What to drink… Master of Wine Richard Hemming seeks some acidic zing for his wines this month
There are only a few golden rules when it comes to matching wine and food. One of them is to pick a high-acid wine when you’re serving fatty food. Confit de canard is the ideal dish to put this theory to the test. Compared to most food and drink, all wine is relatively high in acid. However, acidic strength can vary quite a lot between different types of wine. Thankfully, there are a few easy tips you can learn to figure out if a wine is likely to be high or low in acidity.
Climate is the first key factor to consider. Cooler regions produce less ripe grapes than warm ones, and less ripe grapes tend to have higher acidity. In France, that means that the more northerly terroirs such as the Loire Valley will produce wines higher in acidity than those from the warmer Mediterranean regions such as the Rhône Valley.
The second variable is grape variety. There are a few varieties that are
Trésors de Loire, Cuvée 845 Chenin Blanc 2014 Loire (£7 Sainsbury’s) Loire Chenin Blanc is so undervalued! This is a great example of its type: crisp, zesty and refreshing with punchy citrus fruit. Loire Chenin is often demi-sec, but this one is bone dry. particularly renowned for having high acidity. For white wines, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc are the two best known, whereas the exotic Gewürztraminer from Alsace is nearly always low in acidity. For red wines, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir are naturally acidic, while Grenache is much less so.
Acidity makes the wine taste crisp and mouth-watering. If it’s too high, it can be sour and tart, but if it’s too low, the wine lacks definition. This is known as ‘flabbiness’ among wine nerds. Ideally, you’d pick a wine that has enough acidity to cut through the fattiness of the recipe you are cooking. Of course, the flavours should be complementary too – but this is much more about personal preferences, which is much harder to cater for!
Here are some very different suggestions to provide maximum variation – all of which have the bright acidity needed to go with duck.
Delas, St-Esprit 2013 Côtes-du-Rhône (£7.95 The Wine Society, £9.99 Majestic Wine) Most Côtes du Rhône is made from the Grenache grape, but this example uses quite a lot of Syrah, giving it some acidic zing. Rhône red is full bodied and hearty with juicy black fruit.
Cave St-Verny Pinot Noir 2014 Puy de Dôme (£8.99 Booths and widely available) If you prefer lighter red, go for Pinot Noir. This one is from the Auvergne region in the centre of France, and it has all the classic hallmarks of the variety: refreshing acidity, soft tannin and juicy red fruit.