NOTABLE POTABLES: Dessert pairing takes top spot at Vintners Brunch

One of the more intriguing (and tasty) events of the Vancouver International Wine Festival is Vintners Brunch.

It’s still one of the hottest tickets in town, and its 450 or so tickets sell out in minutes. It’s a heck of a party and I get to go every year. But it’s not to graze leisurely through 16 plates and sip the wines paired with them. No siree. I and my fellow judges (Joanne Sasvari, Julian Bond and Josh Clark) are hunkered in the back, coming up with the best food and wine match, based on plates and wines that arrive precisely (and anonymously) every six minutes.

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Some years ago the wine festival decided it was time to elevate the brunch so it reflected what’s happening in the restaurant scene, which is that more and more restos are becoming food and wine pairing savvy with chefs and sommeliers who know their stuff.

Every year it seems someone surprising either wins or places. And this year was no exception. When the scores were tallied, we had a unanimous winner, not so strange. But this year was different. In that a dessert popped out.

The best pairing? An amazing gelato made by Vancouver’s D’Oro Gelato, paired with Mondo Del Vino Acquesi Asti Spumante DOCG NV. The gelato was conceived and made by pastry chef Giorgia Zanone and her accomplice, Gaspar Jovino Brites, who’s an Italian-trained gelataio (or gelato maestro).

There’s a couple of things of note here. First of all, it’s quite a feat for a dessert to win. Based on numbers alone the odds are tough as there were only a couple of desserts compared to 14 savoury plates. And an Asti Spumante (the whipping boy of Italian bubble that wine weenies love to scoff at). But not here.

This is a seriously good Asti, with floral and fruity notes and a nice creamy element (BCLS $20).

D’Oro Gelato’s wickedly clever, delicious carrot and mandarin sorbetto with spongecake base, honey and saffron “caviar,” milk chocolate and candied almond absolutely nailed it. So next time you’re wondering what to serve for a different and very refreshing dessert, think sorbetto, maybe a little fruit garnish and Asti, why not?

Here’s a couple more Moscato dessert offerings that might just pique your interest.

Anna Spinato Moscato Spumante Organic: An excellent off-dry sparkler with firm bubbles, citrus and stone fruit on the nose, and a smooth, gently zesty palate. Try it with tastes like tarte tatin or pastry and custard desserts (BCLS $16, 90 points).

Donnafugata Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria 2011: Moscato at its apex, this amazing drop sports intense apricot and honeyed notes on the nose, followed by a sinfully smooth, layered palate with raisin and zest wrapped around a core of acidity before a lengthy, seductive finish. Think hazelnut chocolate mousse or gelato, blue cheese or even foie gras. A luxurious but worthy splurge, with complexity well beyond most ice wines ($43, 93 points).

Tim Pawsey writes about wine for numerous publications and online as the Hired Belly at hiredbelly.com. Contact: info@hiredbelly.com.

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