About the most daunting audience that anyone could face is a group of wine writers, especially if a number of those happen to specialise in food and wine matching so it was with some trepidation that I agreed to lead a tasting on wine and charcuterie in London on Monday night on the eve of the London International Wine Fair.
I’ve always tended to go for Prosecco with Parma ham but last week I found an even better wine pairing - Malvasia.
It’s a tribute to the sheer joie-de-vivre of the Irish that we regard St Patrick’s Day with much more enthusiasm than St George’s, St Andrew’s or St David’s Days (the patron saints for England, Scotland and Wales for those of you who aren’t into your saints). So your friends are going to be more than pleased to be invited to celebrate it with you.
Having just got back from Alsace I thought I’d update my recommendations on the best matches for Alsace dry and off-dry white wines. What struck me particularly on this visit is how key sweetness is to the success of a match - something that will often be more marked in a younger wine than an older vintage.
Think of an air-dried ham such as serrano and you probably think of tapas and therefore fino or manzanilla sherry. But I’ve experienced two recent wine matches which opened my eyes to another option that even those on a diet could enjoy!
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?
Does the temperature at which you serve a dish affect the wine pairing? Matt Walls investigates:
We all know a beer goes down well with a ploughmans and that it’s a great drink to wash down a barbecue but here are 10 more unusual pairings my son Will and I came up with for our beer and food book An Appetite for Ale which should liven up your summer drinking.
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.
There was a time, about 10 years ago, when I wrote a lot about Merlot which was widely regarded as wine world’s alternative to Chardonnay - an easy drinking red wine that went with almost any meal.
Thos of you of a certain age may remember that great ‘70s favourite ham and pineapple which conisisted of a large limp gammon steak, curling at the edges and a couple of fried pineapple rings. From a tin. There was one thing that was good about the dish though and that is that ham and pineapple are great together, something we’ve rather forgotten in these more sophisticated times.
Despite the emphasis that winemakers place on the different appellations or terroirs of Chablis three factors seem to me to influence a food match more than any other for most of the Chablis you’ll taste - the age of the wine, the vintage and the degree of oak influence, if any. There are exceptions to this - Chablis styles that are particularly fruity or ones that have more vegetal notes but in general I think you’ll find most wines fall into one of the following five groups.
A couple of years ago I went to a chutney-making demonstration and tasting. No, not at the WI - it was held by the family owned company Tracklements at leading London cheesemonger La Fromagerie which has recently expanded its empire into the neighbouring shop and now has a fancy new tasting room.
Thanks to the Argentinians, everyone associates Malbec with steak and that’s a great pairing but with Malbec World Day coming up this Wednesday maybe it’s time to stretch your wings and give some other dishes a try. Here are a few ideas:
A general idea has got about that Chardonnay is for chavs but as anyone who has a taste for top white burgundy or other premium new world Chardonnays will know it’s a spectacular food wine.
I’m in Chablis for a couple of days this week and last night enjoyed one of the classic local pairings: a basic Chablis and a dish of Jambon à la Chablisienne - thick slices of ham in a cream, tomato and white wine sauce. This version also had a touch of tarragon which cut the richness of the sauce. It contained all the elements that kicks a young Chablis into touch - saltiness (of the ham), acidity (the tomato) and richness (the cream), a perfect counterfoil to Chablis’ own crispness.
Provence rosé has a particular character. It’s much crisper and drier than most rosés on the market, more like a white wine than a rosé - though within this style there are variations between the lighter, less expensive wines or ‘vins de soif’ and the more structured ones, which the local refer to as ‘vins de gastronomie’.
We rarely think of tawny port as a flexible partner for food. We serve it with stilton, obviously and with hard cheeses like cheddar, with nuts and dried fruits and over Christmas with fruit cake and mince pies but that’s usually as far as it goes.
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.
As those of you who are familiar with this site will know I’ve got issues about drinking red wine with cheese. It may seem an obvious partnership but all too often it seems a warring one.
The problem with the old media is that their lead times are too long. Skye Gyngell, the Independent on Sunday’s food writer and chef at the heavenly Petersham Nurseries Cafe in Richmond probably wrote her al fresco menu in today’s edition a couple of weeks ago when the sun was blazing. Today the wind is howling and the rain lashing against the windows.No matter. It’s only May and summer will (hopefully) return. Here’s what I would suggest drinking with it.
I first had this wonderful vegetable stew - a northern Spanish equivalent of a spring vegetable minestrone - in a restaurant in Pamplona and dreamed about it for several years before managing to recreate it. This version comes from winemaker Maria Martinez of Bodegas Montecillo in Rioja who I was interviewing for a feature in Decanter. We bought the ingredients together from the market in Logrono.
One of the world’s most underrated grapes yet capable of making some of its most delicious dry whites, Sémillon isn’t on the radar for many. So if you get hold of a bottle what should you pair with it?
Real perry - as opposed to the often confected and artificially flavoured pear cider - has a different taste from cider. It’s more delicate, more fragrant, a better match for fish. You can treat drier styles like a dry white wine, sweeter ones almost like a dessert wine. And sparkling perries like champagne. But cheaper. Good news all round!
You might think it odd to pick out South African Chenin rather than Chenin Blanc in general but I do think the wines are distinctive, particularly when it comes to the crisper styles which are much zestier than they tend to be in the Loire
Last week we spent 24 hours in Cheltenham, mainly to eat at Le Champignon Sauvage about which I’ll be posting a review tomorrow. We also had lunch at a pub/bistro I’d heard good things about called the Royal Well Tavern which has this year been awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand and recently picked up a glowing review from the Observer’s restaurant critic, Jay Rayner
With the sun shining and the World Cup just a week away what could be better than a South African-style braai. Let alone one that involves a pie . . .
With Southern hemisphere wines from the 2012 vintage having been on the shelves for a few months now the annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau on the third Thursday of November has become much less significant that it was but it’s still fun to crack open a bottle with friends.
It’s been so busy the last few weeks that good pairings have been coming thick and fast but this was a great match I enjoyed at an offbeat new occasional restaurant which was launched by food and wine writer Marc Millon in Topsham, Devon the other day. (He’s also contributed a couple of pieces to this site including this wonderful piece about Bagna Cauda)
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.