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For a perfect match a wine needs to provide an element that's missing in a dish

One of the problems about today’s ultra-complicated restaurant food is that dishes tend to be what I once heard aptly described as ‘ingredient-heavy’. Which can mean that a wine of character may just be one flavour too much.

The best matches are in many ways the least complicated where the wine plays a supporting role as seasoning or sauce. Think of oysters and Chablis (or Muscadet), a lovely white burgundy with a piece of grilled sole or a plate of charcuterie with a glass of Beaujolais. In each case the wine is doing a useful job: the dish wouldn’t taste as good without it.

Chefs, of course, want to balance their creations perfectly but you as a home cook - or diner - can hold back. If you don’t squeeze lemon on your oysters or dollop a spoonful of pickles next to your ham you’ll get more out of your wine. When you’re cooking, if you think a dish needs a touch more sweetness or acidity let the wine provide it rather than correcting it fully in the dish.

The other tactic you can employ is to include a ‘bridge’ ingredient that has the same sort of flavour profile as your wine but at a less intense level. (If it's more intense than the wine it will overwhelm it)

This can be useful to offset the palate-coating effects of cheese. If you serve one of the new fruit jellies or pastes that are increasingly widely available (The Fine Cheese Company was the innovator here but Paxton and Whitfield has also launched a range) you can then build on that flavour, layer on layer with a wine of a similar style - or occasionally a contrasting one to make a three-cornered match.

I guess what I’m trying to say, though this is still an area where my thinking is evolving, is that one’s more likely to find perfect pairings if one thinks like a cook and treats wine - and other drinks - as an ingredient rather than as a separate entity.

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