What food, what wine?

I have to admit I’m pretty terrible with food and wine matching, if I’m going to a friend’s for dinner (or having dinner) I choose wine that I like.  If it’s cold and I know we’re eating I will probably choose a red, if it’s hot or if we’re going out I’ll choose a white or rosé. If you’re lucky I might go for a dry Riesling or Semillon if I know we’re doing something spicy.  I admit, it’s not advanced but I am committed to getting better.

According to the bible (Exploring the World of Wines and Spirits – it has the WSET stamp of approval and foreword by Jancis no less) there are some basic considerations one should adhere to.  The main elements are:

  • Match the weight/richness of the food and the body of the wine
  • Match the flavour intensity of the food with the flavour intensity of the wine
  • Match acidic foods with high-acid wine
  • Match sweet foods with sweet wines
  • Avoid combining oily or very salty foods with high-tannin red wines.

Ok, all in all that’s as far as I get.  I’m lucky I guess that I’ve been drinking a lot of savs and rieslings to go alongside my usual spicy favourites.  The next level shit is where the wine and food combo enhance each other, so essentially make each other taste better.

  • Pair ‘chewy’ meat with tannic wines
  • Pair salty food with sweet or high-acid wines
  • Match or contrast the flavour characteristics of the food and the wine.

Anyways I was very interested in the inaugural What Food, What Wine Awards event held at the Oxo Tower earlier this week, and saw it as an opportunity to better my knowledge of food and wine pairing.  The event was essentially a wild ride through 10 courses of Britain’s most popular foods.

We started with Smoked Salmon and Fizz – The winner was the Champagne Ayala Brut Nature – (with no sugar added).  No complaints there, it was creamy and yeasty without being over the top and went with the salmon beautifully.  That was the only option there so onto the next.

Next up was Fish and Chips – in real life I would choose beer or Coke, however I tried The Crossings Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 which was in the best over £10 category.  I have to say this is probably the best NZ Sauvignon Blanc I have had in awhile.  It was complex and floral with a hint of oak and acidity. It had a lovely texture and light finish, fantastic and with it’s citrus notes cut through the fat factor of the fish and chips without overcoming the delicateness of the fish.  Good job! They also added a special category of fizz and chips and the Waitrose Blanc de Blancs NV took that out but I didn’t get to try it.  A shame.

Unfortunately my least favourite of the award dishes

Then it was time for best wine with Mushroom Risotto.  I thought this was an usual choice of dish but hey, I gave it a whirl.  By now I’d managed to park myself next to an amusing Austrian fellow who happened to be an IWC judge at a table outside, so was able to try both wines (otherwise what’s the point?). At one point he even yelled at the servers “This girl needs more meat!” when we got onto the roast lamb course – no arguments there.  Anyways first up was the under £10 Vina Real Barrel Fermented Blanco 2008, while it was ok I thought the mushroom risotto was too much.  The over £10 was the Kim Crawford Marlborough Pinot Noir 2008, a much better match than the Rioja, it was herbaceous, light and juicy enough to add to the risotto.  But I have to say this was my least favourite pairing of the night,  perhaps it was the mushroom risotto (and I do love mushrooms).

Next was perhaps the most classic British dish Bangers and Mash – in the under £10 was The Patriots Merlot 2010 – this was fantstic, the plummy sweetness and spice of the wine balanced nicely with the saltiness of the sausage – quite simply, bangin. In the over £10 we had the Saltram Mamre Brook Barossa Shiraz 2008, while it was good I thought it was perhaps a bit too big, preferred the cheaper option really.

Bangin' !!!

I was really pleased to see Chicken Tikka Masala as one of the tested dishes, I love curry and was keep to try what was on offer.  In the under £10 we had the Toro Loco Spanish Rosé 2010 – now this was one of the cheapest wines of the night (RRP of £3.49 from Aldi).  I had to admit, it was good and cheap, and quite enjoyed it as a Rosé however it was just an ok match for me.  In the over £10 we had the Framingham Classic Riesling 2009 – this was simply gorgeous, the sweet acidity and spicy lime balanced the salt and spice perfectly. I loved them together.

Next up was Roast Lamb, another British classic.  In the under £10 category we had the Finca Flichman Reserve Malbec 2010 – it was great, it didn’t kill the flavour of the meat, the plum and chocolate brought out the richness of the lamb beautifully.  In the over £10 we had the Louis Jadot Beune 1er Cru 2007, again this was lovely, black fruitiness with a touch of spice – I liked both of these matches.

Lasagne made it onto the menu – I imagine quite a few people are fans.  I tried the under £10 first, Campo Viejo Crianza 2008 – it was a little bit savoury, and quite full flavoured, it did stand up to the hearty lasagne.  Next in the over £10 was the Vidal Estate Syrah 2008 – basically I thought it was a bit to acidic and not so good. I have to admit I preferred the Lasagne to both.

Now we were onto the ‘dessert’ course, and being a big cheese lover I was very excited to try the wines for best wine with Mature Cheddar.  First I tried the Aldi Bordeaux Superieur 2009, in three words, not so good. According to the judges, a light, delicate and floral wine which helped to enhance the flavours of the cheese. Not for me.  In the over £10 we had the Louis Jadot Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru 2008.  This was divine, the rich creamy wine went perfectly with the cheese, the tropical sweetness paired beautifully.  It really was gorgeous and this was my favourite match of the awards.  I also loved the cheese but could not decipher what the server said when I asked her what the cheese was. I need it.   This category also had a special award, a highly commended number which was the Imperial Rioja Reserva 2004 – the dark red fruit hints with tobacco and wood went very nicely with the cheese, however for me the Louis Jadot was the best.

Next on the dessert menu was Apple Crumble – I tried the Vina Concha y Toro Late Harvest 2007 which was the best under £10 – basically I found it a bit too much.  In the over £10 we had the 2007 Domaine FL Coteaux du Layon ‘Les 4 Village’ – I liked it.  The slight citrus hints matched nicely with the tart sweet flavours of the apple and crumble, it was really quite lovely.  This category had a special award for most surprising match, and it was the Gallo Family Vineyards Summer Red NV.  Now this wine has a pretty bad rep, it’s in most off-licenses around London and looks like total crap, and for £6.29 you don’t expect a lot, but it was actually quite delicious.  Would I buy it? Undecided.

The final dish of the night was Chocolate Mousse – this is the other great love of my life apart from cheese, so very excited.  First up in the under £10 was the Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro NV – now the bottle is beautiful but I just thought it was too sweet – I do drink dessert wines on occasion but I found this too syrupy and sweet for the mousse.  The special award for surprising match went to Brown Brothers Cienna Rosso NV, which is a sparkling red.  It might sound disgusting but is actually not bad at all, with the mousse it made it taste like a Black Forest Gateau.  Surprisingly good, but not good enough.  I am such a chocolate mousse purist I would just prefer to eat the mousse without distraction.

Susie B MW with one of her favourite wines of the awards

I managed to have a chat to the MW of the event, Susie Barrie to get her thoughts on the results – there were no surprises there.  Her favourite food and wine match of the awards was the white burgundy with strong cheddar – apparently most people would drink reds with cheese but the sweetness of the wine went beautifully with the tangy characters of the cheese.  I completely agree, and being a cheese lover will definitely be doing this combo in future. Susie also said for her the most surprising match was the Gallo with  Apple Crumble. I also had to agree and failed to get anything controversial from our conversation.

Now, at least you know what to pair with fish ‘n chips…

For a full run down and pairings visit whatfoodwhatwine.com

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