Book reviews | Which are the best books on food and wine pairing?

Book reviews

Which are the best books on food and wine pairing?

A few years ago you really struggled to find a book on food and wine matching (If I can modestly recall, I wrote a couple of them!). Recently though a number have been published, particularly in the States, reflecting the interest in the subject and I'm occasionally asked which I would recommend.

Obviously it depends on what level of knowledge you have and whether you’re looking for recipes as well as recommendations but here are half a dozen to consider in alphabetical order rather than order of preference:

Balance: Matching Food and Wine - What works and Why. Lyndey Milan and Colin Corney, A$ 39.95, Lothian 2005 (AUS)
A bright, breezy introduction to the subject from one of Australia’s top food personalities Lyndey Milan and wine educator, Colin Corney. Useful general introduction to the principles of tasting and pairing then guides to each major grape varieties with the authors' top pairings and a well-matched recipe. Attractively designed and produced, this is a good book for beginners.

Great Tastes Made Simple: Extraordinary Food and Wine Pairing for Every Palate. Andrea Immer, $27.50 Broadway Books 2002 (US)
One of the brightest young US sommeliers, Immer’s book aims to get you to understand how food and wine pairing works rather than just offering matches. The approach is flavour-led with chapters focussing on different tastes and flavours in food such as ‘earthy’ flavours or smoky foods, giving many different options. Immer also loves to cook so there are a few recipes designed to match specific wines. It’s not a quick reference guide but a good book for those who already know a bit about food pairing to go into the subject in greater depth.

Matching Food & Wine: classic and not so classic combinations. Michel Roux Jr, £20, Weidenfeld and Nicholson 2005 (UK)
More a cookery book than a book on food matching but there some interesting suggested pairings with each recipe from Roux, owner of the two-starred Le Gavroche and one of the few chefs who really understands wine. Some very nice, surprisingly simple recipes too. One for a wine-loving home cook.

Perfect Pairings: a Master Sommelier’s Practical Advice for Partnering Wine with Food. Evan Goldstein with recipes by Joyce Goldstein 2006 University of California Press 2006 £29.95 (US)
Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein takes grape varieties as his starting point, each section describing the flavours and ingredients that work best with each variety (and those that work less well) There are also recipes designed to match each wine, from his mother Joyce Goldstein who used to run Square One in San Francisco. The introductory sections are sound too with a very useful ‘cheat sheet’ designed to give you a quick steer as to what food will work best if for example your wine is tannic or your food is salty or tart. Practical but not too intimidating it’s a good book for the keen amateur. The only downside is there’s not much in the way of illustrations.

The Simple Art of Marrying Food and Wine. Malcolm Gluck and Mark Hix £20 Mitchell Beazley 2005 (UK)
A handsome-looking book by one of the UK’s best known wine writers (Gluck) and cookery writers (Hix) but one which seems to have lost its way a bit in execution. The recipes are great, and some of Gluck’s musings on wine accompaniments insightful but it isn’t the easiest of reads which makes it not quite as simple as the title suggests. If you’re a Hix fan (and I am) you’ll probably want to add it to your collection though.

What to Drink with What you Eat: the definitive guide to pairing food with wine, beer, spirits, coffee, tea - even water - based on expert advice from America’s Best Sommeliers: Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page $35 Bulfinch Press 2006 (US)
The most comprehensive book (and convoluted title) on the market, by far - a bible on all liquid options. Husband and wife team, Page and Dornenburg have done their homework thoroughly and recommend matches from Txakoli (a Spanish semi-sparkling wine from the Basque region) to sake. Sometimes the lists are slightly overwhelming in terms of the number of possibilities although their top recommendations are highlighted in capitals. Plenty of insights from top movers and shakers in the business - ideal for a food professional.

Image © Vickie -

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