Having moaned for years how unhelpful it was for retailers and wine producers to put an incredibly vague ‘good with pasta’ or ‘good with chicken’ on their back labels I’m not sure the pendulum hasn’t swung too far in the other direction.
Some wine matches have got so absurdly specific that it’s hard to envisage the dish that's mentioned.
Marks & Spencer in particular seems to have gone overboard on its wine pairings: A recent selection of Spanish reds were recommended with ‘aubergine tagine and cardamom-infused pilaf” (Escondite Perfecto Mencia), grilled monkfish wrapped in jamon (La Sabrosita Garnacha Blanca) and monkfish with romesco (La Sabrosita Garnacha Tinto).
I remember a time not so very long ago when 70% of the British population didn’t know what pesto was. How many know about - or have even made romesco sauce (hands up - I haven’t)?
Some of the Eastern Mediterranean range also have very left-field pairings. A Turkish Sauvignon Blanc is recommended with 'baked sea bream with fennel and orange' though I suppose if you’re adventurous enough to buy a bottle of Turkish Sauvignon Blanc devising a dish of seabream with fennel and orange is not beyond you. And oysters Rockefeller (top right), not seen - let’s face - it on many menus, is one of the suggestions for a Slovenian Pinot Bianco.
Oddbins, too, while less specific has gone for some pretty off-the-wall pairings. Current recommendations include 'club sandwich' with a 2009 Alain Geoffroy Chablis (it would work but then so would so many other things people might be more inclined to eat with it), halloumi kebabs with Grange de Roc, an inexpensive blend of Grenache, Merlot and Cabernet (surely any kebab would do?) and an Australian Heartland Pinot Grigio with lemon meringue [pie?] which is frankly weird. King prawns in garlic with a Matahiwi Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2011 and slow roast shoulder of lamb with a 2005 Chateau Teyssier on the other hand are helpful suggestions to which I think most people could relate.
Personally I think pairings either need to refer to dishes or methods of preparation with which people are reasonably familiar such as chicken kiev or rare roast beef or, if more complicated, to a specific recipe which should also be given.
What do you reckon and have you come across any examples of off-the-wall pairings?
Photo © Trevor Allen - Fotolia.com