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How to… match food and wine

21 April 2011
How to… match 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.

Some chefs believe that if a customer wants Chardonnay with their steak then why not play around with the ingredients a little until it does match? OK, so that might not work during a busy service, but it does raise a number of issues - mainly how your chosen accompaniment and cooking method can affect the choice of wine for a dish.

But first when food and wine matching, it is important to balance the weight of the food with the 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 food and wine matching, it's important to build on people's palates - the wine should get fuller and fatter as the meal progresses.

the do's and don'ts of food and wine matching

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

â- 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.

â- 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.

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

â- Do consider tricky ingredients. 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.

tried and trusted food and wine matches

â- Beef (roast or stew) - Cabernet Sauvignon

â- Chicken - Chardonnay or Colombard

â- Curry - Riesling or GewÁ¼rztraminer

â- Shellfish - AlbariÁ±o

â- Smoked foods - German or Alsace Rieslings; for meat try Pinot Noir or Zinfandel

â- Yogurt - try Italian dry whites, Retsina

â- Eggs - try cheaper white Burgundy, Alsace Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio

â- Vinegar - German Riesling Kabinett

â- Chocolate - for lighter chocolate desserts try Muscat, and for richer, try Maury or tawny port

â- Chillies - try New World Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Shiraz, Beaujolais

â- Ginger - try Torrentes, GewÁ¼rztraminer

â- Citrus fruits - try Gros Manseng, Sauvignon Blanc; for sweet citrus desserts try late harvest Riesling and Semillons

â- Tomato - try Dolcetto, Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc

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