There were some big surprises when the results in the What Food, What Wine competition were announced this week - always a bonus of tasting blind.
The biggest was the origin of the wines. The best matches for lasagne, for example were a Rioja Crianza (Campo Viejo) and a New Zealand Syrah (Vidal Estate), not an Italian red. In fact there were no Italian wines among the winners which surprised me as I regard them as particularly food-friendly. Same with the mushroom risotto - it was a white Rioja and a New Zealand Pinot Noir that won through.
And I would have expected southern France, especially the Rhone, to get a look-in when it came to sausage and mash, particularly one cooked with a red wine gravy. Instead it was a Chilean Merlot (The Patriots) and a 2008 Barossa Shiraz (Saltram Mamre Brook). Interesting too how a number of the wines had a couple of years of bottle age ...
The highest scorers overall in terms of winning wines were France (2 champagnes, 2 burgundies, 1 bordeaux and 1 sweet wine from the Loire) and Spain with 5 each, though sadly no sherry. Australia and New Zealand had 4, Chile 2 and Argentina and California 1 each - the latter - startlingly - Gallo’s Summer Red, which is so sweet that it turned out to be an original and delicious match for apple crumble! No Italy, as I've said, no Germany, Austria, Portugal or South Africa. Hopefully they’ll feature another year.
Retailers too must have got a bit of a shock: 2 winners from Aldi - both under £5, 1 from Morrison's and 1 from Waitrose. No Tesco, Sainsbury's or Asda own label (perhaps they didn't enter?) though some of the winning wines may well be stocked by those chains.
The best thing about this competition though is that it's flagged up some new and original wine matches. And even though you might not easily be able to get your hands on the particular wines that were singled out it should give you an insight into the type of wine that could work with a particular dish. Despite the fact that few of you are probably going to drink a premier cru Chassagne Montrachet with your cheddar, for example, you might well experiment with an oaked Chardonnay and really enjoy it. And that's what food and wine pairing should all be about.
You can find the full results on the What Food, What Wine website including the wines that picked up 4 and 5 stars.