At the end of a hot, dry day there’s nothing more thirst quenching than an ice cold beer. But that’s usually where I leave it. My list of things I like to eat or serve with beer are limited. I like beer with snack foods, fish and chips (anything fried for that matter), sausage rolls and meat pies, and anything spicy. I once went to a five-course beer and food matching menu - and frankly it was just way too much fizz. I am obviously a beer pleb!
It sounds pretentious, but there really is some amazing alchemy that comes to play when you get a good food and wine match. The nuances of flavour in a dish are given expression by the wine, and vice versa, and the whole experience is elevated way beyond the sum of the two parts.
There are no hard and fast rules about matching food and wine. If you find something you like, go for it. I always think the best matches are when the style of the dish fits with the style of the wine and there is some kind of flavour harmony -so it’s a complement rather than a contrast (although some people do prefer a contrast). For me, rather than it being about red or white, it’s about finding flavour links and matches around body and weight in a dish that are equalled in the wine. A light starter or salad with fresh zingy herbaceous flavours, such as asparagus, snow peas, salad greens and the like, will find a perfect partner in a sauvignon blanc or a crisp minerally riesling. If the starter is a bit richer, then pinot gris will be a good choice. As you progress through your menu with denser more complex flavours you want a wine that carries more weight and offers more complexity. Pinot gris and pinot noir are all-round good food wines. They have this chameleon ability to pick up flavours in a wide range of food. And a pinot noir is often a really good partner for fish, especially a rich fish like salmon or tuna.
Vouvray or chenin blanc is another good all-round food match and I especially like a chilled vouvray with roast chicken or a chicken pie, a rich terrine or pâté. A rich red meat casserole can take the weight of a supple merlot blend, with its smooth front palate and deep rich taste through to the end, while grunty red meat barbecues call out for a peppery shiraz.
Sometimes if I have guests coming over for dinner we play a wine options game. It’s a lot of fun. Everyone brings a bottle of the same varietal of wine in a brown paper bag. Then you take turns around the table guessing is it old world (France, Spain, Italy etc) or new world( New Zealand, Australia, USA, South Africa etc)? Is it pre-1990 or pre-2000? What variety is it? Where has it been grown? And so on, narrowing down the choices until, with any luck, someone might even guess the actual wine. The traditional rules of the game are that if you get it wrong you are out of the play, but I figure you should play it how you like. It’s about having some fun and experiencing some new flavours and wine styles while opening up and broadening your wine palate.