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Matching Food and Wine

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An Article by Andrew Coghlan

One of my passions in the wine trade is matching different styles of food with different wines. As we have a leg in both camps of both the wine industry and the food industry, combining our cookery school at Sheepbridge with our wine wholesaling arm, we are in a unique position to make informed comment on both aspects. I have outlined some general principles of styles of wine to match with styles of foods. This is the basis of our new wine and cookery book due to hit the shops in July, so here a quick taster of what is to come later this summer.

The main principle in matching wine is not to match but to contrast. The wine should be used as an ingredient in the dish as a contrasting element, so if a recipe has a high acidity, choose a wine with high fruit content to match to it. Classical faux pas include choosing Chardonnay based wines with Fish such as smoked salmon, or selecting a heavy spiced Shiraz to match with white meats which drowns the flavours.

I am also of the belief that you should drink what you like drinking with what you like eating, its not for me to tell customers what they should drink because its a very personal thing. All I can do is advise which styles go best together and then leave it to personal selection.

Lets take some examples from a typical dinner party menu.

If you have a Smoked and fresh Salmon Terrine served with a balsamic dressing, you have the smokiness of the fish, the sweetness of the fresh salmon and that tart acidity of the Balsamic Vinegar. My selection to balance would be a sauvignon blanc grape variety, probably from the Loire Valley such as Sancerre or perhaps better a Pouilly Fume. The fume has an elegant citric fruit and a hint of vanilla whereas the Sancerre has more of a ripe gooseberry aroma and flavour. Both have high acidity which balances the sweetness of the fish,yet sufficient body or weight to hold against the Balsamic Vinegar.

Other wines which might match would include Australian Semillon, perhaps Cape Jaffa Semillon from the Limestone Coast region which has a deep ripe fruit aroma and a hint of lemon on the finish.

Looking at something for the main course now with a Fillet of Derbyshire beef wrapped in Horseradish mousse with a red wine jus lie. This has very strong meat flavours, the slightly oily texture of the reduced red wine and beef bones stock sauce, the horseradish giving a hint of spice, so overall lots of richness in the dish.

My choice would be from Bordeaux in France, from the Haut Medoc. This side of Bordeaux relies on the heavy Cabernet Sauvignon grape variety, tempered with a touch of the softer Merlot. Chateau de Pez 1999 would be great with its rich texture, a hint of cigar box on the nose and a rich black fruit flavour on the top of the palate. However at £30 per bottle it might make the evening an expensive one so I,m also recommending a Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile. Casa Lapostolle Alvara Cabernet Sauvignon is full of ripe berries and good tannic structure which balances the oily texture of the sauce. This sells at about £6 so you can always stretch to a couple of bottles.

For dessert I have selected an Apple Tart Tatin with Clotted Cream Ice Cream. This dish relies on the tangy fruit against the creamy ice cream with a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon to give interest on the palate. This matches really well with late harvested Chenin Blanc, particularly from around the town of Anjou. Chateau Des Fesles Coteau du Layon is a delicious dessert wine, rich and fruity with great length and enough umph to stand up to the apple and the buttery ice cream.

Round off the meal with a nice piece of ripe local Stilton. Salty and savoury but just needs a wine with great fruit to balance it. If choosing a port, select a good ruby like Adriano Ramos Pinto Collector Reserva at around £15 which shows deep black fruit on the attack and a hint of spirit on the finish or be alternative and serve a glass of good quality Syrah or Shiraz. Ross Hill Shiraz from New South Wales has good depth at £12 but for real class go the Rhone and enjoy a glass of Hermitage from the finest hillside producing Syrah in France. Although you will pay around £16, the wine will last for some days so could be enjoyed over the week as the stilton becomes riper.

Don’t write to me if you need to visit your Doctor for Gout, so everything in moderation is always a good motto!

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