Food & Wine Matching is a conundrum for the ages. However, it is not as hard as it may seem at first glance. The basic premise is either:
- You have a special wine you want to drink and need to know what food to serve it with.
- You have a special dish you want to try. and need to know what wine to serve with it.
They are the same problem with the same answer: Whatever you like.
In my opinion, the only way to get a perfect match is the have a practice run (or two). Now you may laugh, but how can you possible know if the dish will match the vino (or the other way around) if you don’t know how they both taste individually first. And then together. How often have you opened a wine and it has not quite tasted like what you expected (happily or unhappily)? The same can be said for the food. With so many variables, you need to nail down, as close as possible, what it will look, smell and taste like.
If you’ve only got one bottle or aren’t interested in doing all this practice there are some tips (NOT RULES) that can help match sure they cause a joyful union on your palate. Or at the very least avoid clangers. Remember that time I had Shiraz with oven baked fish? I do. It was not nice. I watched people at a restaurant eat red duck curry and drink Heathcote Shiraz. More power to them for exercising the number one rule: Drink what you like. BUT they couldn’t be tasting much of either.
Wine Matching Tips.
Tip 1. Avoid the wine killers. Chocolate, coriander, chilli, ice cream.
Tip 2. Match weights.
Tip 3. Each can balance the other. Acidic wine to cut through a rich dish. A rich wine to sit over an acidic dish.
Tip 4. Simple wine for complex food. Complex wine for simple food.
Tip 5. When in doubt. Soave. Pizza (good pizza guys, not the average local stuff).
Muscadet and oysters. Briny, slippery oysters cut by zesty acid and flinty flavours from the wine.
Fino sherry and Jamon. The dry flinty wine with high acid sears through the fatty, oil and delicious jamon.
Cabernet and roast lamb. Bold flavours on both sides. The lamb has the fat to soak up the tannins so you get the currants and violets with the lamb and herbs that go with it.
Duck and Pinot Noir. Savoury, gamey, fatty duck contrasted by elegant, perfumed and pretty Pinot. Often with an acid edge to help cut through.
Parmesan and Amarone. The intense, deeply flavoured, nutty cheese soaks up everything the Amarone can throw at it. The sun dried grapes mean you get big tannins, acid, alcohol and flavour. Everything is still in harmony but you just get more. The sweetness of the wine contrasts well with the savoury cheese.
Stilton and Port. Oh man. This probably only seems like a good idea at the end of the meal. It is two huge flavours bashing each other over the head. It works though.
Nebbiolo and truffles/mushrooms. This is a classic example of food growing up with wine (or the other way around). They have complementary earthy flavours, Nebbiolo acid cleans up the texture of mushrooms which in turn soak up the tannins. Often this would be a pasta or risotto dish which further enhances this experience.
Phil’s all time best matches.
Old Gold Chocolate and Coopers Stout. This is a marriage of complementary flavours.
Abbaye de Citeaux and Thibault Liger-Belair Clos Vougeot 2011. I know this for a fact! Having almost demolished half a wheel with the whole bottle. I am sure some other red Burgs would work equally well. But it was a happy union of two delicious but somewhat reserved flavours. Previously I had been matching it with white wine but the extra body of the red and softer acid works really well. The Citeaux is never gooey like epoisse so there is a textural match there too.
Pont l’Eveque and Pegau Cotes du Rhone Villages. Thanks to Richmond Hill for this. The funk, earth and creaminess of the cheese just set off beautifully the similar flavours of the Pegau.