Although there’s still plenty of the rich, lush style of Shiraz we’ve come to associate with Australia there’s more than one style as I discovered on my recent trip. If you like more restrained, even funky syrahs, Australian producers can deliver. Unsurprisingly many of them are organic or biodynamic and made with a minimum of sulphur. Most are from cooler vineyards. Take your pick . . .
We’ve been down in the Languedoc for the past week and two bottles - both Syrah - have impressed me for very different reasons. One was an inexpensive but characterful Ressac Vin de Pays d’Oc Syrah which we bought from the co-op at Florensac, Vinopolis, after eating at their showcase restaurant Bistrot d’Alex which I’ve mentioned on the site before. The other a much classier bottle called Clos du Fou (the 2004 vintage) from a local Faugères winemaker Château des Estanilles which bore comparison with a Côte Rôtie.
Last week’s highlight without a doubt was the meal I had with my Guardian colleagues at Brawn, Ed Wilson’s new restaurant in Columbia Road. As you may know it’s the new City outpost of the hugely popular wine bar Terroirs with a similar natural wine list which you can read about on my natural wine blog here.
Last week I had lunch at my new favourite London hangout, the wine bar Terroirs which is run by a partnership including the quirky and original Caves de Pyrène. It's a place that you'll absolutely love if you're a Francophile: it feels just like a Parisien wine bar - without the surly service. The food is also cracking but as we'd resolved to kick off the new year by splitting a Vacherin Mont d'Or, as you can read on my cheese blog The Cheeselover, we didn't get a chance this time to sample chef Ed Wilson's robust bistro food.
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.
We Brits have always had a reputation for liking our wines old and our game high but times have changed. Today the key factor in matching game tends to be not how ‘gamey’ it is but how it’s cooked and what is served with it.
Like salt, pepper has a pronounced effect on wine, often making reds taste softer and lusher than they otherwise would. Unlike salt though, you also find peppery flavours in wines such as Northern Rhône Syrah and Austrian Grüner Veltliner.
The type of artisanal cheddar I was writing about yesterday - mature, full-flavoured, unpasteurised - isn’t the easiest cheese to match with wine.
With the Olympics in full swing I guess we'll all be spending a fair amount of time in front of the TV eating takeaway pizza.You may not have given much thought to the ideal match but here’s what I suggest:
Few things make up for this time of year. In the UK it’s relentlessly wet, grey and occasionally blustery. Time to head for the kitchen and knock up a rich beef stew or casserole and leave it simmering for hours.
I came across this pairing at Chris and Jeff Galvin’s newly opened Galvin La Chapelle in Spitalfields in the City where they have a vertical of vintages, some of which are available by the glass. As I observed in my review on decanter.com it’s not a cheap option but if you’ve never tasted an old vintage of Hermitage la Chapelle here’s a chance to do so.
Today, as you’ll probably not need reminding, is le quatorze juillet which marks the storming of the Bastille and the start of the French revolution. These days the French are more likely to head for the beach than onto the streets as it’s a public holiday and the start of the month long summer vacation for many but it’s celebrated with street parties all over France.
This is the perfect time of year for buying oranges and lemons but what effect do they have on the recipes you’re making? Quite a marked one, if truth be told. Lemons in particular have a high level of acidity which will make any wine you drink with them taste sweeter. If that’s counterbalanced in the recipe by sugar as in a lemon tart or lemon meringue pie, for example, the result is a dish that’s really quite hard to match.
Turkish food is not traditionally accompanied by wine. And although the Turks do have a wine industry not much of it makes its way over here. But here are some thoughts on possible pairings for Mark Hix's Turkish inspired recipes in the Independent this weekend"
It’s a lean weekend for menus to match in the national press so I’ve picked Thomasina Miers’ favourite childhood recipe - and one of mine - from the Times for my weekend pairing.
When I read Mark Hix recipes in The Independent today they were so challenging that I nearly gave up but as everyone else seems to be writing about asparagus today and I’ve done a lot on asparagus recently there was no other option . . .
A really robust pasta dish from my book Cooking with Wine - perfect for cold weather eating. The wine gives a richer, more warming flavour than the usual tomato-based sauce.
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:
If your Easter roast is a ham or gammon you need a more substantial wine with it than when you serve ham as a cold cut. Which one depends on the glaze.
If you’re used to choosing wine - or other drinks - to match with meat or fish you may be flummoxed when it comes to chosing one for vegetarian friends. But as I explain in my Guardian column today it’s a question of finding out how the wine is made - and in particular whether any animal-based products have been used in the fining process.
After my recent visit to the Jura I’ve rethought my ideas about which wines make the best wine pairings for Comté cheese.
Today is the third International Grenache Day, a celebration of a grape which is (often anonymously) responsible for some of the most generous and appealing reds in the wine world.
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.
You know how difficult it is to find a good wine and cheese match? Well here are five I’ve recently tasted that hit the spot perfectly. Four were at a tasting at the recent Bristol Wine Fair that was conducted by the food and wine writer Andrea Leeman. The other was a serendipitous one I came across the other night when we were eating with friends.
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.
None of you I’m sure can have failed to notice just how many different bottles of rosé are now available on the average supermarket or wine store shelf. From being a summer speciality to quaff with summer food there are now rosés for almost every type of food and occasion just as there are different styles of white and red wine.
Sunday marked not only the start of the Chinese New Year but the Vietnamese New Year celebrations too - known as Tet. As in China there are certain foods which are traditional to the occasion such as pickled vegetables and candied fruits, none of which are particularly wine-friendly but in general I find Vietnamese food, with its milder heat and fragrant herbal flavours easier to match than Thai (although I haven’t had such extensive experience of doing so).
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.
Mark Hix, a great forager himself, concentrates on recipes you can make from the hedgerow this week in The Independent (now is a good time to go to his new restaurant, I suggest . . . ) so I’m thinking a little outside the box as to what to pair with them. Country wines, made with hedgerow fruits, seem the perfect answer. I don’t know why we don’t see more of them.
The book I’ve been looking forward to most so far this year has just started being serialised in the Guardian today. It’s by Yotam Ottolenghi who founded two exceptional London restaurants and is simply called Ottolenghi: the Cookbook. l love Ottolenghi's food - it’s so generous and big-flavoured, piled high on bright, colourful platters - you can't fail to be tempted by it. It also lends itself perfectly to entertaining for large numbers at home.
Beans are one of the great underrated aids to matching full-bodied wines as I was reminded at the weekend when we combined a dish of pork and lima beans with a fine St-Joseph.
Once the game season starts to get into full swing my husband ventures into the kitchen. Pheasant, of course, doesn’t come into season until the 1st of October but our local butcher was obviously clearing out last year’s stocks and we picked one up for a song.
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.
Our final pre-Christmas meal at our favourite local restaurant Culinaria the other night was a real feast of winter flavours. Unusually every dish went well with the bottle we chose, a 2005 Vacquéyras Cuvée des Templiers from Le Clos des Cazaux, a wonderfully full-flavoured blend of Syrah and Grenache that was as good as many minor Châteauneuf-du-Pâpes I’ve tasted. A real treat.
I went to a great little bistro the other day in St-Rémy-de-Provence called - appropriately enough - Bistro Découverte. It’s run by a very talented young sommelier I used to know in London called Claude Douard who worked for Marco Pierre White and Joel Rebuchon.
Frankly almost any full-bodied red will work with a roast meat like venison but I’m particularly excited about the new breed of modern Spanish reds that are appearing on the shelves.
To celebrate our unseasonal Indian summer here's a barbecue with a difference from my book Food, Wine and Friends. The centrepiece is a spiced, butterflied leg of lamb served with a delicious Turkish-style bulghur wheat salad called Kisir. Finish with grilled nectarines or, if you prefer to have your dessert prepared ahead, some refreshing wine jellies.
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...)
The gorgeous summery weather we've been having requires a dramatic change in mindset from the almost wintry food we've been eating for the last couple of months so here's a simple meal for 4 that was inspired by a trip to Greece a couple of years ago.
Wine writer Stuart Walton casts a sceptical eye over accepted wisdom:
People in the wine trade often talk about ‘food friendly wines’, a term so vague you might wonder what on earth it means. Surely all wines are designed to go with food? Is it supposed to be a criticism or a compliment?
If you want to understand what British cooking is about - not the magpie character of of modern British but the genteel English country house tradition - head for Soho where Jeremy Lee has taken up residence behind the stoves at Quo Vadis.
You might not have wanted to pay the £20-odd a bird it costs to source grouse on the first day of the season but prices will come down over the next couple of weeks and it's a great treat for a small dinner party. If you haven't cooked grouse before try this reassuringly simple recipe from chef Stephen Markwick with whom I collaborated on his book A Well-Run Kitchen
Why has no-one had the genius idea of putting beef bourguignon into a pie before? Here's the recipe courtesy of the brilliant Ginger Pig Meat Book which I've reviewed here.
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.
I was reminded about my trip to Priorat almost exactly two years ago by my recent visit to the Roussillon which has a similar terroir. And I think the wines would go with similar kinds of food. These were my suggested pairings at the time . . .
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.
It’s true that lamb is one of the most wine-friendly of meats, as at home with red Bordeaux and Rioja as it is with the more fruit driven varietals from the new world. But if you’re looking for a spot-on match it’s worth thinking just how - and for how long - you’re going to cook it.
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?
An irresistible dinner invitation came my way a few weeks ago, to attend a game dinner and tasting of René Rostaing’s Côte Rôties at Emanuel College, Cambridge. Cambridge colleges are famous for their wine cellars but these wines came from the personal wine cellar of its ‘wine steward’ Dr Jonathan Aldred, the fortunate fellow (in both senses of the word) who buys all the wine for the college.
Last Friday I attended the Soil Association annual Organic Awards lunch at Bordeaux Quay in Bristol. The menu was based on the winning ingredients which in the case of the main course was Langley Chase organic mutton served with chard and spelt risotto.
My match of the week for last week has to come from the sublime WIMPS lunch I had at the Ledbury which members can read about here. It was hard to decide which the best pairing was but I think the calf’s kidney and 1998 Gilles Barge Côte Rôtie just shaved it.