In search of extraordinary pairings • • The art of surprise
Please describe the process of pairing a wine for a dish?
Attila, my sommelier colleague, and I, collaborate and taste the dishes together to share our thoughts with each other about what we think would work for a dish and why. Since we have very similar tastes and approach to pairing wines, we make a great team.
When we see on paper the upcoming menu for the new season, we start imagining the flavors that would go well with each dish. We already have an idea with the direction we want to go when choosing a wine. Conversations between us and our chef about each dish is very important when choosing a wine. We speak about the aromas, intensity of flavors, tastes and textures which lead up to us creating a great pairing. Baraka’s dishes have a certain complexity that makes it tough sometimes to pair the right wine. For example, our veal dish is paired with a barrel aged 2015 Battonage Chardonnay by Nimrod Kovács. Usually a guest would expect us to pair this dish with a full bodied red wine, but the accompaniment to the veal has sliced green apples and truffel scented celeriac. The creamy yet intense Chardonnay works perfectly with its own hints of green apple. By going against the grain of wine pairing leaves our guests constantly surprised at the synergy going on.
Do you feel that Baraka’s guests are really interested in pairing wine with their meal?
Our guests are foodies who are coming for a real gastronomical experience. They arrive expecting us to be professional but still I must gain their trust when it comes to taking my recommendations. Once they realize how well the pairings work and how we really took the time to make these taste connections, they open up to me and we begin to have a conversation about exploring their feeling and personal stories about wine. Not to mention the how most of our foreign customers are shocked by the high quality and sophistication of the Hungarian wines, and that opens a whole new world for them.
One of my favorite memories was when a couple came to Baraka to celebrate their wedding which took place in 1999. I sent them two glasses of a beautiful rare 1999 Tokaj Aszu as a gift to toast to their anniversary. It was a memorable moment for me as throughout the evening we formed a bond as we got to know each other through wine, and they were very emotional as well, thanking me with a big hug from both.
Another story took place no too long ago with a wonderful senior couple who were very familiar with the art of pairing and showed to me their passion for wine and gastronomy. They had ordered our signature seared goose liver in port sauce with pears poached in red wine. For them, they would automatically pair this dish with a sweet white wine, and they were surprised when I offered them to pair the dish with a dry Tokaj Furmint. They were so surprised that it worked so well, and told me as they finished their meal how after all these years, that they could still learn something new.
How did you become a sommelier?
I went to a secondary school for winemaker in Budafok, so I got close to the wines pretty early. I just fell in love with everything which is connected to it. I had worked in wine shops and wine museum but in the Halászbástya restaurant was the first place where I became a real sommelier. Since graduating, which was at ‘99 I was lucky enough to work in this profession which could be said to be my passion.
Did you ever want to make a wine on your own?
Actually, for my graduation from winemaker school, my task was to create a wine on my own. I made a tramini from Balatonboglár. I enjoyed the whole process from acids to bottles. Finally, mine became the best of the class and also got a silver medallion at a young winemakers competition.