May 2, 2017
It's time to break out the bubbly at Co-op. Mike Roberts, Co-op's Sommelier Manager was the overall winner at the city's annual Iron Sommelier Competition, presented by CityPalate Magazine.
The friendly competition pits local wine experts against each other for bragging rights as the city's best when it comes to pairing food and wine, or food and beer. The goal of Iron Sommelier is to make the best food-wine and food-beer pairings for a dish prepared by a Calgary restaurant.
Roberts relished the challenge. As a certified sommelier, he says he lives for the art of finding the perfect beverage for a great meal.
"What's got me hooked, the reason I went into the wine industry and became a sommelier is because there's so much more to wine than just being a drink,” says Roberts. “There's geography and culture and of course you learn about food, language, history and civilizations. The world of wine is about all of those things. That's what's behind the wine label."
This year, the Iron Sommelier competitors gathered at Modern Steak in Kensington where the chefs created a flat iron steak dish with apple cider vinegar-braised cabbage and a side of braised beef tortellini pasta. With those different flavours and textures on one plate, it was game-on for the sommeliers.
Roberts chose a red; Le Tense Sassella Valtellina (available for $26.99 at Calgary-area Co-op Wine Spirits Beer stores) as his wine pairing.
"My tasting note on the dish was that it reminded me of these Scottish meat pies and HP sauce," laughs Roberts, who says that combination reminded him of his youth. "Because the braised cabbage had baking spices and cinnamon and stuff it was really savoury and it reminded me of that. The braised cabbage was a dominant flavour because you could really taste the apple cider vinegar. You need a wine that is also going to be potent and flavourful, so I chose with a good sweet and sourness that matched the sweet and sour notes of the cabbage."
Roberts says that when selecting wines for a meal, the goal is either to compliment a dish or contrast it. Contrasting it can be risky, so Roberts opted to match and enhance the flavours on the plate for this competition.
Competitors also selected a beer that would work well with the same dish. Roberts went with a dark wheat beer from Germany, the Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel (also found at Calgary-area Co-op Wine Spirits beer stores).
"With that cabbage, the sourness was a big part of the dish and it's quite flavourful, so I chose a beer from Germany; a wheat beer that gives you a citrus note, a bit of sourness. It’s also quite malty and a darker beer so you get this sweet-sour thing happening."
The judges agreed and selected Roberts' pairings as their favourites.
Roberts has been a Sommelier since 2009 and has worked with Co-op for the last six years.
"It's fun to work for Co-op because we're not a boutique and we're not hoity-toity or snobby wine sommeliers. We're a full-service liquor store; we've got wine in the store for under ten bucks and I'm just as happy to help you find that. But we also carry wine going into four digits. Co-op is a leader in our industry and our market.”
CityPalate published the full details on the competition including Roberts' success in the May/June issue, which is available for free pickup in Co-op Wine Spirits Beer stores across the city.
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