Wouldn’t we all like to answer the question “what wine will go well with this” proficiently and expertly? Maybe you’ve been to a restaurant and had a waiter, or if it was a particularly expensive place, a sommelier, explain this to you. Perhaps you have even done your best to remember what they said. The problem is, now you only know that a ‘delicate cut of lamb pairs well with a restrained wine like Bordeaux’, because that’s what you had the restaurant. You’re entertaining friends at the weekend and lamb isn’t on the menu! Fear not, the following tips will have them believing you’re a expert, and that you know the ins-and-outs of every wine you’ve have stashed away from Underground Cellar.
First up, be careful with foods that fool your palate. Asparagus and artichoke are two examples. The chemicals in these foods clash if they’re paired with the wrong wine. Or, if fish is on the menu, avoid tannic red wine. The iodine in fish reacts badly to it.
That brings us nicely onto tannins. Tannins are great with fatty foods. Even the least-knowledgeable person knows steak goes well with a full-bodied red, although they may not know why. The reason is that the tannins in red wine cut through the fat and the result is your steak feels even more tender.
Acidic wines, on the other hand, are great with lighter meals. Think, salads and light fish courses. And acidic wine like Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect accompaniment and will add freshness to the whole meal.
A note of caution – try to avoid the really bold wines with delicate dishes. The flavour of the meal is just going to be lost. Remember, wine is there to ‘compliment’ the meal, not take over it. We’d also recommend saving the high-alcohol wine like Port or Madeira till after the meal. One exception to this is if you have a particularly special vintage you want to show off. In this case, we’d suggest keeping your meal simple and letting the wine shine and take centre-stage.
One mistake many people make is assuming red meat can only be paired with red wine, and vice-versa, white meat with white wine. However, that’s not always the case. Take for example a delicious pairing of roast chicken with Beaujolais, or a nice spicy lamb curry with Grenache. Take each meal as an individual opportunity to pair the right wine, rather than a broad, one-glove-fits-all approach.
Most importantly, don’t give up. Keep learning and try to enjoy the process of discovering new food and wine pairings. It’s a great excuse to open another bottle!