Are you stuck trying to match your favourite wines with particular foods? Some food and wine matching is trickier than the rest but there’s always a solution. Below, Fiona Beckett details some of her easiest (and trickiest) food and wine matches.
Anchovy aficionados know to reach for a chilled glass of fino or manzanilla, a dry white vermouth or, best of all I think, a spritzy Basque Txakoli white.
Of course there are two main kinds – cured anchovies which are salty, and boquerones which tend to be vinegary – but either will accentuate sweetness in wine, so dryness is the key.
Crisp whites like Albariño/Alvarinho and Assyrtiko will do the job too. Anchovies’ disruptive influence will be mitigated if you add them to a dish as in lamb with anchovies (pair the lamb, not the anchovy), salad niçoise (Provençal rosé) or a caesar salad dressing (unoaked Chardonnay). And of course pizza, with which I’d happily drink a cheerful red.
I confess I don’t often think about wine in the context of ice cream. Its iciness, which after all is its main point, can brutally strip the delicate sweetness of a light dessert wine. There is the classic sweet fortified pairing, Pedro Ximénez, more often drizzled over, but is that the only option?
I’ve had success with Canadian icewine (Cabernet Franc is particularly delicious), but the other trick is to introduce another element – a pie crust, a crumble topping or brownie, or some tart fruit such as rhubarb – and almost any dessert wine will miraculously behave.
But I’d steer clear of trying to pair sorbets – they’re there to cleanse your palate, not set it up for a sip of wine.
You might think that kimchi would be an absolute no-no for wine, and I’m not going to suggest for a moment you open your best Bordeaux, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a glass with it. To my amazement it even went with an English Bacchus I had open recently.
Of course it will depend how hot the kimchi is, and what you’re eating it with. If you’re yet to discover kimchi, the dish of spicy fermented vegetables – usually cabbage – is popular in Korean cuisine, and there is usually something like noodles or rice to offset the heat.
Other possible matches include Sauvignon Blanc or Côtes de Gascogne white, Riesling from Australia, New Zealand or Washington, or even an off-dry sparkling rosé.
Although lobster has become much more accessible these days, there’s still a glamour to it that calls for a show-off wine. Chardonnay couldn’t be a more flattering partner, but exactly which depends on whether you’re serving your lobster hot or cold.
With dressed lobster or a lobster roll, I’d go for a more recent, more subtly oaked vintage (a Puligny-Montrachet, premier cru Chablis or a quality cool-climate Chardonnay). Grilled or with a thermidor sauce, you could ramp up bottle age and oak: a treat with a mature Meursault.
Champagne (or English sparkling) is also spot-on, especially served with lobster mac’n’cheese, which I recently discovered is extraordinarily good with Dom Pérignon. (I did say it called for a show-off wine!)
Unlucky readers who don’t like mushrooms! They really are the ultimate wine lover’s friend, especially if you have a cellar of mature Burgundy. Italian whites such as Soave and Gavi di Gavi may work with a mushroom risotto, but a mature white or even red Burgundy knocks spots off them, as do other cool-climate Chardonnays and Pinots.
At this time of year, wild mushrooms on toast with cream and butter are a divinely simple way of finishing off a bottle (blanc de blancs Champagne works, too).
And if you don’t eat meat, a portobello mushroom grilled with garlic butter is one of the best matches for a serious, structured red, again with a bit of age. There’s a strong umami character to mushrooms that flatters a savoury rather than sweet-fruited wine.
Peaches and nectarines
Supermarkets sell most of their sweet wines in the run-up to Christmas, but high summer is arguably an even better time of year to enjoy a dessert wine. Peaches and nectarines top my list for their affinity with Sauternes and other late-harvest Sauvignon and Semillon blends, especially when made into a fruit tart, though it has become more fashionable to roast and grill them these days.
You can also poach them in wine, or simply splash a cold sweet or sparkling wine such as Moscato d’Asti over slices of ripe white peach, like a deconstructed Bellini. Peaches also feature in savoury dishes, with ham or chicken, or burrata, in which case a lush dry white such as Greco di Tufo or Godello would work well.