The world of food and wine matching can seem like alchemy at times. With all the thousands of different wines available and the infinite combinations of flavours found in dishes both in restaurants and at home, it’s always incredibly impressive when an expert intuitively pours a glass of something that complements a particular food perfectly. And it’s in the Michelin-starred restaurants of the UK that you can find wine lists and flights that have been meticulously curated by world-class sommeliers. But how involved do chefs become with the world of drink?
Alyn Williams has held a Michelin star at his eponymous restaurant at The Westbury in Mayfair for four years, and one of the main attractions is the extensive wine list. While he leaves the list itself to The Westbury’s sommelier, he certainly has a hand in wine pairings. ‘I’m very involved whenever we write a new tasting menu,’ he says. ‘I’ll sit down with the sommelier and we’ll develop the wine flight together by eating all of the dishes which appear on the menu and coming up with wines or beers that go best with the flavours.’
Because so many wines are purposefully created to work with food, Alyn believes a good chef should have at least a basic understanding of how certain styles can be paired with dishes. ‘Wine and food go hand in hand,’ he explains. ‘You have to have at least some sort of interest in wine to work with it. As a chef my knowledge is never going to be as in-depth as a sommelier, but I suppose if I was to talk to someone about wine at length then I could hold quite a decent conversation. I know I wouldn’t be able to write my own wine list, but I could talk in quite a lot of detail about the wines on there and what dishes they’d go with.’