Pairing Food With Wines. A Rough Guide.
By Nina Manning 2016.
We all wish we were a bit more connoisseury when it comes to wine.
Many of us sit like a nodding dog from the moment the waiter asks if we’d like to try the wine, to the moment we have finished taking the sip. All the while we are secretly wanting the whole experience to be over so we can just get on and enjoy our meal. There really isn’t too much to worry about when it comes to choosing a good wine. If you’re eating in a restaurant which is renowned for good food, then they are likely to have a well-stocked cellar and clear descriptions of their wines on display; if not a sommelier who can guide you through the right pairings.
The key thing to remember is this: Choose the weight of your wine based on the weight of the dish. So if you are eating a rich creamy sauce, you will need a wine with a bit more body to cut through the creaminess. A light wine just won’t do. And vice versa, if you eating a light shell fish or chicken dish then choose a wine that is crisp and light to match the dish. Red wines can come in all sorts of varieties from very light reds that almost taste like white wine and benefit from being served chilled to a very heavy reds to accompany a very rich stew. White wines vary from very sweet, crisp and light to very creamy and dry.
It is worth finding out where a wine tasting event is happening locally to you. Wine tasting events are an economical and fun way to broaden your wine knowledge. A wine tasting usually costs £20-£30 for approximately 6 different wines. Often these are accompanied with canapes, so you can see how certain foods work with the wines. A more expensive wine tasting event might include a sit down meal of several courses and a wine flight – which is a glass of wine that has been meticulously paired with each course. Both are equally fun and informative, although the latter might see you slightly more inebriated and therefore inclined to forget all about what you ate and drank.
If you are interested in finding a wine tasting event local to you then contact some of your favourite restaurants and sign up to their mailing list.
WHAT GOES WITH WHAT?
Champagne is a perfect accompaniment to oysters because the creaminess of the oysters is accented perfectly by the bubbles of the champagne which are palate cleansing. The only rules are that the champagne must be really good and the oysters must be very fresh. Choose oysters that are in season; any month with the letter R in will give you fresh native oysters. Pierre Gimonnet Premier Cru Brut NV is a lovely light champagne which has a long crisp slightly nutty finish
Shellfish tends to go well with light wines or sparkling wines Vouvray Brut, Sparkling, Domaine Toussaint, NV – is from the Loir In France. It is low in acidity, adds a light crisp finish and is very well suited to shell fish such as king prawns, lobster and scallops that are cooked without rich creamy sauces
Fish that is rich in flavour and oil such as salmon and mackerel works well with a wine such as Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2014 Casablanca Valley, because chardonnays are crisp and dry, high in acidity and cut through the richness of the flavour of the fish
Pork is the only meat that will adapt itself to a wide range of wines from light whites to bold reds.
Traditionally we may associate a red with a roast dish such as pork, but classically pork goes well with white wine too. For cold pork or pork accompanied with apple sauce try a Chenin Blanc, because of its’ awesome acidity and inherently sweet flavour, it will also go well with a sweet and sour flavour or pork with an Asian style sauce.
An off dry German Riesling such as Villa Maria Private Bin Riesling 2014 Marlborough with its delicacy and mineral inflected fruitiness also pairs well with apple or sweet based pork sauces.
Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel 2013 is the perfect accompaniment to a slow roasted shoulder of pork because of its full bodied tannins
The question is not which wine goes well with chicken, but which wine goes well with what is accompanying your chicken.
Rich creamy dishes go well with a Chardonnay such as Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay 2012 from the Talbott Vineyards – this is a rich full bodied creamy chardonnay that will match the rich creaminess of a chicken dish.
An aromatic/grassy/herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc or sauvignon blends such as Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2015 South Australia will go well with herby/grassy flavours such as pea-shots, asparagus, and green herbs such as coriander or parsley.
Citrusy sauvignon such as Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Marlborough pairs well with Greek or Mexican cuisine such as chicken fajitas or chicken Caesar and feta cheese salad
A Beaujolais is a lighter red that has been described as a red that could be a white A Beaujolais such as Fleurie 2014 Georges Duboeuf which is served at a slightly cooler temperature than red wines is a perfect accompaniment to poultry and some red meats such as veal, which has a less beefy flavour.
A Brunello di Montalcino would be a good pairing to a veal dish that was slightly richer in taste such as stew or casserole made with Osso Bucco
The basic rule for beef is the leaner the meat the lighter the wine.
A rich cut such as a prime rib or a rich stew will pair nicely with a high rich tannin red wine. A Cabernet Sauvignon such as 2010 Viña Koyle Royale Cabernet Sauvignon, Colchagua Valley because it is full bodied with ripe tannins.
A lean meat will pair well with a red wine that has a slightly higher acidity that will cut through the texture of the lean meat such as a Burgundy such as Red Burgundy Reserve Côte d’Or 2014 Labouré-Roi
Venison with its rich gamey flavour deserves a wine that will hug your palate such as rich full bodied Viñalba Reservado Malbec 2013 Mendoza
Lamb is an interesting meat as there are so many alternatives to cooking it and flavouring it.
For a cooked to pink young spring lamb, choose a medium bodied fruity pinot noir such as First Class Pinot Noir 2014 Bio Bio Valley its gentle and subtle flavours will balance the palate very well.
A lamb dish such as a rich spicy tagine will deserve something like a bolder Rioja such as Rioja Reserva Viña Ardanza 2005/2007 La Rioja Alta which has undertones of berries and spices.
A Lamb shank with a rich red jus or a tomato sauce would work well with a more full bodied Rioja such as Rioja Reserva Selección Especial 2010 Muga
Because champagne is such a well-loved drink, it deserves an extra mention. It’s a wonderful drink on its own, but goes well with so many other foods too.
It goes well with salty foods as the acidity cuts through the rich salty flavours of foods such as fried/roast chicken, taglitelle with anchovies and olives or lobster bisque soups or sauces. The champagne does not over whelm these foods.
Champagne is also a great accompaniment to game meat – if you choose something like a Laurent Perrier ultra brut or a Drappier Brut nature
Dessert wines are an expensive wine because of the exquisite conditions at which the fruit ripen. The fruit must then be picked at the exact point for optimum sweetness and flavour.
Dessert wines took a back seat for a while but seem to pushing their way forward again.
The bottles are smaller and the wine is a sweeter more concentrated flavour and level of alcohol so you only need a small amount with your dessert or cheese.
Try a Peller Estates Riesling Icewine 2011 Niagara Peninsula 37.5cl Bottle Or Vistamar Late Harvest Moscatel 2015 Limarí Valley 37.5cl Half bottle
To help you further here is a list of apps and websites that are built to help budding wine connoisseurs or those looking for some extra guidance with wine and food pairing or wine purchasing.
www.whatwine.com is a website and app that helps you decide in the supermarket aisle which wine to buy, because the clever (thirsty) guys at wat wine have tested over 10’000 on your behalf.
www.wine-searcher.com type in wine recommendations or wines you’ve heard of and this website will search hundreds of British suppliers for you to locate the ones that sell the wine you’re looking for.
www.vivino.com/app take a photo of the bottle of wine and learn its average price, ratings and reviews.
www.majestic.co.uk One of the UKs biggest wine merchants. They give great reviews, food and wine matching guides and you can buy in bulk or single bottles. They also deliver.