Have some fun with festive food and wine matching

Awatere vineyard

Awatere vineyard - Credit: Archant

Finding the perfect pairing of food and wine is nearly always fun especially with the obvious matches such as steak with an Argentinian Malbec or a lovely soft delicately oak aged Chardonnay with a creamy sauce or a crisp Sauvignon with young goats cheese. However, there are some foods or ingredients that are an anathema when trying to find the ideal wine accompaniment. A solution can usually be found if one thinks laterally to find a wine whose main flavour elements won’t fight those of the food or another ingredient can be added to a dish to ease the match such as adding cream to spinach.

At Christmas we are often planning special meals with a myriad of flavours and often new recipes for family and friends and want to impress with wine as well as the food. It often feels a little intimidating but the good news is there is no need to spend a fortune to find the right match just bear in mind the rue of thumb of matching the key elements of both.

Starting a meal with a warming soup often sounds appealing but trying to match a wine to it can prove difficult as two liquids can often be too much. One answer is to offer a glass of sherry which is often sipped rather than drunk in quantity and can match the soup flavour especially if some is used to flavour it. A Palo Cortado sherry with a little more flavour and texture than a fino but not as sweet as an Amontillado is perfect such as the Gonzalez Byass Leonor or the special Apostoles.

Eggs can present a problem especially if served in a salad with a runny yolk but the best match is dry sparkling wine even Champagne as a treat or methode traditionalle from around the world particularly New Zealand or Australia!

Many fruits and vegetables make easy ingredients to find a wine match though avocado is sometimes too smooth for a dry white and overwhelmed by very aromatic varieties so a New Zealand Pinot Gris with a ripe fruit flavour though dry is great as are many Italian white wines such as Verdicchio or Gavi. Salad vegetables especially with a vinaigrette are difficult wine partners but try a crisp Loire Sauvignon with plenty of fruit such as a Touraine Sauvignon and the acidity in each will be balanced.

Pickled, slated or smoked foods such as herrings, anchovies and meats have such distinctive edgy flavours that finding a wine may seem almost impossible. However, a dry white such as Muscadet sur lie can hold its own as can the crisper Albarinos from Rias Baixas in north western Spain. Curry especially the hotter styles are often best accompanied with cold beer to overcome the anaesthetising effect of the spices though if you really want wine try an aromatic rich Gewurztraminer from Alsace or New Zealand.

Chocolate is a particular bete noir when finding a wine to complement its mouth coating texture and cocoa concentration. However, in addition to lighter ports wine producers in the South of France offer a solution with the naturally sweet (vin doux naturel) as made in the Rasteau Rhone Appellation or another great match is Pineau des Charentes Rouge from the Cognac region. Both have lovely layers of rich sweet flavours that coat the mouth and match the chocolate dessert notes.

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Lastly but by no means least the question of what to drink with ice cream or sorbet can sometimes best be addressed by pouring a late harvest dessert wine or rich sherry such as the Pedro Ximenez over it... delicious!!

As ever wine drinking and food and wine matching should be fun though worth a little effort to find the right one. So why not experiment a little this Christmas and see if you can find an initially unobvious food and wine pairing!