By Guy Chatfield
FOOD and wine matching has been a hot topic for a while now, something you can usually gauge by the number of websites and now apps that have appeared.
Before these technological innovations became available for every tablet or phone, the pretty basic rule-of-thumb was: ‘red meat, red wine and white meat, white wine’.
Now I’m not saying that this isn’t still the case, but with the wonderful profusion of foreign cuisines now available in the UK, this rule needs to be expanded to envelop the myriad of flavours that these dishes have brought to our palates.
This may sound a bit like the mantra of the film ‘Fight Club’, but the one hard and fast rule that I want you to remember about food and wine matching is that there are no hard and fast rules!
The whole subject should be driven by personal taste and, more specifically in our game, what the customer wants – if the customer wants a full-bodied tannic young Cabernet Sauvignon with their prawn cocktail, so be it!
In the limited space that I have here to offer you any nuggets of wisdom, the first place to start your thought process is with the dominant flavour of the dish.
With modern ‘fusion cuisines’ mixing flavours from around the globe, many dishes now also have multiple layers of complexity that our predecessors didn’t have to try to pair their wines with. If you can identify the sensation or taste that will dominate, then match the wine to that.
If the dish has any dominating acidity – goats cheese or lemon dressing, for example – pair the dish with a clean, crisp white like unoaked Chardonnay or a citrusy Italian Fiano. If the dish is strongly flavoured with herbs, this will marry with wines that have herbal tones, such as the grassy and nettle notes in Sauvignon Blanc or Cabernet Sauvignon which can show flavours of mint and cedar.
One of my favourite matches is the deliciously chilli-hot food from Thailand with a Gewurztraminer; the warmth in the dish is perfectly balanced with the spicy sweetness of the wine – more of a ‘yin and yang’ pairing.
Saltiness can also be a challenge, but salty foods are enhanced and balanced by a hint of sweetness; an example of this would be a lusciously sweet wine like Sauternes from Bordeaux – a fantastic match with salty blue cheese like Dunsyre Blue or Roquefort.
Please beware, though, that red wines with tannins will clash with salty foods horribly; in fact, it makes the tannins seem very bitter.
Suffice to say, matching today’s food with wine can
be difficult. Nothing beats the fun of trial and error though!