30 April, 2021 All day
Deadline for entries is Friday 30 April, 2021.
Chefs and sommeliers at restaurants across the UK are putting their heads together and combining their skills to create an inventive Sherry-themed menu that will catch the judges’ eyes at the UK heat of the 2021 Copa Jerez.
The bi-annual competition, which is now in its ninth edition, is organised by Sherry Wines, and invites chef and sommelier teams from the UK to devise a three-course meal that will complement and showcase Sherry wines’ versatility.
The only proviso is that Sherry must feature as the paired wine for each course and as an ingredient in at least one course, although past contestants have taken the theme much further.
All entries will be evaluated by a panel of leading food and wine experts, with the three top teams invited to take part in the ‘live’ Copa Jerez UK Final, which is being held in the new Cord Restaurant by Le Cordon Bleu in central London, on Monday 17 May, 2021. Here, the teams will be required to cook their Sherry-inspired menu in front of a panel of judges.
The winning team will receive a £500 cash prize, an all-expenses paid trip to the Sherry region of Jerez, and will represent the UK at the International Competition of Gastronomy and Sherry Pairing, to be held in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain in late 2021, where they will compete alongside other finalists from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, Russia and Spain.
The international champions in 2019 were from Danish Restaurant Clou* consisting of sommelier Jonathan K Bernsten and chef Martin G Sørensen who were proclaimed the winners of the VIII edition of the international gastronomic event in Jerez. No fewer than eight Michelin stars competed in this spectacular live cooking event in which seven international teams presented their menus paired with Sherry.
Commenting on this year’s search to find the UK’s best Sherry and food pairing menu, international chair-judge César Saldaña, president of the Consejo Regulador de Jerez y Sanlúcar de Barrameda, said: “Gastronomy in the UK today represents some of the most exciting in the world, which is why each year we receive entries from some outstanding restaurants, many of Michelin star quality. This year we are searching for the UK team who can go forward to the international final to compete with top chefs and sommeliers from seven other countries and triumph to bring home the trophy for the UK. It is a serious competition but we know the UK has a competitive streak and can rise to the challenge.”
Contact the UK final organiser
For more information visit the website or enter now: www.sherry.wine/copa-jerez.
Contact: Angeline Bayly by email: email@example.com
Want some top starting points on how to match champagne and food? Or how to smash it out the park when it comes to doing it competitively and under pressure, with a glittering prize tantalisingly within your reach?
Of course you do! And we figured there’s no better place to start for either of these points than asking Joshua Castle, the winner – with chef Myles Donaldson – of last year’s Gosset Matchmakers competition.
And with a good few Sommelier Collective members probably considering their entries for this year’s Matchmakers competition right now, the timing could hardly have been better. Lucky coincidence, huh?
So sit back, take a few notes, pop a bottle of Grande Reserve if you have one, and prepare for instant success!
So where do you begin when it comes to matching champagne? With the flavours? The texture? The acidity?
I think you’ve almost got to take one step back away from the food. So in the case of the 2020 Matchmakers Competition first of all I listened to what Gosset had to say about their wine. A lot of champagne and food pairings have been born out of changing styles of champagne, with slightly warmer base vintages, and wider, more gastronomic wines.
But Gosset described their Grande Reserve Brut Rosé as a very ‘winey wine’, which I really agreed with. It wasn’t the richest rosé, but certainly it had this freshness – this gastronomic side. I think understanding the wine is step one.
So you start with the wine. What next?
Next I’d look at the pairing in general and see how the food might link in with it. So acid, tannin – in a rosé at least there might be some of that, dryness, autolytic character, aromatics. How does all that translate onto the palate and how does it combine as a texture? Then you can think about ingredients that will interplay really nicely with those.
But you can also go one step beyond that and think ‘how would I put this dish in a dining setting? Is it an aperitif-type a dish, and is the wine an aperitif wine?’
What’s the hardest element when you’re matching with champagne?
Champagne is such a cool thing to pair. It can be a really intelligent thing to use in the right context. It’s true that you’re contending with high acidities, but the thing that is most tricky to me is allowing the delicacy of the champagne to not be overpowered by a dish.
Sure the flavours can be very concentrated in high quality champagne – and they certainly are in Champagne Gosset. But there’s also very delicate parts of it. There has to be room on the stage for the Champagne.
Your dish was ‘calves’ brains seared in brown butter, with Lardo di Colonnata, Kentish Cob Nuts, Champagne vinegar and watermelon radish’. How did you come up with that?
I’d been doing a bit of research into German wine that week and I’d been coming across all these amazing old venues from ships and hotels in New York at a time when German wine was as expensive as Chateau Margaux. One of the recipes was for larded sweetbreads.
Basically the idea is to combine sweetbreads or offal – so not a particularly fatty cut – with lard, so you’re basically substituting the lack of fat in the cut. Lardo di Colonnata is basically pork fat aged in these marble sarcophagi, and it develops this amazing nutty earthy flavour. It goes sort of translucent when it’s warm and the fat melts. The idea sort of stemmed from there: something that is textually and visually very interesting.
So I was playing around with a couple of ideas in reference to that with champagne. And I thought ‘imagine ordering larded sweetbreads in this amazing regal dining setting, and having it with something that is texturally, really bright’. I thought: that’s a killer pairing – that’s really cool!
So how did you see it working with the wine?
You could easily go for a richly textured white wine – like Burgundy – with a dish like this. But here I wanted something that is going to make your palate sort of ‘pop’.
Brains are texturally hard to describe, but they’re not very filling, and we wanted to bring an element of acidity, that was not overwhelming to the wine, so we added a little champagne vinegar.
If you think about it, it’s a really simple dish: protein, acid, and then we kind of had to work around texture, which we achieved through these really cute little watermelon radishes. They kind of bled ever so slightly into the vinegar, giving it this pinky hue. We hadn’t expected that, but it really worked!
You’ve mentioned that your dish was really simple. Do you think entrants need to beware of trying to do too much on the plate?
Yes and no. We were pretty blown away by our competitors; some of the dishes that they were putting out were technically phenomenal and visually really blew ours out of the water. But I think that represented who they were as sommeliers and chefs. If you can achieve that technically in that period of time, then go for it!
But the core of it has to be a wine and food pairing. The dish doesn’t have to be complex as long as it represents you – and we had a nice story behind it as well. It felt like something that we would put up in the restaurant, and it was collaborative between me and the chef. It felt natural.
The competitor dishes looked great…
But a watermelon radish pink tinge…
and superb matching skills won out
So a final ‘in a nutshell’ bit of advice?
It’s important to remember that this isn’t a cooking competition. Simple and repeatable is good – particularly if it has a nice story behind it.
You need to ask whether the cooking is being done for the sake of it, or whether it’s a means to an end – which is matching the wine.
The Gosset Matchmakers competition is now open to all chefs and sommeliers with less than five years experience. More information – including entry form – is on the Sommelier Collective website here. Entries must be received by Monday 31st May, 2021.
I’ve often heard it said that a sommelier’s training for a competition is similar to that of a sportsman, and I think this is true.
We can liken a wine competition to a sprint – you need to be the best on the day over a short period – and an exam to a long distance race where it is important to be consistent for longer.
As with any competitive pursuit, of course you require skill. But to succeed also requires time, passion, dedication… and lots of practice.
It is important also to realise that though you might be the one competing, this is a team sport. It is crucial to be surrounded by like-minded people. This will help you to push yourself but also bring different views and ideas which can really make the difference between winning a competition, passing an exam and of course, developing your skills as a whole.
1. Have a Team
Everybody has their own way but, to me, it works well to have between one and three other people to assist you on a regular basis. They are your team and it’s important that you keep them involved.
Ideally, these persons will be from the wine trade (or have experience in the trade) and can provide constructive feedback.
It can also be good at times to present to people who are not related to sommellerie at all since they may bring a different perspective – even if you don’t like what they tell you! Embracing criticism is key to helping your development and becoming sharper.
2. Get friends and family on board
Obviously as well as your ‘team’, it helps if you have the support of your colleagues and management as well as friends and family.
3. Work with the kitchen
A sommelier should be able to identify wine, spirits, cocktails, non-alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, tea and coffee.
But we are also expected to have an extensive knowledge of gastronomy, and understand dishes and cooking methods so we can accurately pair a wine or beverage with a dish. Working closely with your chef (assuming you work in a restaurant) I find is vital.
Discuss the dishes on the menu. Don’t just taste them as a finished dish but look at each element separately and break down the palate of flavours.
4. Create a positive environment
Having a positive environment at work and at home is vital for your well-being. Of course, this is always the case – but it’s particularly true when it comes to competitions if you are to perform at your best. You need to take care of yourself and have a clear mind to help your studies.
5. Use your suppliers
It is crucial for a sommelier to have a good relationship with their suppliers as they are often happy to help with tastings and all too pleased to show new and interesting wines for you to try.
6. Non-blind can help…
Blind tasting wines is a great way to learn but, from time to time, taste wines that you find more difficult with the bottles next to you. Personally, doing this has helped me, especially when it comes to varieties that I get mixed up in blind tastings.
7. … so can by the glass!
It can help to have a couple of wines that you might struggle to identify on your offering by the glass. This way you can get familiar with them.
8. Be structured
I find it important to have a structured plan for my studies to ensure that I am consistent in the way I do tastings and cover every point.
I can say that I personally have had (and still have!) many great people who have helped and mentored me throughout my career and it would take a much longer article to thank them all.
We are lucky to be a very close family in the sommelier world, and this is a great force that we need to use. This will only continue to increase the already high level of sommellerie and wine education in the UK – and help us all on to greater success.