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Wining and a bit of dining

Imagine opening a menu that didn’t feature a morsel of food. Not a crumb...

by: Remy Raitt | 07 Oct 2010

Well at Il Wino d'Enrico Bernado concept restaurant in Paris that is a reality.

Although you will eat at this restaurant you will not get a chance to take your pick. What you will get to choose is your wine. After perusing the extensive wine list you place your order with the sommelier (wine steward), there are no waiters, and he will return later with your chosen wine and a perfectly paired dish.

The obvious focus of this Michelin-starred restaurant is the wine, but the food is by no means an afterthought. When you order the sommelier checks if you have any allergies or dislikes and will make sure the chef whips you up something that beautifully matches your chosen plonk.

Alternatively, you could go for the blind tasting menu where you’re brought six courses with matching wines, you are told what the food is, but have to tell your sommelier what you think the wine is.

And although this might sound a bit stressful, risking sounding like a complete ignoramus, apparently it is conducted in a really chilled and playful manner with informative banter between the sommeliers and your table.

“You're not made to feel like an idiot if you haven't got a clue and, conversely, if you start to get a little cocky, they'll throw in something really obscure or start giving you your wine in opaque black glasses,” said Alistair Smith in his article on his experience at Il Wino.

Would it work in SA?

Food24’s wine guru, Cathy Marston, said that although it sounds like a fabulous idea she is not so sure the same concept would be glugged down in South Africa. “In my experience of running a restaurant, people are more conservative than you think and I am not sure there are enough adventurous eaters out there to make it viable,” she said.

We know South African chefs are up there with the best of them, but Cathy raises concern about the practicality of the whole idea. “You would need an amazing chef to be able to match food to that number of wines, using fresh, seasonal ingredients, keeping everything in stock, not having horrendous wastage and being able to send up enough dishes on time to suit the whole restaurant,” she said.

And possibly the most worrying thing to any diner is the fear of repetition. Cathy said that if this was so, then what would be the point of going back if you just keep getting the same dish paired with your favourite bottle.

The owner of Il Wine, the titular Berndo, who in 2004 was voted the World's Best Sommelier, is thinking of expanding out of France and venturing to either New York or London. 

If a similar restaurant was to hit out shores do you think the winos of Southern Africa would flock to it? Would you go?

Read more on: cathy marston  |  france  |  paris  |  wine  |  wine tasting

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