The concept of food and wine matching is as old as the hills, but seems to have gone out of fashion in recent times. With the popularity of the tasting menu in many top UK restaurants itâ€™s enjoying a timely renaissance. If youâ€™re going to a bit of effort cooking some nice food, then itâ€™s definitely worth giving some thought to the wines that go with it. So here are a few tips to get you started.
The easiest way to get a good pairing is to match the dominant features of the food with those in the wine. If youâ€™re making a dish thatâ€™s rich and hearty then serve it with a full-bodied red wine like an Australian Shiraz or Californian Zinfandel. A lighter dish such as grilled white fish pairs up beautifully with fresh, fragrant whites like Portugalâ€™s Vinho Verde or a good French Muscadet. A high acidity dish? Match with a high acidity wine like a Chablis or Sauvignon Blanc. Likewise, look out for winning flavour combinations – pork goes well with apple, so roast pork matches up perfectly with the appley flavours in Chenin Blanc, and duck goes beautifully with a plummy Valpolicella.
Tannin is an important feature in many red wines. Itâ€™s that thing that dries your mouth out, that coats your gums and clings to the teeth. Tannic wines are difficult to drink on their own, but match them up with the right food and they will blow your mind! If you donâ€™t believe me then next time you experience this, try the wine with a bit of mature cheddar and feel those tannins melt away…The key here is to match food thatâ€™s high in protein with wine thatâ€™s high in tannin, like Cabernet Sauvignon. Itâ€™s the reason why a chargrilled steak goes so well with Argentinian Malbec. But it doesnâ€™t work well with spicy food and is disastrous with fish!
Itâ€™s no coincidence that Italian red wine goes so well with the countryâ€™s tomato based cookery, or that the seafood of Galicia is heavenly with that regionâ€™s Albarino white wine. Theyâ€™re all products of the same environment, exposed to the same elements and the same land. So matching the country of the cuisine with that of the wine is often a good place to start.
Rules are made to be broken!
Some of the greatest matches youâ€™ll find have no right to work together whatsoever! Whoâ€™d have thought that Roquefort cheese would be a perfect partner for Bordeauxâ€™s unctuous, honeyed Sauternes Or, for the ultimate indulgence, Champagne and Fish and Chips?! Much fun can be had experimenting, but try your ideas out on a compliant guinea pig first…
Your merchant is your friend Weâ€™re lucky in Edinburgh to have so many fantastic independent wine merchants on our doorsteps. These guys have a wealth of knowledge, and will help you find the perfect wines for your menu, no matter how obscure the dish.Theyâ€™re friendly and clued up, and an amazing tool at your fingertips. So enjoy experimenting! And if you find a good match then let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re interested in finding out more, the Lothian Wine School has a range of courses.