A Toast to ‘Passion for Pairing’, first book pairing food and beverages by Sommelier and Winemaker Jean-Vincent Ridon!



Jean-Vincent Ridon, South Africa’s colourful French Sommelier, has published his first book, bursting with more than 100 beverage-paired dishes reflecting our country’s diverse cuisine, but also some of the favorite dishes of JV (as he is better known) from France, his home country.

There is no better person in South Africa to pair the right wine or beverage with the right dish, JV having spent his career in serving wine in a French family restaurant, then in his own restaurant in France, as assistant winemaker in Sancerre, as a consultant, as a wine retailer and distributor in Europe, until he settled in our country 24 years ago. JV created the Classic Wine Trophy, and the South African Wine Tasting Championships competing at the World Blind Challenge. He has twice been named a Finalist at the Best Sommelier of South Africa, and is the first ASI Diploma-certified Sommelier in Africa, serving on the exam committee of the ASI, the global association of sommeliers.

He grows his own vines in pockets of land in Camps Bay and Oranjezicht, and makes wines from them. He manages the Sommelier Academy, training the hospitality industry and grooming the best sommeliers of the future.

When dropping off his book yesterday, he shared that ‘Passion for Pairing’ has been three years in the making. Andreas Larsson, Best Sommelier in the World title holder, praises JV’s multiple skills as a Sommelier, winemaker, and ‘cuisinier’, who understands the practical as well as technical sides of winemaking, cooking, and wine service in the Foreword to the book.

‘Passion for Pairing’, with photographs by Gerda Louw, contains about 100 dishes spanning Seafoods, Meats, Vegetarian dishes, Cheeses, and Desserts, across a broad spectrum, from fine dining to local traditional dishes. Each dish is introduced as to its key ingredients, one needing a range of tools, patience, and skills he advises to eat crab, for example. He describes the taste of the ingredient, and technically describes the taste and constitution of the ingredient in motivating the Pairing choice, detailing the character of the wine and why it is suited to the dish.

For our West Coast Rock Lobster JV recommends pairing the grilled Kreef with Jacaranda MCC, the sparkling wine’s heavy citrus body echoing the aroma of the lemon butter used on the Kreef.

Rabbit is a childhood memory for JV, his grandmother keeping some in her backyard to feed unexpected guests. The meat is lean and a source of protein, yet few chefs feature it on their menus. He describes it as a ‘rare delicacy’, which should not be over-cooked. He pairs Rabbit with Beaumont Hope Marguerite Old Vine Chenin, offering freshness, an intensity, and length which will wrap the delicate rabbit without overpowering it.

A typical South African dish is Bunny Chow, dating back to the Indian slaves working in our country, who hollowed out half a white bread and filled it with a vegetable curry, doing away with the need for cutlery and plates. This traditional dish JV pairs with Monis Pale Dry fortified wine, creating an optimal balance between its acidity, and the coriander spiced curry.

Rhubarb is another childhood memory for JV,  admitting to hating its taste at the time, as one of his grandmothers cooked it with very little sugar. He presents a Rhubarb Crumble Brûlée, a dish with a creaminess in the crumble and acidity in the rhubarb. JV pairs this dessert with the almost dry The FMC Chenin Blanc. The wine’s acidity and long lingering aftertaste pairs well with the intensity of the dessert.

JV introduces a number of well-known chefs in his book, including Chanel Dartnall, Liam Tomlin, Franck Dangereux, Richard Carstens, Harald Bresselschmidt, and Pete Goffe-Wood, and some chefs unknown to me.

I love the book for its focus in the marriage between a wine and dish, the first of its kind locally. I love that it offers such a large number of Seafood dishes, even if Meat dominates. Unusual is that JV presents Vegetarian dishes, a growing trend, with Vegan dishes to come in a next book, I’m sure. I love that JV does not use technical jargon to describe the wines he presents, making it easy to get his pairing justification. Bravo JV !


Passion for Pairing’, by Jean-Vincent Ridon. Cell 083 675 0280.


Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein, My Cape Town Guide/Mein Kapstadt Guide Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein @MyCapeTownGuid

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