Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wine & Food Matching

When we start talking about wine and food matching it can get more than a little confusing and I often see people’s eyes glaze over, however the more you try it the better at it you will get.

There is one very general rule that the wine and food matching beginner can follow and that is ‘white wine with white meat and seafood and red wine with red meat’. This is a great place to start but if you don’t like red wine you will need to find a white that can work with red meat and that is where the fun starts.

When you start thinking beyond ‘white with white and red with red’ I recommend thinking on a regional basis. For me it makes sense that foods grown in a particular area will work well with wines grown and produced in the same climate. Once again this is a very general rule but is a good place to start.

It makes sense that in Marlborough where sauvignon blanc is the dominant regional wine it is likely to work well with green shell mussels, the dominant seafood produced in the region. Then if you consider what foods were produced successfully in Marlborough before grapes dominated the landscape then it makes sense that lamb and cherries are good matches with pinot noir, another wine produced to a high standard in Marlborough.

Consider Hawke’s Bay and the best wines in my opinion are the fuller style red wines, syrah and merlot in particular but chardonnay is also a successful variety in the region. Some of the country’s best beef is produced in the region and fuller style reds work very well with beef. As an alternative a fuller style chardonnay also works well with beef.

Nelson is New Zealand’s largest seafood port and the aromatic style wines produced here like pinot gris, sauvignon blanc and riesling are a good match with seafood. Give me a dozen sweet, succulent Nelson scallops with a flavour packed pinot gris and I am in heaven. Nelson also produces a wide range of pip fruits and berry fruits as well as lamb so if you are thinking about an apple based dessert consider a fruiter style riesling to pair with it.

In Central Otago rabbits used to rule the landscape so it is no surprise that the pinot noir grown there works well with rabbit. Stonefruits like apricots grown in the region work well with riesling, a variety that performs also well there. We also relate fantastic cherries with Central Otago and cherry flavours are often found in pinot noir.

Are you starting to get the idea? These are very basic guidelines because each region can produce a wide range of foods and wine styles but if you want to explore wine and food matching then regional thinking isn’t a bad place to start.

I have been drinking.

Trinity Hill 2008 Arneis
A specialty of the Piedmont region in the North West of Italy where the variety was saved from extinction this is a floral delight. With spicy characters reminiscent of gewurztraminer with lean, minerality in the mid-palate this is an aromatic wine that is drinking beautifully right now and is worth searching for.

Petit Bourgeois 2008 Sauvignon Blanc
Don’t expect this Loire Valley, France wine to taste like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The flavours are fresh and green in character. By ‘green’ I mean flavours like green table grapes and nettles rather than unripe grapes. Without harsh acidity but with lovely powdery minerality this is a great apperitf.

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