Steak and red wine sounds too obvious a pairing to highlight but sometimes it hits the spot so perfectly it’s worth being reminded there’s nothing better you can eat with a good bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon (unless you’re a vegetarian, obviously . . .)
Talk to chefs and sommeliers about the wines they like to match with food and only rarely will Cabernet Sauvignon crop up. Many are, in fact, quite openly critical of today’s blockbuster styles. Even Robert Parker, when I interviewed him a few years ago, expressed a preference for simple unoaked wines from the Rhone for much of his everyday drinking. Presumably though purchasers of the new world’s top cabernets are not just buying them to lie around their cellars. Somebody out there is enjoying them - but with what?
Few these days dispute that red wine goes with fish - it’s just a question of which wine and how the fish is cooked. Most would accept ‘meaty' steak lookalikes like grilled or spiced tuna or salmon work with Pinot Noir but would hesitate to take it much further than that but last week I found a couple of surprisingly good fish matches at one of my favourite new wine bars 28-50.
I’m aware that there’s a Francophile bias to this site but there are recipes where I automatically turn to the New World. The spicy lamb dish I picked up the other night from my local restaurant and takeaway Culinaria is one of them - a hottish tagine-style dish of spiced lamb, aubergines, chickpeas & merguez sausage which was almost on the verge of being a curry.
The Bordeaux wine region produces a multitude of top class red wines that these days tend to be blends of four main grape varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
Signe Johansen recently competed in - and won - a food bloggers challenge to come up with the perfect dish for a Casillero del Diablo Chilean Cabernet. Here’s how she went about it. (You can find the recipe for the winning dish, Pigeon breast and chocolate mole with redcurrants and parmesan mash here.)
Quite an old article from the archives (first published in Decanter in 2007) but the advice still holds good, I reckon. Although I had a fantastic bottle of 2008 Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir with a T-bone rather than a fillet the other day. But that would taste good with anything.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Roast beef has the virtue of being one of the most uncomplicated dishes to match with wine. You can really drink any medium- to full-bodied red you enjoy. There are a couple of points to bear in mind, however, which might affect the style of bottle you choose.
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.
The perfect match for lamb is red wine, right? Well, mostly but not always as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipes in the Guardian this weekend and my own recent experience have demonstrated
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.
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.
Another week of brilliant pairings, another tough decision to make but I’m going for this combination at Delaire restaurant in Stellenbosch because it was such a great dish.
No Christmas would be complete without a slice of Stilton or its unpasteurised cousin Stitchelton. But what to drink with it? The usual answer is port - and that of course is classic - but here are some other drinks that make great pairings
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 ;-)
Some unusual steak recipes from Jason Atherton (then of Maze, now of Pollen Street Social) that prove you don't always need to drink red with beef.
Mark Hix may have been knocking back the tequila on his recent trip to Mexico but if you’re not made of such stern stuff try my alternative suggestions for his Mexican-inspired recipes in the Independent today.
Wine writer Stuart Walton casts a sceptical eye over accepted wisdom:
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.
Blogger Denise Medrano of The Wine Sleuth braces herself for a lunch featuring classic French dishes and Australian wine. Was she convinced? Read on . . .
Like many popular dishes chili con carne (aka chilli con carne) has many different versions - some mild and child-friendly, others much more spicy and assertive and often a little smokey. Beer in many way seems the best option but a big hearty red will see you right too:
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 . . .
A bit of a departure with the turkey this Christmas - a magnum of Chivite Coleccion 125 from Navarra we unearthed in a cellar sort-out the other day. It's based on Tempranillo with a proportion of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon - I'm not sure what the percentages were that year - but was probably at the optimum moment for drinking - the fruit still bright but super-smooth and beautifully in balance.
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’ve just had a sneak preview of a very lush new B & B Langford Fivehead which opens next week (March 1st) in the Somerset Levels just outside Taunton. The building dates back to 1453 and is owned and run by former BBC Good Food editor Orlando Murrin and his partner Peter Steggall
Being Easter it’s not surprising that there’s a focus on chocolate in the press today though I’m not sure how many of us would be bold enough to serve venison with chocolate sauce to our nearest and dearest as Mark Hix has done in the Independent today.
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.
You might think the idea of eating bacon and egg with good claret is sacrilege but bear with me.
Last week was a particularly indulgent one for dining out so it was a tough call coming up with my match of the week but I think it has to be the Côte du Boeuf I had at Racine with a stellar bottle of Ridge’s 1999 Monte Bello
We’re in Arles this week for our annual visit to the Rencontres Arles, the fabulous photography festival that takes over the entire town. Since we’re with our youngest son, culinary exploration has to alternate with visits to his favourite pizza and sandwich joints which is how we ended up last night at a basic but brilliant pizzeria in the Trinquetaille on the other side of the Rhône.
Despite the growing concern about alcohol levels in wine many reds still clock in at 14.5% or more, a level at which they can become an unbalanced pairing for traditional European food. Many traditionalist would say that they are therefore not ‘food wines’ but as with other types of wine it depends how well they’re made and whether overall the wine is in balance. Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe for example rarely hits the shelves at under 14% but wears its alcohol lightly.
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.
I’ve always had a bit of a problem finding cheese matches for claret. Cheddar is often suggested but I find mature versions have too much ‘bite. Stilton slays it and so do most washed rind cheeses, oozy Camemberts and Bries. The most successful match I’ve found so far is Mimolette so maybe it was auto-suggestion at work when I tasted a deep orange Red Leicester at The Fine Cheese Co’s Cheese Fair in Bath at the weekend and immediately thought of red Bordeaux.
The other night I was lucky enough to go out with a wineloving friend of mine and his wife who brought along a bottle of Château Palmer 1990 with them. It was a lovely wine but, as any 20 year old vintage would be, quite delicate so immediately created the dilemma of what to eat.
Just as last week’s match of the week was a classic - so is this week’s: the main course we had at Oliver Peyton’s National Gallery Café at a dinner to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Circle of Wine Writers.
A classic match for this time of year but no less enjoyable for that.