If wine be the food of love drink on

Wine Aug 21

Wine Aug 21 - Credit: Archant

In recent weeks I have had the opportunity to experience as a consumer what I must admit I take for granted being submersed in a wine business: that is that there are some delicious food and wine combinations in which the wine is enhanced by the food.

The Marlborough vineyards in New Zealand

The Marlborough vineyards in New Zealand - Credit: Archant

For example, I attended the Dorset Seafood Festival with a non-wine trade friend who loves food and wine so it was no hardship for her to come along for the day! We were there as guests of Ara Wines from New Zealand who make an excellent range of wines from their vineyards in Marlborough, South Island.

On arrival we were offered a glass of the Ara Pinot Gris, a delicious refreshing white wine with hints of citrussy pears and stonefruits on nose and palate. I thought it a lovely way to start the tasting but it wasn’t until we tried it with one of the lovely fish dishes provided by local chef, Nigel Bloxham from the Crab House café that it came alive for Lindsay and she was able to agree that it was a lovely accompaniment to the smoked mackerel pate made from locally caught fish. The more textured taste and slightly softer finish made it a better accompaniment than the Sauvignon Blanc would have been which would have been her first choice. Pinot Gris also works well with smoked salmon.

At the same event but later in the day we were offered Portland Oysters that were fabulous with the Sauvignon as a result of their natural brininess. Lindsay is also not normally a Pinot Noir enthusiast but the Ara Resolute Pinot Noir, at the top of the range was a real hit with some of the meatier fish dishes such as those including Pollack and megrim sole accompanied by herb crumb and tomato mayo.

Once the food and wine combination had been tasted it was seen as the natural way to enjoy both. The Pinot’s lovely soft yet full berry fruit notes and hint of pepper and spice on the finish matched the fish dishes’ more robust notes.

New Zealand Pinots both gris and noir showed how well they combine with a number of fish dishes and sometimes with surprising results, look out for these including Escarpment winery in Martinborough, North Island.

The rationale behind their successful pairings is that they followed the rules of thumb of food and wine pairings: they ensured that the main elements of each dish were complemented by similar characteristics of the wines flavour. The soft texture of the fish was matched by that of the wines whose natural freshness balanced the lime, herb and tomato elements of the recipes.

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At a recent Spanish food and wine matching event it became evident that there were some matches made in heaven that contradicted conventional pairings and also provided opportunities for the wines to shine.

Two of the matches that stood out for me were the biodynamic Grenache from Sierra de Grandos with the chicken with chickpeas and chorizo. This wine’s soft strawberry fruit notes and spicy finish with balancing acidity were the key to the successful combination. Another surprise was matching a mature oak-aged Albarino from Rias Baixas with baked hake, roast fennel and confit tomato.

Initially, when tasted without food the wine’s broad oaky texture made it a little uninspiring but when tasted with a flavoursome fish dish it came into its own. The Grenache was also a success with this dish.

Following the basic rules of thumb for food and wine matching outlined below will reduce mistakes where the elements of each clash in the mouth but there are also surprises to be had so why not experiment to find your unique combinations. It’s great fun and the only way to find out is by giving it a go!