27/06/2006 - 22:00

Seafood surprise in the valley

27/06/2006 - 22:00

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Food and wine matching used to be a fairly predictable affair – only white wine with white meat, don’t cook something spicy and never ever think about breaking the rules.

Seafood surprise in the valley

Food and wine matching used to be a fairly predictable affair – only white wine with white meat, don’t cook something spicy and never ever think about breaking the rules.

But, thankfully, one of the by-products of Australia’s food revolution has been a loosening of the grip the traditionalists held on what to drink with dinner. We are becoming far more adventurous in creating combinations of food and wine.

Take, for example, a recently held degustation dinner matched with cocktails not wine, braised lamb with chardonnay, or even duck with something other than pinot.

But until now no-one has been prepared to really push the boundaries of left-of-field food and wine matching.

Not until the Swan Valley and Regional Winemakers Association (SVRWA) and the WA Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC) got together, that is.

Its Seafood and Shiraz festival professionally matches premium seafood sourced off the north-west coast with some of the Swan Valley’s best shiraz. And it’s creating quite a buzz.

But let’s go back a step. These two peak primary industry bodies have formed an alliance together, partly in an effort to boost traditionally slower winter sales, but also to create an innovative marketing campaign focusing on possibilities that come from exceptional produce.

The result is a festival celebrating the combination of premium Swan Valley shiraz with WA seafood over the weekend of July 7-9.

The event will start with a regional dinner created by Kate Lamont, to be held at the Midland Railway Workshops on Friday July 7.

On the Saturday and Sunday, restaurants in the Swan Valley will serve meals and host dinners combining the best Swan Valley shiraz and WA seafood.

“From a fisheries point of view, we’ve been looking for an opportunity like this for a while,” WAFIC chief executive Graham Short says.

“We have been developing the concept for a couple of months with the help of key people like Kate Lamont and believe we have something special here.”

Wine aside, the fisheries council is hoping to boosting awareness of some of its lesser-known wines during the festival. It is a cruel twist of fate that, during the colder months in Perth when people traditionally turn away from seafood towards roast dinners, the north-west is producing a bountiful array of some of the most exciting varieties of fish.

“Winter is the peak season for many producers and there is a vast range of species with fantastic value and taste that people simply haven’t heard of,” Mr Short says.

He cites threadfin bream, monocle bream, saddletail snapper and maroon perch as just some of those that deserve to share the seafood spotlight.

After the festival’s foundations had been laid, it was up to the sub-committee of the Swan Valley Marketing Association to select wines that would best exemplify not only the region’s unique properties, but complement to qualities of the seafood.

Larry Jorgensen from the association told Gusto that verdelho would have been the easy match.

“If you were going to match a Swan Valley wine with seafood, you would traditionally choose verdelho because it goes so well. But we wanted to do something slightly different, something left-of-field, so we chose shiraz,” he says.

And here is the beauty of the plan. Swan Valley shiraz has long been identified as the jewel in its crown – lauded for its elegance, refinement and austerity compared with its Barossa or McLaren Vale counterparts.

A reliably hot climate ripens the grapes past levels that normally produce strong tannic characteristics, resulting in wines that are robust in flavour, yet subtle and rarely if ever heavily oaked.

Given this, there is no reason why they can't be pared with richly flavoured seafood dishes; in fact if you were to match such a meal with any Australian red, you couldn’t do much better than Swan Valley shiraz.

The great success of the winemaker’s association has been its ability to garner the support of most of the local wineries. Those participating in the festival include valley favourites Jane Brook Estate, Lamonts Winery, RiverBank Estate, Sitella Winery, Talijancich Wines, and Chesters of Heafod Glen.

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