To celebrate Australia Day here's a feature I wrote a year ago on Australian chardonnay - not as out of date as you might think as many of the vintages will only just have worked through.
A general idea has got about that Chardonnay is for chavs but as anyone who has a taste for top white burgundy or other premium new world Chardonnays will know it’s a spectacular food wine.
An edited version of a very interesting article written for the Oxford Wine Company's magazine by cheese expert Juliet Harbutt, organiser of the Great British Cheese Festival and author of The World Encyclopaedia of Cheese.
I’m conscious there’s a marked French bias in the pairings on this site so I’m going to go not for the excellent Alsace riesling and choucroute combo I had last week - or the many amazing wine matches at the Szechuan dinner which I’ve written up here but a very flashy lobster ‘burger’ and chardonnay I had at the Soho restaurant Bob Bob Ricard
Last night was my first in a two week trip of Australia - an informal dinner with Vasse Felix at a Chinese restaurant in Perth (Grand Palace).
I had a reminder last week of just how good Chardonnay can be with meat given the right accompaniments.
In the general flurry of celebrations last week I missed out on St David’s Day (the patron saint of Wales) and the opportunity to write about leeks. Leeks tend to excite a certain amount of derision but I think they’re a fabulous vegetable, much milder, subtler and sweeter than onion and much more sympathetic to a fine white wine (for I think they go much better with a white wine than a red one).
With just over three weeks to go to Christmas it’s time to begin planning your holiday drinking if you haven’t done so already. You may have already decided what to eat and drink for the Big Meal itself but chances are you’ll have to provide several other meals over the holiday period for which it’s useful to have an appropriate bottle.
Even if you're not a fan of the blockbuster style of Chardonnay still favoured by many producers you have to admit it meets its match in butternut squash. Why? Because the rich sweetness of the squash kicks the sometimes over-exuberant tropical fruit and vanilla-scented oak into touch and magically transforms them into an elegant, refreshing glassful.
Citrus flavours are difficult to match with wine, as I’ve mentioned before, but a classic lemon tart with its combination of sharpness and sweetness is particularly tricky. The better a tart is the more it will tend to strip the flavour out of any accompanying wine, so much so that it’s almost worth serving a shop-bought one (of which there are some very good examples) if you have a serious dessert wine to show off.
Assuming it’s made conventionally with a white sauce and mashed potato topping fish pie is a relatively straightforward dish to match. Almost any smooth dry white wine will do.
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.
After my recent visit to the Jura I’ve rethought my ideas about which wines make the best wine pairings for Comté cheese.
The first thing to bear in mind about Thanksgiving - and for that matter Christmas - is that it’s as much about mood as food. Who you’re inviting, what age they are and how big your party is are factors every bit as important as what you’re eating. I say this particularly because the main Thanksgiving meal and the meals around it are hard ones to match: what you need is a wine that is going to cope with a whole battery of delicious flavours.
The other evening I had an interesting session with a few food bloggers matching Davidstow cheddar for which I’d been asked to come up with some drink pairings*. My task was to talk about the wine. The company’s Head Grader Mark Pitts-Tucker brought along a couple of Cornish ales - Sharp’s Doombar and St Austell Tribute.
I always think it’s misleading to describe pork as a ‘white meat’. Strictly that's accurate, I suppose, but ‘whiteness’ somehow seems to suggest lack of flavour. Although that’s still true of much mass-produced pork there’s far more rare breed pork around these days which has a great deal of character.
As the old saying goes, it’s a small world. I was already booked in for a Pegasus Bay wine dinner in London when I ran into their winemakers, Matt Donaldson and Lynette Hudson last week on my trip to Oregon - not once but twice. So they felt like old friends by the time I caught up with them again at Providores where chef Christian Hossack (Peter Gordon was away) came up with some really well thought out pairings.
When you have a fish as fine as Dover sole you don’t want to mask its delicate sweet flavour in any way. Here are my suggestions for Gordon Ramsay’s recipes in the Times today.
You may well know what you’re going to drink with the turkey by now but here are some ideas for what to match with your Christmas starters, paired with recipes from some of Britain’s favourite chefs and cookery writers.
Vegetarians often get overlooked at this time of year so if you’re vegetarian yourself or cooking for one here are some perfect pairings for some delicious festive recipes from the web.
If you think of the ingredients that show off a great wine mushrooms would have to be near the top of the list. Possessed of the sexy ingredient umami - the intensely savoury taste identified by the Japanese, they flatter and act as the perfect foil for wines as disparate as vintage Champagne, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
If you haven't yet worked out what to drink on Thursday (February 14th, if you need reminding!) here are a few suggestions to match popular Valentine's Day foods.
One of the world's most popular cheeses Brie can be mild and slightly chalky or decadently gooey and quite strong in flavour. Try one of these top wine and other matches:
A classic starter from the ‘70’s but one that our customers seem to enjoy every bit as much today. This version originally came from a book called Take Twelve Cooks and was one of Pru Leith’s recipes. However Stephen Bull attributes it to Peter Kromberg of Le Soufflé at the Intercontinental who was also featured in the book . . .
There aren’t many wine pairings that form the subject of a book title but Elizabeth David’s Omelette and a Glass of Wine immortalised the combination. Unlike other egg dishes wine actually does go pretty well with omelettes but should it be red or white?
As with most cheeses the ideal pairing for cheddar depends how mature it is. A mild to medium block cheddar is going to be a lot easier to match (and in most cheeselovers’ eyes a lot less interesting) than a tangy cloth-bound cheddar of 18 months or more.
Forget for the moment my often-advocated match of chilled red wine with salmon, if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a wild fish it deserves one of your best whites. Here are my suggested matches for Mark Hix’ recipes in the Independent today:
Fennel is one of the handful of vegetables that can influence a main course pairing - almost always for the better. Its aniseed flavour seems to have a pronounced affinity with many wines, especially whites. Here are some suggested matches with recipes that two British chefs have published this weekend - Gordon Ramsay in the Times and Skye Gyngell in the Independent on Sunday.
One of the more endearing aspects of the current British food scene is the number of festivals devoted to a single food. I’d heard of oyster festivals, crab festivals and cheese festivals but I’d never come across a scallop festival before.
What happened to days 2 and 3 you may be asking and indeed that’s what I’m asking myself. We swept through Eastern Washington as fast as a tornado, barely pausing to sleep, never mind write.
Looking at the recipes online for Thanksgiving turkeys, stuffings and sides they’re very much sweeter (and more imaginative) than the typical UK Christmas turkey. They’re often brined, glazed or spiced (or all three), sometimes deep-fried and often accompanied by cornbread-based stuffings and sweet-tasting vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash.
The last two days have been quite, quite beautiful, starting mistily, basking midday in an unseasonally warm sun and finishing with an extended dusk that announces that spring is finally here. I immediately want to eat lighter meals: the new season’s vegetables are not quite in yet but I can at least plan for summer and that means a spring clean of the cellar, pushing the full bodied reds to the back and assessing what whites, lighter reds and rosés I still have lurking in the racks.
Frankly if you can afford white truffles (currently selling at about 2500 euros per kilo) you probably already have a substantial cellar to pick from but just so you don’t in any way detract from the pleasure of eating your investment let me tell you what the Piedmontese do.
The classic tarte au citron is tricky with wine, particularly if it’s home made. And the sharper and more lemony (and delicious) it is, the harder it is to find a good match.
Roast chicken. Possibly everyone’s favourite Sunday roast. Certainly the childrens’ though they’re not going to be wondering which wine to pair with it.( I hope! I can recommend apple juice for non-drinkers.)
Summer (or what passes for it) is the perfect time of year to eat crab so why not try out your wine pairing skills and work out which wines you'd match with these eight different crab dishes. My own suggestions below . . .
After all the rich eating of the last few days there’s nothing better than a plateful of clean-flavoured, briney oysters. But what’s the best wine - or beer - to pair with them?
One of the most irritating recommendations you find on wine labels is ‘Drink with chicken’. Which kind do they mean - a simply roast bird or a coq au vin? A chicken salad or a Thai chicken curry? Chicken is such a neutral meat it depends entirely on the way that it’s cooked and the other flavours in the dish.
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.
As I mentioned in my last post our last lunch of the Oregon trip was at Cristom where sales director (no less!) John D'Anna cooked us a great meal. Here's how he did it and - where I have a link to them - the recipes he used. Try it!
After the tradition-bound cooking of the Christmas period (from which the family will never let you deviate . . .) it’s good to branch out a bit with your New Year’s Eve meal and also pick some dishes that will allow you to drink some serious wines. Note you need to start the beef two days in advance.
Tuna’s a versatile summer ingredient that you can use in salads or on the barbecue. Quick and easy to cook, like salmon a conductor of many different flavours. It’s also a meaty fish which adapts just as well to a red and a rosé as to a white.
Another run-out for Mark Hix's wonderfully decadent recipe for a lobster-stuffed baked potato from his new book Hix on Baking. Such a great idea . . .
Another recipe for your World Cup celebrations from the Van Loveren family. It comes from the new Wines of South Africa cookbook Cape Wine Braai Masters but you could equally well cook it with a conventional oven and grill.
It’s the time of year to look back and review the best food and wine matches of 2011. Some were comfortingly familiar, some a total surprise to me. What they had in common was that the combination was more than the sum of the parts. The drink - in most cases wine - made the food taste more delicious, the food just made the wine sing. I hope you enjoy something similar in 2012.
I’ve written before about pairing wine with Chinese food - and so have some of my contributors but here’s a slightly different way of going about it that may help you decide which bottle to choose and make your pairings more successful. It involves deciding which flavours are predominant in a dish or selection of dishes.
Our final port of call on our recent French trip was a modest family run restaurant at Bourneville called Risle-Seine, a few minutes off the autoroute between Le Havre and Rouen (and therefore ideally placed for a last minute lunch before catching the ferry). It has no great pretensions but does what it does really well: simple classic country food served with decent, well-priced wines - and cider, we discovered this time.
If your New Year breakfast today includes eggs, especially brunch-type dishes such as scrambled eggs with smoked salmon or eggs benedict there’s no better partner than Champagne or other dry sparkling wine.
If you don't feel like cooking a big Sunday lunch for Easter next weekend how about a brunch?
This typically Burgundian dish of pork with a wine, cream and mustard-based sauce is quick, easy and versatile. You could equally well use it for chicken.
This month’s issue of Observer Food Monthly hasa special on TV dinners featuring celebrities talking about their favourite snacks. Very few beverages are mentioned so I thought I’d suggest a few pairings ;-)
It’s less common to come across Indian-spiced seafood dishes than it is fish and vegetable-based ones so what sort of wine works? Yesterday I had a chance to find out
Peashoots exemplify the delicate flavours of spring as Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall persuasively argues in the Guardian today. How do you find a wine that won’t overwhelm them?
I’m not quite sure whether it’s a blessing or a curse to be able to access the English papers so easily on-line these days. It makes it hard to resist the temptation to have a peek and therefore harder to cut off.
Scallops are normally a sure-fire match for chardonnay so it was quite a challenge to think of some alternatives for Skye Gyngell’s inventive recipes in the Independent on Sunday today.
Q I am the best man at a wedding and agreed to provide the wine for the head table. The couple is serving a soy, ginger salmon and chicken dish (i assume you get a choice). Any thoughts?
Last night we had a fun five course wine and food matching dinner at Rockfish Grill in Bristol which showed the range of wines you can match with fish. Here’s a few thoughts about how we approached it for those of you who are organising a similar event.
It’s become fashionable these days to vilify butter and cream but if you want your wine to shine bring them into play. There’s almost nothing better than a rich creamy sauce to show off a fine white burgundy and whisking a little butter into a red wine sauce will set your Bordeaux off a treat.
Any of you who have been to J Sheekey's in the West End will probably have succumbed to their unbelievably good fish pie. Here's the recipe from their new cookbook J Sheekey Fish.
This is one of my favourite recipes ever - made famous by the late, great George Perry-Smith and faithfully reproduced by one of his most talented protegés Stephen Markwick who retired last year.
Continuing with our series of South African Braai recipes to celebrate the World Cup, here’s winemaker Paul Cluver’s version of beer-can chicken made with apple juice rather than beer.
Burgers don't have to be beefy as these delicious salmon burgers from my book An Appetite for Ale prove, inspired by browsing the aisles of the Wholefoods market in Denver during the Great American Beer Festival a couple of years ago!
Did I want to go on a truffle trip to Spain at the end of January? Balmy Barbados seemed like a better option but since that wasn’t on the cards and the enquiry came from an old friend I said yes. The 2 day visit - the annual Viñas del Vero ‘Days of Wine and Truffles’ in Somontano would include an outdoor picnic in the foothills of the Pyrenees (eek), a truffle hunt and - the clincher - a multi-course truffle menu by one of the region’s most talented chefs followed by a gastronomic brunch. “Bring the Gaviscon”. my friend sagely advised.
The answer to that may well be ‘whatever wine’s left over’ - if there is any, of course - but if you’re looking for a wine that will match specific dishes here are a few ideas:
Fishcakes are one of the ultimate comfort foods - I remember TV chef Antony Worrall-Thompson saying he could never take them off the menu. In general they pair well with dry white wines, however it depends a little on what fish you use and whether you’re serving a buttery sauce alongside
This week is National Pie Week in the UK - not that we Brits need much encouragement to eat pies. It’s also been seized on by an enterprising PR agency as an opportunity to explore wine and pie pairing but to be honest I’m not convinced that beer isn’t the better drink - with the majority of British pies at least.
As it’s both Bonfire Night and British Sausage Week this week there’s a fair chance that you’ll be eating bangers of some kind, so what’s the best pairing? As always it depends on the sausage but I personally find that beer and cider are often just as good partners as wine.
Like other dishes the perfect wine match for risotto depends on the flavourings for the risotto rather than the rice itself - the lighter the dish, the fresher and crisper the wine. On the whole I prefer dry crisp white wines with seafood and spring vegetable risottos, but it’s more complicated than simply saying if it’s a fish or a vegetable risotto it’s a light dry white.
I’m a huge fan of Nigel Slater’s. I buy the Observer every week just to read his recipes. Yes, I know I could read them online (as you can here) but you don’t get the luscious Jonathan Lovekin photographs. Not that you need them. Slater’s prose is so evocative you can taste the recipe as you read.
The type of artisanal cheddar I was writing about yesterday - mature, full-flavoured, unpasteurised - isn’t the easiest cheese to match with wine.
The other day I picked out some wines to match your Easter meals. Today here are some beer pairings. You may find family and friends resistant to the idea of putting beer on the table (though some will be secretly pleased) but stick to your guns. The more your guests see how great beer is with different types of food the more confident they’ll feel about serving it to friends themselves and the less likely it is that the only beer you’ll find when you go to their house is a Bud. So, here goes:
If you were eating it entirely on its own roast turkey would be one of the easiest ingredients in the world to match. You could drink your favourite white, red, ros or even sparkling wine with it and it would work fine.
Although I make my living writing about how food can enhance wine - and vice versa - I would never want to be dogmatic about it and freely admit that there are occasions when it matters less than others.
Although you rarely match a wine to vegetables such as peas or beans they do have an influence on pairings. Peas have a natural sweetness, broad beans an earthiness and runner beans a herbaceous flavour that can affect the style of wine you choose. Here are my suggestions to go with the four recipes in Mark Hix’s column in the Independent today.
We’ve been down in the Languedoc for the past week, revisiting some of the winemakers we haven’t seen for a while. They included Domaine de l’Arjolle, one of the first wineries we bought from when we bought a holiday home down here in the early 1990s.
As those of you who follow me on Twitter (as winematcher) will know I’ve been in New York this week and have a huge number of interesting wine and other matches to tell you about but the most unexpectedly successful - and therefore my pairing of the week - was a match of macaroni cheese and Alsace Riesling.
I spent last week in the Languedoc where we visit quite regularly so there weren’t many new food and wine discoveries to be made but I think the most thought-provoking match was a main course dish of roast turbot with girolles and a bottle of Château Cabezac 'Alice' 2008 from the Minervois I had at a restaurant in Agde called Le Bistrot d’Hervé.
Every so often you come across a great little recipe than does wonders for almost any wine you pair with it. And so it is with mushroom ‘caviar’, a regular offering from the takeaway section of my favourite local restaurant Culinaria. Basically it’s a mushroom pâté but so reduced and wickedly intense it’s like pure essence of mushroom. Except for the perfect counterpoint - a tiny touch of tarragon.
I was trying to think what food and wine match I would most like to be presented with on Valentine’s Day. I’m off foie gras. Caviar is horrendously expensive and very un-PC. Smoked salmon is nice, certainly, but no longer quite the special treat it once was (unless it’s wild). And I must be one of the few people in the world who isn’t anyone’s for a gooey chocolate pud.
It’s so automatic to think of a wine match these days that one sometimes overlooks the fact that a beer will work just as well, if not better. So it is with that great restaurant favourite, chicken caesar salad.
While I no longer eat foie gras myself (as explained here) for the French there is no other way to celebrate the réveillon, or New Year’s Eve.
If you think you automatically need to partner a fish dish with white wine think again! Meaty fish such as salmon and tuna take really well to Pinot Noir, the grape variety that the hero Miles raved about in the hit movie Sideways.
In the first of an occasional series on dishes to make at home to show off a special wine Lucy Bridgers devises the perfect romantic dinner for her lucky other half.
Haggis may be traditional fare for Burns' Night but let's face it, it's not everyone's cup of tea. So here's a Scottish inspired menu that I suspect you'll probably enjoy rather more (unless you're born and bred Scots, of course...)
With Hallowe'en just over a week away here's a sophisticated supper for those of you who don't have to go out trick or treating . . .
Before we finally plunge into winter here's a late autumn supper menu from my book Food, Wine and Friends that combines the best of autumn’s produce with a couple of convenience products. Ready rolled pastry has made it wonderfully easy to knock up a quick, impressive tart while a simple dessert of grilled fruit dresses up a bought carton of ice cream. The soup can even be made ahead and frozen if you like.
Whatever you get up to on Valentine’s night (and truly, I’d rather not know) my guess is you’ve got better things to do than spend it slaving over a hot stove. So this is an unashamed cheat’s menu for you to romance your loved one with the absolute minimum of effort. Needless to say, buy only the very best ingredients.
We get so used to thinking of champagne as the ultimate fizz that it’s easy to overlook the many excellent sparkling wines that are made in other areas.
This recipe came from a fascinating dinner at which chef Greg Malouf cooked a selection of Iranian dishes from his book Saraban which he wrote with his former wife Lucy with whom he still collaborates. This unusual and simple fish dish in yoghurt particularly appealed to me and I thought it would to you too.
Sometimes you go to a wine dinner with some trepidation wondering if the wine will stand up to the food but I was pretty optimistic that Domaine Long-Depaquit’s Chablis would survive at Nobu (the original Metropolitan hotel restaurant in London, not LA, sadly!)
A lot of chefs - particularly male chefs - don't really get salads, making them either an afterthought or wildly, elaborately fussy. Mark Hix of the Independent is an exception - his are always simple but imaginative, reflecting the season perfectly. Here are my matches for his recipes in the Independent this weekend.
One of the aspects of the World’s Best Sommelier competition I hadn’t really thought about is how on earth you create a menu for a roomful of sommeliers. And choose wine pairings they won’t be sniffy about. One way is to impress them with large format bottles and old vintages which is the route competition sponsor Moët et Chandon took . . .
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.
A fair bit gets written - including by yours truly - about pairing wine with turkey but what type of drinks go best with the Christmas ham?
I only have to look at how many of my matches of the week involve fish to realise that it now appeals to me more than meat. Not that I’m anti-meat by any means it’s just that the sort of wine you pair with it is fairly predictable, well-trodden ground.
I’m always undecided as to whether I prefer red wine or white with roast chicken but of course it depends on the accompaniments and the time of year.
I’ve already mentioned this wine pairing as part of my write-up of the Action Against Hunger pop-up with Rick Stein but it was the outstanding match of last week.
Cheese and wine is always a bit of a minefield so it’s good to find a partnership that works really well. This was one of six pairings laid on for the launch of the Bristol Wine and Food Fair which takes place next month (and at which I’m holding a number of Cheese and Wine Masterclasses, so do come along).
I’m in Chablis for a couple of days this week and last night enjoyed one of the classic local pairings: a basic Chablis and a dish of Jambon à la Chablisienne - thick slices of ham in a cream, tomato and white wine sauce. This version also had a touch of tarragon which cut the richness of the sauce. It contained all the elements that kicks a young Chablis into touch - saltiness (of the ham), acidity (the tomato) and richness (the cream), a perfect counterfoil to Chablis’ own crispness.