World class sommelier suggests wine pairings for baked goods

Naomi Szeben
November 22, 2018
Written by Naomi Szeben
Véronique Rivest suggests that wine should always be at least as sweet as the food it goes with.
Véronique Rivest suggests that wine should always be at least as sweet as the food it goes with.
If you’re a baker who is creating gift baskets in provinces that allow for alcohol sales, or if you just want to know which wines pair well with certain pastry, read on! Bakers Journal has an exclusive interview with the multiple award winning sommelier, Véronique Rivest.

Rivest became the first woman at the Tokya-ASI Best Sommelier of the World competition in Tokyo in March, 2013, and won second place; She won the Wines of South Africa (WOSA) awarded World’s best sommelier award in 2010. She is currently the sommelier at The Forks, a multiple restaurant co-operative based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Today, Bakers Journal editor Naomi Szeben brings one of world’s best experts in wine to discuss what flavour pairings and wines bring out the best in your wines and pastry, and will help you chose the best bottle for your basket.

Bakers Journal: Holiday seasons for bakers means that they often bake goods seasoned with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice: Sweet, fiery spices that smell amazing, but often don’t pair well with wine. This can be a challenge for bakers who assemble gift baskets for their clients, pairing a bottle of wine with a fruit cake, a baba au rum, chocolate covered rum balls, or plum pudding. Which wines would you recommend for those specific treats?

Véronique Rivest: Wine and bread are a natural, and age-old match, but when sugar comes into the equation, things get complicated. There is one very simple rule, though: wine should always be at least as sweet as the food it goes with. So for breads and pastries as those mentioned above, a sweet wine is definitely needed, and not just an off-dry wine, but a full-on sweet, dessert wine.

If flavours are of dark fruits, chocolate, sweet spices or chocolate, a dark dessert wine will do the trick. Port is always a classic, but many others exist too: Banyuls or Maury from France, Recioto della Valpolicella from Italy, etc.

If flavours are white, yellow, green or tropical fruit, pastry cream, and pale cakes, a paler (white) dessert wine will be more appropriate, such as a late harvest or icewine. For pear and apple breads or pastries, ciders, both off-dry and fully sweet (as in ice cider), make a great match.

BJ: For those who are making the traditional, flaming plum pudding or rum-doused fruitcake, which wines would you recommend for such desserts?

VR: These deserve a very sweet dessert wine, redolent of dried fruit, such as a PX sherry from Spain, a Commandaria from Cyprus, or a Moscatel de Setubal from Portugal (a very inexpensive and great value dessert wine!)

BJ: Are there any Canadian wines you would most recommend for pairing with a holiday meal?

VR: Many! Canada produces amazing wines from coast to coast. In Ontario and BC of course, but now also in Nova Scotia and Québec. And we produce everything from fresh, crisp mouth-watering sparkling wines to lusciously sweet dessert wines, with every variation in between. The ideal match will of course depend on the exact dishes, but doing an all-Canadian wine match for a full menu is not difficult at all!

BJ: Sometimes, a spicy dessert can be difficult for non-sommeliers to pair a treat with: What Canadian wines would you recommend?

VR: It depends on so much more than spice! What kind of dessert is it, what are the main flavours and how sweet is it? All this will change what kind of wine you might suggest.  One thing is sure: Sweetness in wines balances and neutralizes spiciness in foods. So, spicy foods require some sweetness in wines. The spicier the dish, the sweeter the wine. Just as with sweetness, the sweeter the food, the sweeter the wine.

BJ: If a baker is making a dessert that involves wine, i.e. the marsala wine and marscapone cannoli, is it recommended to serve marsala wine or sherry with the meal, or would that clash?

VR: No, that is completely logical, and usually provide some of the best matches. Just beware of “cooking wine" or “cooking” marsala. Flavoured marsala is a big no-no; it is made from very cheap, industrial wine, and is often very low quality. Seek out good quality wines for cooking, just as you seek out good quality ingredients. Do not use faulty or corked wines for cooking! Would you use rotten fruit or stale nuts?

BJ: What is your favourite baked good and wine pairing?

VR: There are so many! But I love sparkling wine and fresh or toasted bread. On its own or topped with a fish or seafood mousse, with smoked salmon, with apples or pears and cheese, or simply fresh butter and cucumbers or radishes. Sparkling wine or chardonnay with gougeres is also a great classic. And ice wine or ice cider with a nut bread topped with blue cheese is fabulous!

BJ: Are there any baked good and wine pairing that a baker – or anyone making a wine basket should absolutely avoid?

VR: Again, think of the sweetness match. If the whole basket is sweet, adding a dry wine doesn’t make sense, and vice versa. Wine and food matching can be complex, but also terribly simple. Think of colours as mentioned in your first question.

BJ: Holiday brunches often involve lighter wines or mimosa – what wines would you recommend for breads like bagels, or raisin rolls?

VR:The two mentioned are very different! Remember the importance of sweetness. Even though bagels tend to be slightly sweet, they are not as sweet as a raisin roll! Bagels are perfect for sparkling wine, as they are often served with smoked salmon or other savoury toppings (as opposed to sweet toppings.) Sparkling wines’ lower alcohol also makes them more appropriate for mid-day. The raisin roll, at brunch, I would rather serve with a good tea or coffee.

BJ: What is your favourite holiday pastry or bread – and what do you drink with it?

VR: My mom’s poppy seed cake, or Weihnacht’s Stolle, and I would have them with a toasty oolong or a black tea. But I could definitely see the Stolle with a sweet Tokaji from Hungary!

Cheers! Bakers Journal
More in this category: « Grand Finale: Plated Desserts

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