Match of the week
My top food and wine pairings of 2020
Back in March when Covid first hit I remember thinking ‘no-one’s going to want to think about food and wine pairing’ and put my match of the week feature on hold.
How wrong I was! Turned out that home cooking and pairing delicious drinks with it was one of the highlights of this bizarre year. And because I tended to reach for a bottle that was to hand rather than choosing a wine I knew I liked off a wine list it produced some interesting new combinations - almost every one a winner
I’ve picked out - with difficulty - some of the ones I found most intriguing but if you scroll through my Match of the Week page you’ll find others.
Back at the beginning of 2020 when we could still go to restaurants I had a brilliant meal at Richard Corrigan’s then newly opened Daffodil Mulligans of which this was the highlight. Crubeens are deep friend pigs’ trotters and the match with Gibney’s stout, which was also a real discovery, was spot on.
Amazing to think I was travelling around New Zealand in the first part of the year. Since I got back in February I haven’t been abroad - a first in recent memory. One of the (many) highlights was a chicken parfait with plums and cherries from chef Des Smith at the Hunting Lodge, two elements which skilfully picked out the flavours in a Central Otago pinot noir.
If you’re a fan of the dark, sweet, sticky meat that is ox cheek there were two good pairings this year, a nero d’avola and - perhaps even better - a full-bodied 2016 Goru 38 Barrels Jumilla from Southern Spain. Just cracking!
Another unexpected and really good pairing at a lovely new restaurant I’m dying to go back to called Osip in Bruton. Savoury macarons with a gently sparkling dry rosé made in a style the producer calls ‘Paris wine bar’!
One of the early wine matches of lockdown and one I absolutely wouldn’t have anticipated - a Thai green curry with a pretty pinot-based rosé from my local (to Bristol) Dunleavy vineyard. So good!
I’ve been increasingly into orange wine this past year, not least cos it goes with many dishes and ingredients that work with red wine. Here’s one from Sami Tamimi’s Falastin, one of my favourite cookbooks of 2020. The orange wine-friendly tahini is the element that really keys it in.
Pasta was one of the staples of lockdown suppers but cacio e pepe has overtaken carbonara as my favourite. And Sicilian Frappato - a light Sicilian red - makes a great match for it.
Korean food isn’t the easiest to match with wine especially when it includes spicy gochujang chilli paste but I would never have guessed that a G & T (made with my friend Romy Gill’s mango, lime and ginger gin) would be the perfect match. The recipe comes from another good friend, Judy Joo’s book Korean Soul Food.
Sherry is always on my annual list of top wine pairings but it’s often fino rather than nuttier palo cortado. With pork rather than seafood in the paella it was bang on though
My first attempt at making ceviche and I was quite proud of it I must say! Not a revolutionary pairing but a very successful one with a Rocky Gully riesling.
Probably the most popular pairing of last year judging by the response on instagram. And what a Meursault! And possibly the best ever chardonnay (or champagne) snack
One of my top discoveries of 2020 - Welsh producer Afon Mel’s range of meads. The blackberry one went particularly well with another great find - a brie-style Cote Hill Blue from Lincolnshire. You can find my piece on Britain’s new blues in Club Oenologique magazine.
Madeira has a bit of a fusty image so probably wouldn’t be the sort of drink you’d think of pairing with chicken ‘tulips’ aka spicy chicken wings. But it really was sensationally good and if the posh wine club 67 Pall Mall can do it so can you! (You can find the recipe here)
Even the word dumplings doesn’t suggest wine, let alone a grand cru but we’re talking classy dumplings here laden with lobster and truffles and served with a decadently rich velouté. At the utterly splendid Bob Bob Ricard where the food is designed to show off the world’s most prestigious wines
Another indulgent wine match with what what turned out to be one of my favourite recipes of 2020 - Nigella’s crab mac’n’cheese. Appropriately (it turned out) paired with champagne
One of those serendipitous pairings I was talking about in the intro: a viognier I happened to have open from a tasting with a dish I was trying out from Sabrina Ghayour’s Simply. Really spot on - it even coped with the harissa dressing.
The final match of the year - and a perfect one - Christmas cake and gloriously Christmas cakey Rutherglen muscat. It also works with mince pies so may have to become an annual fixture.
What was your favourite match - or matches - of 2020?
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