Serving Food & Wine
The art of matchmaking
The choice of wine to accompany food and
delicious salads has to come down to personal
preference but there are some classic partnerships:
Balance is the
Think of wine as a sauce. This can either complement flavours or
contrast with them to accentuate different tastes. The key word is
balance. Whereas a powerful wine, such as a Grange, would match a
wild game recipe, it might quash the delicate flavours of a
Freshly caught trout cooked in butter, however, or the rich flavours
crab recipe may be balanced nicely by a crisp sauvignon.
Smoked foods need something with flavour. Oaked white Burgundy is
salmon, or try a full-bodied, off-dry pinot gris from Alsace.
Regional pairings are usually very successful. The rich flavour,
sweetness and fairly high alcohol of a vendange tardive (late harvest)
gewurztraminer is delicious with Alsace Munster cheese; or copy the
Bordelais' predilection for Roquefort with a glass of luscious Sauternes
or the Loire pairing of Sancerre with the local crottin goats cheese.
The natural, slightly sweet nature of honey-roast gammon complements the
medium-dry style of German rieslings, like The Society's; and our
Beaujolais is delicious with sausage. Having the courage to experiment
can be rewarding (try fish in spicy tomato marinade or rich cheese sauce
with light or medium-bodied reds), but bear the following in mind:
Consider the relative 'weights' of wine and food. Frequently,
full-bodied wines, with relatively high alcohol, suit full-flavoured
dishes; lighter, less alcoholic styles, more delicate flavours. Red wine
usually accompanies stronger-flavoured food, but don't discount, for
example, ripe, flavoursome, weighty new-world chardonnay.
Pudding recipes are matched well by rich, alcoholic, sweet wines
like Noble One, although a lighter-style, slightly sparkling Brown
Brothers Moscato may usefully refresh the palate between mouthfuls of
Acidity in wine is particularly useful for clearing the palate when
eating oily or creamy dishes. Try Muscadet with a
Alsace riesling with chicken
recipe in a creamy sauce. Certain reds - those from Italy and
Portugal, for instance - are also known for having relatively high
acidity: balance them with olive oil-dressed pasta, oily sardines or
mackerel. Be cautious where dishes contain lemon juice, wine, vinegar or
fruit (including tomatoes), as all make wines with low acidity appear
dull and flat. Look to the Loire, England, and Mosel valley for crisp
whites with good acidity.
Tannin in wine can be felt in the mouth in the same way you feel
tannin in strong, cold tea. Mostly found in red wine, it has the same,
helpful, cutting effect as acidity on oily dishes and gives wine the
substance to make it a natural partner to food. Decanting wine and
bringing it to room temperature before drinking can make tannins in
robust wines appear softer. Comparatively tannic wines, including red
Chinon from the Loire and Claret, are particularly good with fatty food
such as duck or rillettes de porc.
A 'balanced' wine has roughly equal amounts of tannin (in red wines),
acidity, fruit and alcohol, which come together in the mouth. A wine
with lots of fruit is generally one which will appeal to many (witness
the success of Australian wines). The ripeness of fruit can make white
or red wines appear sweeter than they actually are. Fruity wines can
bring out the fruit flavours in dishes such as duck with morello
sweet and sour pork. As more vigorous fruit is present in young
wines, these are often the best choice for such dishes.
Full-flavoured or aromatic wines are best with spice or
home grown herb recipes:
mature Alsace riesling with dill sauces and mustard; chilli with rustic
vins de pays; spicy sausages with an Australian shiraz; Chinese or mild
Indian dishes with a gewurztraminer from Alsace or Chile.
Sweet whites are often at their best when served with cheeses or even
fish dishes in creamy or cheese sauces. Matching them with a
custard pudding can be difficult: if the wine is sweeter, the
pudding will taste less rich; if the
recipe is sweeter, the wine may
appear dry and dull. Try Madeira with plain sponge, an old Sauternes
with a French-style apple tart or Vin Santo with figs.