Pairing Abalone With The Fine Wines Of Bouchard Finlayson

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Pairing wine with seafood isn’t a difficult task, but have you ever tried pairing wine with one of South Africa’s most sought-after invertebrates, namely Abalone?

When it comes to Abalone, my experience is limited. To date, I’ve tried it 3 times. The first time was at a friend’s house in Hawston, just outside Hermanus. It was tough, in every sense of the word.

My second encounter was at Kwaaiwater, a small stretch of rocky beach between Hermanus and Voelklip. Here, the team from Bouchard Finlayson showed me what all the fuss is about by serving up an Abalone feast, right there on the beach.

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The occasion? The launch of Bouchard Finlayson’s latest wine releases. Now, if you are not familiar with the wines of Bouchard Finayson, let me fill you in.

Situated in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley, one of South Africa’s finest grape-growing regions, Bouchard Finlayson is without a doubt one of the country’s prime wine producers.

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Visit the Bouchard Finlayson Estate in the Hemel en Aadre valley for a wine tasting while you enjoy a cheese platter. The view from there is pretty sweet!

Established in 1989, the boutique winery is dedicated to the quality production of Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc. Ever since releasing their first vintages, the name Bouchard Finlayson has been internationally synonymous with excellence.  The Tollman family of the Red Carnation Hotel properties are the owners since 2000.

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Bouchard Finlayson Boutique Winery

Back on the beach, I ask Karen Davison, the PR and Marketing manager of the brand, about the link between their wines and abalone. Turns out Bouchard Finlayson is a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Conservation Champion and always strive to protect the environment as a WWF member. The Abalone used in the paella was sustainably farmed, unlike the perlemoen I had at my friend’s place.

The next day marked my third encounter with Abalone. A guided tour at Abagold – The Heart of Abalone introduced me to sustainable abalone farmingCareful scientific research into cultivating this rather delicious shellfish in captivity is beginning to harvest rewards at Abagold, located in the new harbour of Hermanus.

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Thousands upon thousands of baby abalone, also known as spat, are cultivated at the hatchery. Only the farmed juveniles show these brilliant colours at this age; this is as a result of their diet.

This place is a playground for any engineer and the technical infrastructure of the industry is mind-blowing. The tour showcases the impressive seawater pumps and aeration system, backup power generation, innovative water reticulation and renewable energy projects, which includes viewing the construction of Mean Sea Level’s the first ever wave energy converter in South Africa.

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Abagold has an abalone hatchery, four grow-out farms and a state-of-the-art canning and processing facility. The company produces up to 500 tons of farmed abalone a year.

The story of Abagold is inspiring and one that deserves to be told. If you ever find yourself in the Hermanus area, I suggest you book a tour. You’ll even get to taste some tinned abalone in its finest form!

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The abalone tasting platter at The Heart of Abalone at Abagold.

As for wine pairing, winemaker Chris Albrecht suggests both white and red.

Abalone braised in a rich sauce will work best with a red wine with strong fruit definition, good natural acidity, resolved tannins and some supporting oak. A highly textured wine, like the Hannibal from Bouchard Finlayson, will caress the palate and the abalone’s stubborn texture.

The Bouchard Finlayson Galphin Peak Pinot Noir with its sweet cherry flavours, soft tannins and in some cases, hints of savoury meat, earthy mushroom flavour also makes a great and versatile companion.

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Chris Albrecht, the winemaker at Bouchard Finlayson with Karen Davison on the beach at Kwaaiwater.

If you are using fresh abalone and cooking it quickly, go with something crisp like the Bouchard Finlayson Sauvignon Blanc or the big and bold Missionvale Chardonnay. The wine’s rich fruit definition will also extend the sweetness of the abalone.

With all this in mind, perhaps the best way to satisfy one and all is to simply offer your guests the ‘Collector’s Corner‘ at your next seafood-inspired dinner party.

In a crowd, there will always be some who enjoy reds and others who prefer whites. Naturally, the wine lover who toasts to both will stand to gain the most!