Why wine-loving X-men really need Prof Xavier:
A chat with award-winning sommelier Tinashe Nyamudoka
Have you noticed how often Wolverine goes into intense growly fury-mode and dismembers the wrong guy, shacks up with a deceitful damsel, and finally falls in love with a betty who may or may not subconsciously want to destroy the planet?
Ironically, his animal instincts appear to be a little off. And his social life is all the poorer for it.
From the side lines it is easy to see that he should lay off the Adamantium supplements and just hang with Prof X for a bit. He’d find his chi, stop the dismembering, and – let’s face it – make better life choices.
Because, you see, Prof X is a big-picture kinda guy.
His ability to connect with almost any human mind on the planet makes him pretty sharp at everything from strategic life choices, to picking which wine would best suit his dinner of “sneezed-on braised endive”.
Prof X’s ability to see it all, and understand how things fit together, would help Wolverine make better life choices… if only Wolverine could tone down the messy displays of big-willy machismo and listen to the wisdom.
“Us winelovers all have a little Winey Wolverine deep down inside.”
There’s a Wiwo in all of us
Now you may not realise it, but us winelovers all have a little Winey Wolverine deep down inside us. We’ll call him “Wiwo” (he hates it when we call him that).
Wiwo usually only comes out when we’re at a fancy restaurant, with a fancy date, trying to pick a fancy wine.
Wiwo sees the sommelier, and immediately seeks to assert dominance, finishing their sentences for them, loudly saying things like, “yes, I’m familiar with that – it didn’t impress me”, and then choosing the wine that is the second- or third-most expensive on the list (Wiwo wants to impress, of course, but hell, that top price point can get stuffed!).
What Wiwo doesn’t realise is that our delightful sommelier is Prof X. He is the guy who has seen all the wines, tasted all the dishes, and then sat for weeks, pondering which wines should be connected to which dishes. And guess what? He’s quite keen to share that insight with you, if only you would tone down the big-willy displays of machismo…
Prof X, not Cyclops
At this point in our gloriously extended mutant metaphor, it is always helpful to reiterate that our sommelier is in fact Prof X. NOT Cyclops. He is there to help you succeed. Not steal your date (though there are exceptions). If you’re the one paying the bill, then he has no interest in making you look dumb.
In fact, in a perfect world of mutual benefit, your sommelier wants you to look and feel smart, because, once he has done that, all that’s required for you to pull off the perfect date is to appear generous as well. This usually takes the form of a hefty tip.
So, not only is the Somm NOT out to scupper date, but he actually possesses some valuable insight that may well help you get lucky!
But rather than have me trying to convince you that somms are the good guys, I’ll just let one speak for himself:
Eat Out’s Top Wine Steward of 2016:
X-Man Tinashe Nyamudoka
Tinashe Nyamudoka is the head sommelier at the internationally acclaimed Test Kitchen restaurant, and also 2016’s Eat Out Mercedez Benz Awards’ Wine Steward of the Year. Here’s what he had to say:
JONO: What do you see as your most important task at The Test Kitchen? What is that one value-add that no one else on your team can do?
TINASHE: Getting the best wine and food combination and making sure the rest of my team understands the thought process behind it. I also need to be able to convey it confidently to our guests. My presence on the floor adds value [to the dining experience] but, whenever the pairing goes horribly wrong, my teammates are quick to point out that I’m the one who made the decision.
JONO: So it can go wrong when you’re on duty? What is the current dish that you found to be the biggest challenge to pair with a wine?
TINASHE: Kingklip smoked over coal with cinnamon and curry leaves. It’s a dish with a heck of a lot going on; many of the elements are traditionally tough to pair with wine – coriander, lemon, smoky flavours…You either need a rich, textured white wine, or a very light red.
In the end an unconventional dish needed an unconventional wine, and I finally went with an orange wine – the Testalonga El Bandito Chenin Blanc. It’s a white wine made very much like a red wine (plenty of skin contact during the winemaking process).
Then there was the foie gras with rose geranium jellies, salt cured peaches, pistachio purée, salted vanilla meringue. It comes as the first course on the tasting menu with other lighter dishes following it. So I had to avoid foie gras’s best compliment – a sweet wine – that would be too rich so early on. I got out of jail with the Yard Stick “Raised by Wolves” Muscat de Frontegnan. The wine still has a floral and sweet fragrance on the nose, yet is delicately dry and textured on the palate.
JONO: From my understanding, when pairing food and wine, you can either contrast flavour elements, or pick out similar flavours and aromas to compliment one another? What is your natural style when it comes to food-wine pairing; contrast or compliment?
TINASHE: I love thought-provoking combinations. I know that there will always be the 10% of my guests that will disagree with my choice. But on the other end there will be those who really appreciate the thought process behind the pairing.
I enjoy the elements of doubt and surprise. Complimenters and contrasters are too predictable! So, I pick a wine to work around the dish, or let the dish work around the wine.
JONO: Lolsies. Like, what does that even mean!? But seriously, if you could sit with just one bottle of wine (no food in sight) what would it be?
TINASHE: A bottle of rich and textured chenin blanc, just under room temperature. It tastes more like a light red wine, and I sometimes have to be reminded that it’s still a white wine. Opstal Estate’s Carl Everson Chenin Blanc 2015 is one my favourites right now.
JONO: If you have to drink international wines, which regions are exciting you the most?
TINASHE: I enjoy the Northern Rhone. In particular, Chapoutier CdP Bernardine 2012. And who doesn’t love a good old Burgundy?! I’m loving the Hudelot Noellat, Vosne-Romanee 2014 right now.
Also, I’ve also been pushed to work with brandies a lot more at The Test Kitchen, and the Grundheim 9-yr-old Potstill is a real gem.
JONO: Okay, so given that you have the pick of the land when it comes to choosing wines for your restaurant, who is the winemaker that excites you the most right now?
TINASHE: That would have to be Craig Hawkins [of Testalonga fame].
JONO: And finally, what we’ve all really been wondering is, if there was a TV show called, “The Urban Adventures of Tinashe Nyamudoka”, what would you pick as the soundtrack?
TINASHE: I’m a huge reggae fan so I’d go for Bob Marley- Iron Lion Zion.
JONO: Alright! Let’s see how that worked out… I picked a show about a bad ass who combs the gritty cityscape in search of victory, no matter who he has to beat down in order to find it.