Book Review: Paired: Champagne and Sparkling Wines by Fran Flynn & David Stevens-Castro

For many people, pairing food and wine is a scary concept. Picture a special dinner or a romantic liaison when you want to choose just the right wine to accompany a special dish. Perhaps it’s a case of a little information breaking open the dam wall of self-doubt, or the fear that they will be judged by others as uncultured or lacking the prerequisite social manners for the occasion. Whatever! A simple mention of one word, ‘Pairing’, is enough to bring a big kahuna conqueror to his knees or an accomplished home cook to tears.

A Gold Coast couple, sommelier/agricultural scientist David Stevens-Castro and his photographer/graphic designer wife Fran Flynn have taken up the challenge to provide a guide to pairing champagne and sparkling wines with food in the first of a proposed series of books which will result in a comprehensive guide for matching commonly available wine with great recipe suggestions.

The presentation of the book itself is absolutely delicious! In hardcover coffee table format, it’s printed on high gloss paper with stunning photographs of delectable achievable dishes. The design is highly accomplished, providing visual variety and interest, clear chapter divisions and helpful tables. The text is informative and witty, highly accessible with lots of information snippets and asides.

Divided into eight chapters, the introductory chapter is a guide to help you understand food and wine matching, wine terminology and labelling. The remainder of the chapters are divided according to the type of sparkling wine (Champagne, Cava, Proseco, New World Sparkling, Sparkling Rosé, Moscato and Sparkling Reds), each chapter beginning with an overview of the type of wine, followed by a cheese match, three recipes and an information snippet or wine buying tip.

It’s not only the extensive experience and cultural heritage that Fran and David bring to this book which make it so special, but also their personal touch. It’s as though we’re joining the pair in a personal conversation about food and wine. The intimacy of voice adds depth of story to the narration, making it both fascinating and absorbing.

There are only two experiences which could top reading this book: preparing a selection of the dishes myself and enjoying them ‘paired’ with special guests, and attending a meal presented by Fran and David where dishes were paired with wines.

Paired would make a fabulous Christmas gift and, given to the right person, who knows how many meals you could enjoy together. While this delightful book may rest on coffee tables around Australia, no doubt it will also make many trips to the kitchen! Paired is available through leading bookstores and from Paired Media as both a book ($38) and ebook ($22).

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