Master of Wine Emma Jenkins provides a few tips for finding great meal mates.
WINE AND FOOD – a match made in heaven? Potentially, but beware the match made in hell, as anyone who has taken a sip of red wine right after a bite of chocolate can tell you. So, how does one negotiate this minefield?
It used to be simple: Champagne, then sherry with the soup, white wine with the fish, red with the meat and port to finish. As set in stone as the correct knives and forks. These days, though, with fusion food, shared plates and global grazing, it’s not so clear. What then are the new rules?
I think the most obvious is to eat and drink what you actually enjoy. There is no point matching Champagne with oysters if you loathe Champagne or cannot bear oysters. Far better to have the Champagne with your favourite fish and chips or the oysters with your usual Aussie shiraz if that’s what rings your bell.
That said, well-matched food and wine elevates a good meal to a great one. The key is to match like with like, so if your dish is rich and heavy, choose a richer wine style to match; likewise, a lighter dish responds best to more delicate wine styles. These guidelines may help:
Fish is best with white wine – although salmon also suits lighter reds like pinot noir.
Spicy dishes suit fruity wines with a dash of sweetness such as pinot gris, gewürztraminer and riesling, but really hot spice overwhelms wine so stick with a good beer instead.
Meat + Big Reds = Good Things. But pork is fantastic with aged semillon and chicken will love a buttery chardonnay.
Duck was apparently invented to be matched with pinot noir.
Champagne is definitely fantastic with oysters but partners so much more – you’ll be amazed at what it does for a humble asparagus roll.
Dessert wines must always be sweeter than the puddings they match – or try doing as the French do and enjoy them at the start alongside really good liver pâté.
They don’t talk about port and blue cheese for nothing...
Go forth, experiment and enjoy. Bear in mind the above, but remember rules were made to be broken!