Pairings Wine Bar is the brainchild of two sisters from York. Kelly and Kate Latham. Kelly tells me they ‘come as a pair’ as they’re metaphorically joined at the hip, travelling and working together. But, Pairings is more than that: the concept is an introduction to pairing different wines with cheese and charcuterie.
Unlike the wine pairing menus in fine dining restaurants, where the wine is selected to complement the food, here, the wine takes centre stage. Fabulous though they are, the cheeses and charcuteries play a supporting role to the wines, ports and gins, each of which takes a leading role.
Before opening the wine bar with her sister, Kelly was Head Sommelier for Hotel Du Vin and Wine Champion at the Star Inn the City. Former Events Manager, Kate’s passion is for sourcing local produce.
When booking a Pairings Experience with one of the sommeliers, guests are asked if they would like solely wines or also a beer, spirit or dessert wine. If choosing solely, wine, the party is then introduced to three different types of wine – and their complimentary nibbles. (Each member of the party tastes the same wine.) A whisk(e)y or gin-tasting can be added as an aperitif, and a port pairing makes a nice digestif to round-off the experience. Alternatively, you can have a final flourish with a dessert pairing.
We’d booked our experience as a pre-theatre activity. The bar is opposite York Grand Opera House, which means it’s ideally situated for pre-theatre drinks.
Our initiation into the world of perfect pairings, began at 4 o’clock, after a warm, friendly greeting from our sommelier, Kelly. She started us off with a Silent Pool gin, paired with Harrogate Blue cheese (and crackers). Hailing from Devon, Silent Pool is made using no less than 24 botanicals, including juniper berries, which are what makes gin ‘gin’ rather than it being vodka (which can be flavoured with anything). A delicately flavoured gin, Silent Pool is ideal for serving over ice, with a little citrus zest.
I learned much more about the gin, and the cheese, but I don’t want to have to include a ‘spoiler alert’ in my review. This is a genuine learning experience and one which is best experienced first-hand.
We’d pre-booked a white wine tasting so, after our gin, our first wine appeared: a Willowglen Gewurst/Reisling from New South Wales. The wine was sweeter than my usual wine of choice (I tend to go for something like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc), but it worked well with the cheese pairing.
We then moved onto a delicious, light Austrian wine, Gruner Veltliner, which was paired with Coppa (a type of traditional Italian pork cold cut). Whilst it worked well with the meat, this was definitely a wine which could be enjoyed on a warm summer’s day in the afternoon sun – no nibbles required. I made a note of the label so I could look out for a bottle (or two) in my local wine shop.
The third wine was also a winner for me: Picpoul de Pinet Beauvignac. Kelly explained that the name of the grape (Picpoul) translates as ‘lip-smacker’. It got its name on account of its high acidity: acidity is what makes wine ‘zesty’ or ‘crisp’. It is this quality which makes it the perfect pairing for a rich, creamy goat’s cheese such as Braffords Log. Again, I found this wine to be very ‘easy-drinking’ and will be looking out for a bottle to try at home.
The final wine of our flight was a Chardonnay. Chardonnay has an undeserved reputation as being a drink for people who ‘don’t know much about wine’. It makes me smile when people say they don’t like Chardonnay and then go on to tell me they like a ‘good Chablis’ with seafood. (Chablis is made using the Chardonnay the most northerly extension of the Burgundy wine region grape. However, whilst Chardonnay can be oaked, Chablis is not oaked (or has seen very little oak).) Our Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Chardonnay was excellent and a timely reminder to us all that a good Chardonnay should not be overlooked when wine-shopping.
And, for our ‘flight’s’ descent, we sampled a rare style of dry white port, Niepoort White Rabbit. As Kelly described the port’s almond-like aroma, I inhaled and instantly detected a whiff of marzipan, followed by vanilla. The perfect end to our flight was the refreshing aftertaste, which lingered as we ‘touched down’.
Visit: Pairings Wine Bar, 28 Castlegate, York, YO1 9RP
I would like to thank Kate for reaching out to me via Twitter to offer me the opportunity to review this fabulous experience. Thanks also to Kelly who was not only exceptionally knowledgeable but also warm, friendly and fun to spend time with. I genuinely learned a lot. Thank you!