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.
Click the headings of each pairing to find out more about each match.
Plaice with clams, girolles and mash with FMC Chenin
A richly savoury fish dish that went brilliantly with Ken Forrester’s lush FMC Chenin at a wine dinner at Medlar, a newish and Michelin starred restaurant in Fulham, west London. Proof that you don’t have to have a big red as the centrepiece of a meal.
White fish in cream sauce and Alsace Riesling
A star pairing from the Alsace region of France I visited back in June. What could be quite a bland dish is lifted by the crisp fruity Riesling. A deserved classic.
South-east Asian starters and salads and aged Eden Valley Riesling
Another top Riesling pairing from my recent Australian trip, Peter Lehmann’s 2006 Andrew Wigan Eden Valley Riesling proved the perfect match for a dish of sugar cane prawns, crisp Hanoi spring rolls and a fresh, tangy Vietnamese-style beef salad.
Sushi and an oaked Luis Pato white
So what do you drink with sushi? Not an oaked Portuguese white you’d have thought but the slightly nutty Vinhas Velhas Branco 2009 I enjoyed at a Japanese restaurant in Foz just outside Oporto (yes, weird, I know) matched perfectly.
‘Meat fruit’ with Pacherenc du Vic Bilh
Not only one of the matches of the year but one of the dishes - if not the dish of the year. I had Heston Blumenthal’s famous ‘meat fruit’ (above) at his new restauarant ‘Dinner’ back in February. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it it’s a smooth foie gras-like chicken parfait inside a mandarin-shaped orange jelly - just gorgeous with Alain Brumont’s rich apricotty Pacherenc du Vic Bilh ‘Larmes Celestes’ 2004.
Pork scratchings and Nyetimber 2006
Now this was a fun one: an English sparkling wine with a packet of posh pork scratchings. I’d expected it to be a top beer pairing but it was the Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2006 that hit the spot. It really has been England’s year so far as fizz is concerned.
Hawksmoor hot dog and Seven Barrels Red Rye IPA
And just in case beer lovers feel short-changed here’s a good, if predictable, combination: a rich, fruity IPA from Kernel Brewery with the outrageously over-the-top hot dog at my son’s restaurant Hawksmoor in Seven Dials, Covent Garden. One of my new year’s resolutions is to do more on beer. Prod me if I don’t.
Pork, chilli, coconut and gapi salad with Momo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
The best of a number of great pairings during a fun food and wine matching exercise at Peter Gordon’s Asian-inspired restaurant Kopapa in London with Niki Segnit, author of The Flavour Thesaurus. You can see the full feature here.
Wagyu beef steak and Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay
Proof that beef doesn’t always have to be accompanied by a red. Another great match from my recent trip to Australia at Grand Palace, a Chinese restaurant in Perth. The beef was cooked with ginger, shallots and a touch of sesame oil. Truly delicious.
Rabbit ballotine with Domaine Lucci Wildman Pinot Noir
Natural wine (yes, I know the description gets up people's noses) has been a growing interest for me this year and here’s proof it can work with elegant food. Pinot is more commonly associated with duck or pork but it goes brilliantly with rabbit too as this deliciously silky Adelaide Hills Pinot proved at a wine dinner at Bell’s in Bristol.
Roquefort and Lagavulin
I’ve always wanted to visit the distilleries on Islay and this year I made it. I found many intriguing matches for this super-peaty style of whisky but this is a classic. Do try it!
Apricot soufflé and Coteaux du Layon
One of my great finds of 2011 was the Auberge de Chassignolles, a fabulous hideaway in the Auvergne run - surprisingly - by a Brit, Harry Lester, and his wife Ali. He cooks a set meal every night and this was one of the star dishes, a perfect match with a biodynamic Coteaux du Layon 2008 from Domaine des Sablonettes.
Fresh clementines and Jorge Ordonez Malaga Seleccion Especial
My first pairing of the year was both simple and delicious - fresh clementines with a light, fresh, modern Malaga. Proof that you don’t have to have a dessert - or even cheese - to enjoy a sweet wine.