There is sufficient disagreement about the subject of food and wine matching to instigate
small private wars
whenever strong opinions
clash over the wine
to be enjoyed with a meal. The classical
approach, while strongly adhered
to by some, is being abandoned in favour of more recent, and possibly more trendy
s. Each opinion is strongly argued for by those proposing it, backed by seemingly flawless
reasoning, and while they differ greatly, all have an element of truth.
Those who abandon any rigid
structures will boldly venture towards uncharted
waters and insist that rigid guidelines are a load of tosh
. The latter proponents explain how liberating oneself from the shackles of Hugh Johnson
of food and wine matching will lead to unlikely though pleasant matches. Taken to an extreme these might propose that since one never has food and wine in the mouth at the same time, matching is useless. Naturally, the consequence of such a radical
approach will range from serendipitous synergies
, to horrors
that will ruin both the wine and the food selected.
On the other side of the spectrum
are those who study the rules with the meticulous
attention of waltzing porcupines
and obey them rigidly, only ordering an item on the menu if the recommended wine match is available. Following respected matches is the safest approach and an oaked Cabernet
with the smoky flavours of chargrilled fillet are almost guaranteed to please the most classical of hedonists
Being a believer in compromise I'll take the liberty of expressing an opinion
once so much advice, often gratuitous
, is dispensed all round. The truth probably lies half way between the extremes. Wine is indisputably
a fine art and like any art the classical approach is a good start. It is only when the rules are known inside out that one may risk bending and eventually breaking them. The old adage solicits
white wines with fish
and reds with meat
. All is well and good there, but once one has exhausted
most possibilities within those parameters it might be the time to try a more audacious
So what I would choose, and this is totally subjective
, would be a slight variation on the prescribed guidelines that remains within rational
limits. Recent pairings that I have been pleasantly surprised with include:
- Sauvignon Blanc with a Tuna Carpaccio, not unlike sushi in a way. I'd go for a recent Sancerre or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
- Oak Fermented Chardonnay with grilled octopus on a risotto al sugo nero (squid ink risotto. Smoky burnt-toast, citrus and vanilla notes from the chardonnay will really assault your senses when matched with the same flavours of the dish.
- Mono-varietal Trebbiano with Roast Pork belly and green apple. Might be hard to imagine but picture the subtle pear tones from Trebbiano and the fatty fruit consistency of apple-tainted pork belly.
- Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc Rose with grilled tuna fillet. One cannot over-stress the importance of as little cooking time as possible. The rare tuna with the chilled, complex rose are a surprisingly refreshing, if somewhat stark, combination.
- Mono-varietal Cabernet Franc (admittedly a rarity] with rosemary roasted leg of lamb. Classic situation for a Syrah/Shiraz, but the subtle herbal and peppery aromas of Cabernet Franc along with its understated medium body allow the delicate flavours of lamb to persist. Once again, minimal cooking should let lamb bleed when cut to prevent turning a perfectly good cut into tasteless sandwich-filler.
- Primitvo(Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon with Venison in wild-berry sauce. The wine in question was an intense, high-alcohol (14 alc), almost tarry combination of oaked cabernet with the wild, explosive, Primitivo. The bitter-sweet venison dish tamed the wine to provide one of my most pleasant surprises ever.