworthy. It came across as oily and coating but still a very good wine. Mark Robertson

This was a delicious wine with a forthcoming spice and musk nose. Very appealing intensity on the palate with good apple fruit flavours, fair acidity and length. It was a great fruit match. The bold flavoured food easily matched by the flavoursome and balanced wine. Cathy van Zyl

Very good aromatics. A lovely ripe nose. Floral with a hint of honey. Nicely textured palate with some spicy characters and a touch of sugar. Good with the food. Perhaps slightly sweet with this dish but it’s a very good wine. Kym Milne

Floral nose. Hints of chicken fat and lavender. A sweeter style but lovely balance. A great combination with the chicken. Beans and the pesto make the wine less sweet. It seems more complex and longer. Lynnette Hudson

Great varietal character. Well balanced fruit and acid. Great mouth feel. It worked well with the dish, in that it coped well with the vinegar. It did not highlight any flavours but it lost elements of its own character. Tony Allen

A slightly dank oxidised sort of aged character on the nose. Still some nice, sweet fruit available. The palate is soft, round with good fruit although not as ripe as it looks on the nose. A touch of nice, soft acid in the finish. The wine looks really good with the food. The acid is able to clean the palate beautifully. Stephen Harris

This was a more attractive example of Viognier with a perfumed bouquet of spice flowers and apricots. It also had Viognier’s generous palate. It was open and broad with a silky texture and only a hint of the varieties’ characteristic bitter lift. With food, the wine retained its own personality. A positive when selecting a wine to go with your dish. It complemented the flavours in the food. Cathy van Zyl

The Jules Taylor Marlborough Pinot Gris 2007, Juniper Estate Semillon 2007, Millbrook Estate Viognier 2007 and Tyrrell's Single Vineyard HVD Semillon 2003  were also medal winners.


The food:

Wines in the medium dry white wine category were judged against the following recipe (pictured above) by chef Jacqueline Mason.

Serves 4

4 spatchcocks, halved, boned out, except for the leg & wing bones
Salt & Pepper
Zest of 2 lemons finely grated
4 garlic cloves finely grated
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar

½ loaf of Ciabatta, crusts cut off and bread torn into small pieces
½ cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 garlic clove finely diced
2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
25g tarragon Leaves finely chopped
50g parsley finely chopped
20g each mint and basil finely chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Olive Oil
Freshly ground pepper

500g baby new potatoes
300g green beans
50ml balsamic vinegar
50ml olive oil
25g tarragon leaves chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
100g pancetta thinly sliced


1.   Mix the grated lemon zest and grated garlic.
2.   Rub the 4 spatchcock halves with the lemon zest and garlic mixture.
3.   Then rub with the oil and balsamic vinegar.
4.   Season with salt and pepper.
5.   BBQ on a very hot grill plate, 15 minutes on each side, skin side down first.
6.   Finish in the oven if necessary.  Keep warm.

1.   Soak the bread in the vinegar until most of the liquid is absorbed.
2.   Place garlic, anchovies and herbs into a bowl.
3.   Squeeze any excess vinegar from the bread then add bread to the herb mixture.
4.   Add mustard.  Season with pepper.
5.   Mix in enough oil to form a paste.
6.   Set aside.


1.   Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender.  Drain and keep warm.
2.   Cook beans in salted boiling water until tender.  Drain.
3.   Cut potatoes into slices (or quarters) whilst still warm.  Mix them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and tarragon.
4.   Season salt and pepper. 
5.   Dry-fry the pancetta in a frying pan until crisp and add to the salad. 

1.   Place 2 spatchcock halves on each plate, overlapping each other.
2.   Arrange some of the salad on the side of the spatchcock.
3.   Spoon some of the Tarragon sauce on the spatchcock and serve immediately.

Recipe and tasting notes reproduced with permission. (c) Sydney International Wine Competition.



  • Sydney (NSW)

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July 30th, 2009
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