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Matching food and wine

26 April 2005
Matching food and wine

There are two schools of thought when it comes to matching food and wine: those who believe in it, and those who don't.

It's true that you should be free to drink what you like, when you like and hang the rules. If Chardonnay's your thing and you've ordered steak then go ahead. If it tastes good to you, then it's a good pairing.

But first, when food and wine matching it is important to consider is to balance the weight of the food with weight of the wine. Sounds simple, doesn't it? And it is.

Try a Pinot Noir with a rich meat stew - it just won't stand up. Try a meaty Mourvèdre instead, and you've got your match. The bolder the flavour of the dish, the bolder the wine must be to stand up to it.

And when planning a food and wine matching dinner, it's important to build on people's palates - the wine should get fuller and fatter as the meal progresses.

Do's and Don'ts in food and wine matching

Don't layer similar flavours together. If you're eating something really earthy such as black pudding, don't pair it with an earthy wine - go for something fruity to lift the dish and add a new dimension.

Do think about textures. Don't use an oily wine with an oily dish - it needs acidity to break it up

Do serve a wine with acidity if you squeeze lemon over a dish, or you are serving a dish packed with citrus fruits. Otherwise the wine will taste flat.

Do consider how salty a dish is. Salt and tannin are not good partners, accentuating the wine's bitterness. For salty food, go for something sweet: Roquefort and Sauternes, fino and olives.

Do rememberthat freshly ground pepper can be the death or making of a wine. It can kill old, fine wine but pep up light, neutral wine.

Do consider tricky ingredients (see box below). Think acidic wines for the tricky tomato; forgo vinegar for a splash of wine in your salad dressing; forget smoked fish, go for an Islay malt instead (though smoked salmon is more forgiving); think out of the box for chocolate - try tawny port.

Tricky ingredients

Vinegar - try German Riesling Kabinett
Smoked foods - German or Alsace Rieslings; for meat try Pinot Noir or Zinfandel
Yoghurt - try Italian dry whites, Retsina
Eggs - try cheaper white Burgundy, Alsace Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio
Chocolate - for lighter chocolate desserts try Muscat, or richer chocolate try Maury or tawny port
Chillies - try New World Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Shiraz, Beaujolais,
Ginger - try Torrentes, Gewurztraminer
Citrus fruits - try Gros Manseng, Sauvignon Blanc; for sweet citrus desserts try late harvest Riesling and Semillons
Tomato - try Dolcetto, Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc

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