Asparagus, it’s often said, is tough to match with wine, let alone a red, but this combination with a light, chilled Saumur Champigny at the re-opened Bell’s Diner in Bristol was a perfect pairing.
In London the trend was started by Rowley Leigh and picked up on by Paul Merrony of the Giaconda Dining Room*. The return of hors d’oeuvres, that tasty little selection of small dishes that preceded tapas but which had fallen from favour along with many other elements of French bistro cuisine.
Last night I had dinner at the Dorchester Grill Room, one of London’s grander hotel restaurants which has been given an absurdly baroque makeover reminiscent of what Balmoral must have looked like in Victorian times. The team in the restaurant though are bang up to date with one of the smartest sommeliers in town, Jason McAuliffe doing an impressive double act with the talented young chef Aiden Byrne.
Artichokes have the reputation of being a wine-killer but as with most of these diktats the problem is over-played. True, artichokes can make even dry whites taste oddly sweet but that doesn’t account for the different ways in which they are cooked and how they are served.
Despite the emphasis that winemakers place on the different appellations or terroirs of Chablis three factors seem to me to influence a food match more than any other for most of the Chablis you’ll taste - the age of the wine, the vintage and the degree of oak influence, if any. There are exceptions to this - Chablis styles that are particularly fruity or ones that have more vegetal notes but in general I think you’ll find most wines fall into one of the following five groups.
Last week’s best pairing was at a fascinating meal I had at Les 110 de Taillevent in Paris which I’ll be writing up in more detail so here’s an off-the-wall match from last night’s feast at The Unfiltered Dog - a pop up restaurant at the Real Wine Fair run by the team from Terroirs.
One of things I enjoyed most on our recent trip to Ireland* was the seafood. The fish shop in Midleton, Co. Cork had a fantastic array of locally caught lobster, crab and prawns at very reasonable prices. They tasted great too - really fresh and sweet.
Whenever anyone talks about foods that are difficult to match with wine asparagus always comes up but as I've always felt the problem is overstated. Just like any other ingredient it depends how you cook and serve it and how many other ingredients there are on the plate.
I was reminded just how enjoyable this combination is the other day when I dropped by London’s latest tapas bar Barrafina and enjoyed a pre-dinner pick-up of a glass of Hidalgo with some al-i-oli and toast. The sharp tangy sherry was the perfect foil for the crisp toast and silky, garlic-flavoured mayo that accompanied it.