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Wine and Food Matching

“First thing to consider when choosing a wine is the flavour and weight intensity of the food, including any sauces, spices or herbs which may or may not dominate the dish…”

There is no question, the enjoyment of wine can be enhanced by matching wine and food that work together, and equally a good match will bring out the best in the food. It is fun to experiment but there are some tried and tested theories it is as well to know. Here we explore them, but it is as well to state from the start that wine and food “matching” can, and often does, equal “contrasting”, for example in the case of Sauternes and Roquefort cheese where the sweetness of the Sauternes contrasts magnificently with the salt in the Roquefort. If you can`t be bothered with understanding the whys and why nots we are happy to provide benchmark examples or to make specific recommendations. If you give us not just your menu but the cooking and sauce detail as well, we will draw on our collective experiences here and second guess the best possible match. All we ask in return is you let us know if our guess was right, so we can be absolutely 100% sure next time and pass the knowledge on!

Rule of thumb: there is rarely one right match. Usually there is a favourite and even a benchmark wine to go with any dish or food type, but alternative choices can still work well and this is where experimentation is fun, provided you avoid an outright clash. Take cheddar: You might choose a fruity red Zinfandel or a white burgundy with Godminster, or a Sauvignon Blanc with young Wensleydale, each providing a different taste sensation which will add not detract from both wine and cheese. In the case of Wensleydale its coating effect on the palate, like a goats cheese, makes the more acidic Sauvignon Blanc the better match.

Seafood

An oily smoked fish will be evenly matched by a rich wine, one with texture, flavour and aromatics. It is why smoked salmon is text book with Gewurztraminer. However, add dill-sauce and a powerful, acidic Sauvignon Blanc such as Pouilly-Fume will fair better, as would Champagne, matching the acidity of the sauce while cutting through the oils, for an all together different taste experience. A rich white fish, especially an expensive fish, will be better with a barrel-fermented Chardonnay, acting as a velvet backdrop, giving full expression to the delicate yet deceptively rich flavours of the fish; or a fine Pinot Noir with Red Mullet in red wine sauce. There again for a spicy Thai fish cake the Gewurztraminer would once again be my first choice, the aromatics and spices in the wine matching those of the dish and the bold ripeness of the wine further enhanced by the addition of a sweet chilli sauce. You might think a rich Chardonnay would do as well, but not so. I once made the mistake (at The Ivy, no less) and the two together were overwhelmingly rich and really quite sickly. Of course, an un-oaked Chardonnay might have been different. We had an oaky Australian Chardonnay, the sweet-vanilla oak in the wine we chose being the proverbial straw that broke the camel`s back. Even a fresh white burgundy, being of a cooler climate and higher in acidity, may have provided a better outcome. I think at the time we were trying to “go with the richness” “to equal it” but in fact, as we now know, we took it too far. The next time, at home, we sliced through the richness of the Thai cake neatly with an NZ Sauvignon Blanc: the perfect contrast and match if you can`t be doing with the exotic character of Gewurztraminer!

For shellfish I might well recommend a Sauvignon Blanc, particularly one with good minerality, but the classics are, of course, Champagne, Chablis and Muscadet Sur Lie, wines with good minerality and/or yeast character which match with the particular salty mineral flavour and richness of shellfish. Alternatives, to name a few, Picpoul de Pinet (France), Verdejo (Spain), and good Soave (Italy). If matching with crab or lobster you might choose instead a good Viognier, for example Condrieu, to match their richness, or a rose champagne. And with scallops: Champagne, good white burgundy or my favourite, Vouvray demi-sec.

Incidentally with sushi Champagne is delicious, but so also is a fine dry or off-dry Riesling.

Meat

Lamb is a fatty meat which works well with Pinot Noir, claret (especially Medoc) or Rioja, depending on the sauce and the herb flavouring (see section Herbs) but also your personal preference. Pinot Noir is the lightest. Alternatively you might try Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, or a Bordeaux blend, from the New World. Pork is fatty like lamb so the same wines might well apply, but being a white meat possibly served with apple sauce I would choose a low-tannin fruity red such as Beaujolais or a fruity white wine like Chenin Blanc. Actually these wines work well enough for roast chicken and turkey as well, though bronze chickens can cope with a little more weight in much the same way as lamb. Goose is a fatty meat which is often matched with Riesling for an alternative taste sensation, the naturally high acidity and lime flavour cutting nicely through the fat. Ham or gammon are good with Riesling also, the natural sweet note of Riesling contrasting pleasantly with the salt in the meat. Getting back to red meats, duck and game can work extremely well with Pinot Noir, especially a rich Burgundy, but a mature Zinfandel or a flavourful Malbec can be lovely as well, especially if there is a fruit sauce. With venison you might pair with a powerful, savoury red such as France`s Bandol. Beef is our favourite red meat, for which the same meats as lamb can apply but you can also enjoy richer flavours. If choosing a fine claret, you can step up a notch in weight and spice to Pomerol. If your preference is Pinot Noir, ask your merchant for a rich, savoury bottle. And if it is a fine steak you are having, I would recommend a good Chianti Classico or a full-bodied Syrah. However, if you like your steaks blood-rare, probably best to avoid excess tannin so Burgundy or a mature red.

Spices & herbs

Spices and herbs can also play a significant role in the flavour profile of a wide range of dishes, often sufficient enough to consider when choosing a matching wine. Rosemary with lamb lends itself to Pinot Noir or even Gamay (example Fleurie) rather than the other lamb classic, claret. I have mentioned dill, dry acidic wines, likewise basil. With coriander and/or parsley Riesling or Chenin Blanc, likewise lemongrass though also Gewurtztraminer and Pinot Gris. Thyme and/or mint, with lamb, claret or Rioja; mint otherwise with Sauvignon Blanc. Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris have perhaps had more than their fair share of references, but where spices are concerned it is hard not to think of them first. Ginger is often a flavour component of these wines so it is not surprising that cardamom and tumeric spices work well and curries generally (dry Muscat another one). Riesling and Chenin Blanc (especially Vouvray) are not generally so exotic but nonetheless make good partners with Asian food, thanks to their ample acidity coupled with sweetness.

Salty dishes

Salty dishes require a wine with a little sweetness, the more salty the dish, the sweeter the wine. The ultimate aforementioned, Roquefort cheese with sweet Sauternes. And of course stilton with port. Two obvious exceptions are Fino and Manzanilla dry sherries served as aperitifs with salted nuts, smoked almonds or anchovy-olives. These nervy, challenging combinations can be invigorating and most appetising. Reds by contrast are mostly all disastrous with salt, unless they have zero tannin and plenty of sweet fruit.

Sweet dishes

Sweet dishes require sweet wines which are sweeter than the dish. There are all sorts and an endless number of fantastic combinations. Christmas pudding, for example, may be enjoyed with dark sweet wines, Black Muscat, Maury or Banyuls, red wines which have been fortified with spirit to preserve their natural sweetness. I think of this match as a merging of flavour, weight and texture, because they are similarly dark and rich. By contrast, a light golden Muscat serves well as a foil, a light and refreshing sweet drink to contrast neatly with the pudding [two different approaches for alternative taste experiences]. I have found my favourite almond tart works best with sweet Semillon or the Sauternes blend of Semillon and Sauvignon, alternatively Vin Santo, tried and tested in Italy with biscotti. Apricot brioche with Orange Muscat, baked pear with sweet Vouvray. This last one is a sore point: I took a bottle of sweet Vouvray to a friend`s house having been told poached pear was on the menu. It was duly served and it turned out the pear had a sweet biscuit base with caramel, sweeter than the wine. The wine appeared thin and sharp and was a total wash out. Lesson: beware the sauce! Incidentally one idea to ensure the sauce is a match: serve vanilla ice cream and chocolate cake then pour Pedro Ximenez over both cake and ice cream to serve alongside a small glass of the same delicious, dark, treakly PX! If you think that`s weird, did you know red wines such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon can work with chocolate dishes? An interesting choice and I have enjoyed the combination, though my preference is a sweet red such as Maury. With fruit salads and fruit tarts generally we will serve a golden Muscat but a late harvest Riesling works really well for lemon or citrus tarts and a late harvest Gewurztraminer can be fantastic in a fruit salad with lychees. Creme Brulee is a difficult one – its creamy sweetness requiring low acid intensely sweet wines such as Sauternes or Muscat de Beaumes de Venise.

Sweet wine with Cheese

Personally my favourite match for sweet wine is cheese. I have mentioned the big two, Roquefort with Sauternes and Stilton with port, well try either of these with a slice of pear and a glass of sweet Vouvray! Indeed, try any blue with any sweet wine and the contrast is sure to be explosive. Some other tried and tested examples include our Myriad sweet red with Epoisses, Monbazillac with Coeur Neufchatel, Loupiac with Montgomery or Lincolnshire Poacher, Vouvray or Riesling with Banon goats cheese. Goats cheese is a funny one because it can coat the palate, which is why its marriage in heaven is the acidic dry white wine Pouilly-Fume; but both Vouvray and Riesling have a good natural acidity so fair best among sweet wines. Sweet Alsace Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris score highly matched with aromatic, flavourful cheeses… but I prefer the dry versions because, for me, they are ripe enough.

Sauces

Sauvignon Blanc is once again an automatic contender where citrus and tomato sauces play a significant part in a dish , acidity matched with acidity; though where white fish and lemon combine, better still a white burgundy (or for a simple white fish unoaked Chardonnay).

For red meat dishes with tomato sauces, such as meatballs on pasta, better a red with ample acidity such as Chianti (Sangiovese grape) or Valpolicella (Corvina grape), possibly a tasty Pinot Noir, Syrah or Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. Incidentally, if you must drink red with seafood – and with a good Bouillabaise this would be quite reasonable – then drink low tannin reds such as Pinot Noir or Beaujolais. Tannins in heavier reds taste metallic with seafood.

Creamy dishes are best served with fresh wines with some, but not too much richness, so for fish pie a Macon, Rully or NZ Chardonnay. With Carbonara could be the same, or a good Pinot Grigio (nothing overly rich). Viognier is a distinctive, perfumed alternative if you have some spice in the dish. Again Chardonnay when cream combines with cheese. With creamy mushroom soup an Amontillado sherry.

Food served simple

Just as sauces and spices can alter a choice of wine to match, equally there is the simply prepared food you would not want to spoil by overpowering it with an overly strong wine. For simple poached salmon, for instance, choose a light dry white wine such as Sauvignon. The same rule of thumb applies but choose the lighter option. Additionally, when opening a special mature bottle of claret or burgundy it may be the case you choose to make a simply prepared leg of lamb or beef to enjoy it with, so as not to obscure the subtleties of the great wine with an obtrusive sauce or spice.

Pates & terrines

Our fish pate has a good proportion of oily mackerel in it, so it is best enjoyed with a Sauvignon Blanc or similarly acidic dry white to cut through it and double as a palate cleanser. The Salmon pate is creamy so a better choice would be Chardonnay or for a change try Albarino or Pinot Blanc. Actually these last two wines would work well for vegetable pate as well, as would a light fruity red such as Marlborough Pinot Noir or Beaujolais-Villages. With meat pates you might step up to bigger and better fruity reds, good Australian Merlot or top Beaujolais crus, or NZ Pinot Noir from Central Otago or Martinborough instead of Marlborough. Incidentally we recently enjoyed a smooth liver pate from our local butcher on wholemeal bread with Turckheim Pinot Gris – the texture of the meat spread over the soft middle of the bread with its crunchy exterior was scrumptious in itself; washed down with the Pinot Gris (as opposed to a fruity red) it was heavenly. It goes to show that sticking with hard and fast theories on flavour can be a mistake: for me its as much a question of consistency, smooth or rough. I have since been advised that a sweet German Riesling Spatlese is another excellent partner with smooth meat pate, which makes perfect sense now, especially in light of the world`s most expensive pate: Foie Gras, controversial yet a classic with sweet wine as a starter, Sauternes, Alsace Vendange Tardive and Tokaji. Incidentally would be remiss of me not to mention Rose – of course there are a number of good pink wines about and the dry ones go well with pate, charcuterie and deli generally.

Cheeses

Wine and cheese is, of course, a world renowned pairing in heaven. I have attempted to match wines with our cheeses over the years and under the separate heading Cheese and Wine have listed a good many of them. More generally hard cheeses can work well with fruity red wines, goats cheeses with Sauvignon Blanc, blue cheeses with sweet wines, and soft cows milk cheeses with full-bodied whites such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. These last three would also be my choice when serving a platter with fruit.

Salads

Our favourite salad is Nicoise with tuna and our mixed olives thrown on top. It has a slightly salty edge to the flavour which works best with fruity red or rose wines, or, if you prefer white, a full-flavoured wine like Albarino. However, we would choose a Sauvignon Blanc with a simple green salad, and a Macon or other simple white burgundy with Caesar and chicken. When serving cold red meat with a salad side, a Fleurie or Pinot Noir is perfect, as is Charcuterie with salad, though our Valpolicella by Allegrini is superb with salami. When we combine red peppers and salad with barbecued meats we step up to Hawkes Bay NZ Syrah or Adelaide Hills Australian Shiraz. Another favourite in season: broad been salad with young Albarino. An Italian red wine vinaigrette on your salad could be a calling card for a young, acidic Italian red, likewise a white/green vinaigrette requires an acid white wine, Soave, Pinot Grigio or Gavi. Tomato in salad might yet direct you to Sauvignon Blanc.

As an introduction this is neither emphatic or complete as a guide, but it might be useful; it is not emphatic because this is not an exact science and it is not complete because the subject is endless. Indeed, it is limited in respect of my chosen wines because I have my favourites and draw largely from my own experiences. A better guide would be to take stock of the special dishes made regionally around the world and to see what the locals drink with those dishes. I have written an introduction to each country or region as listed on our home page under Wine List.

Happy experimenting!

Anthony Borges

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All About Sherry

An introduction, and why we should be drinking more of it.

Sherry is one of the treasures of the wine world, but for a while now it has been woefully under appreciated. This “introduction to sherry” explains how the miracle of sherry and its myriad of styles come to fruition. Some of the finest examples are produced by the Valdespino and Barbadillo families, producers of the finest sherries since the 14th century. They represent some of the very best from the region and we are delighted to showcase them here. Such  extraordinary aromas, flavours and textures, a unique line-up ranging from the very dry to the very sweet. We hope you enjoy them. Continue reading All About Sherry

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My trip to Faiveley in Burgundy

 

Domaine Faiveley Tasting 28/29 October 2010

2009`s still in barrel

Introduction

Erwan Faiveley has been in charge since 2005 and his leadership, together with that of CEO Bernard Hervet, has shaped the new look Faiveley wines since 2007. Investment in a new vertical hydraulic press has produced purer fruit, and new oak fermentation vats have added a softness to the red wines which make them more approachable when young. I loved traveling there, the best thing was when I was camping with my waterproof tent. Always expressive of both the grape and terroir, Faiveley reds are also now seductive in their youth and, in the new Faiveley style, pure of fruit, and ripe with good concentrations and textures. Whites also –  pure of fruit, fine minerality and great acidities, giving them freshness, power and depth of flavour. The 2009`s, both reds and whites, are still in barrel at the point we tasted. It may be they close down a little once in bottle but they promise great potential!

Whites

Montagny 2008

Fresh style, vibrant yet supple mid-palate finishing with a terrific zip of acidity. (Great palate cleanser having tasted the reds first in the Burgundy way).

Rully “Les Villerages” 2008

Lovely nose, fresh and mineral, delicious saline minerality on the palate and ample fruits. Good medium length and acidity and a fairly long finish. Really like this.

Chablis 1er Cru “Fourchaume” 2008

Cool pebble nose, fresh with a trace of richness. On the palate ripe with power, packed with mineral, some citrus notes, flint, and most of all – great energy.

Chablis “Les Clos” Grand Cru 2008

Very stony nose and fine minerality on the nose leads to big, mineral-rich, steely mouthful – pure and bracing. Great intensity, lovely wine.

Chablis 2009

Stony, mineral-rich on the palate, more open than grand cru with a trace of sour cream. Lovely freshness & floral note.

Mercurey “Clos Rochette” 2009

Good medium richness, again fresh, citrus notes, a little tight still with signs of the tension I liked about the 2005. Could be very good.

Puligny-Montrachet 2008

Attractive nose, hint of biscuit; on the palate soaring acidities, a bracing energy, citrus and flint, a cracking wine, pure & long. Gorgeous.   

Meursault 2008

Rounded, polished wine, quite fleshy, a hint of  the tropical/citrus mix, but as yet not evolved. No obvious creaminess but could be that will develop with age. 

Meursault 1er Cru “Charmes” 2007

Citrus, especially lemon and grapefruit, with a trace of smoke. Elegant style, still young, traces of butterscotch, peach and spice. Needs time to develop richness.

Meursault 1er Cru “Charmes” 2008

Fleshier than 07, ripe aromas of ginger, honey and spice. On the mid-palate ripe peach and pear with a citrus note, broader and richer than 07 and a long finish.

Meurault 07`s and 08`s both stylistically very different to the richer, fatter 05`s and 06`s we currently sell.

Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “La Garenne” 2008

Another great energy wine, fine, racing acidities and an explosion of lemon sherbet.

Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Folatieres” 2008

 

This Puligny is slightly less energetic but somehow more attractive than La Garenne. I like it. Aromatic, a floral-candy note, creamy and citrussy with fine minerality. 

Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2008

Devonshire cream, rich, honey`ed nose, cracking, a highly focused, big, luscious, yet still quite tight mouthful of ripe fruits, peach and pear. And smoke again. Gorgeous well-honed wine with a lovely texture and long finish. Stunning. But young…  

Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2008

Bold, smoky, oaky nose, exotic tropical fruit notes and spice. On the palate sumptuous, fairly soft, weighty, focused. Spicy, powerful with peach – and hazelnut. Great length of flavour. Fantastic wine.

Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2009

Wonderful nose: peach and apricot with floral, citrus notes. Big, rich, rounded. But tight. Powerful with high acidity. Some spices. An attractive, fleshy wine.  Will probably express itself sooner than Batard,  but won`t have the same depth.

Reds

Rully “Les Villeranges” 2008

Sweet, fruity nose. Yet this wine has a savoury note and is high in acidity. Interesting. Quite light yet masculine.

Mercurey 2008

Has body and power, uplifting  juicy wine, black and red fruits, cherry and  raspberry. Refreshing, supple, feminine.

Mercurey 1er Cru “Clos du Roy” 2008

Ripe, sweet red fruits,  medium weight, nice texture, soft, silky note, good intensity. Attractive.

Mercurey “La Framboisiere” 2009

Pretty wine, raspberry, strawberry and cherry with an earthy background on the nose, in the mouth rounded, fleshy with a sweet note, relatively low acidity and a touch of velvet. Very attractive wine. Like it a lot.

Mercurey 1er Cru “Clos des Myglands” (Monopole) 2009

Big aromas, ripe and sweet, dark cherry, red plums, some  raspberry too and a touch of floral. Forward attractive fruits, supple, polished and like La Framboisiere already ready developed.

Volnay 1er Cru “Fremiets” 2008

Elegant, fine nose of red fruits, plum, violet and mineral, on palate seductive texture and long finish.

Pommard 1er Cru “Les Rugiens” 2008

Perfumed red, black and blue fruits, esp. dark cherries. Some oak background. On the palate quite dense, rich and full-bodied with ample fruit and structure, and pronounced  mineral character and gamey note.

Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Damodes” 2008

Lovely: quite intense red fruits and a note of prune and coffee, medium bodied and silky smooth, good intensity, pleasant acidities, quite delicious.

Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Aux Chaignots” 2008

Charming N-S-G. Red fruits and violet /floral note,   On the palate soft, yet quite intense, with attractive spice and silky fine tannins. Seductive texture.

Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru “La Combe d`Orveau” 2008

Gorgeous: scented red fruits and spice, fresh, mineral, with grip and a long finish.

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Les Cazetiers” 2008

Love this: really good Gevrey, quite masculine and meaty with blackberry, game and coffee scents, great intensity and a background of fine tannins and mineral. A concentrated wine with good acidity which promises to be magnificent with age, yet is already approachable.

Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2008

Attractive, perfumed red fruits, on the palate plums and mixed berries, mostly red fruits, yet some lovely savoury notes too and a silky body. Quite earthy and voluptuous, the supporting tannins fine and length of flavour very good.

Echezeaux Grand Cru 2008

Powerful yet delicate and elegant, a complex wine which is sure to evolve into something special. A mixture of red and black fruits of which  I like the dark masculine notes: earthiness, gamey character,  herbs, spices and woody notes. Good acidity and fine tannins will assure a long life.

Latricieres-Chambertin Grand Cru 2008

Plenty on the nose: especially plum and mineral, then spice, coffee and liquorice, which follows through to velvety mixed fruits, especially cherries, on the palate, good intensity, fine mineral quality, and freshness. Attractive personality, while still reserved at this time, clearly a with great potential.

Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru 2008

Another great wine: complex animal nose, vegetal and earthy, with exotic spice. Rounded velvet mouthfeel with ripe fruits, plum, blackberry and blueberry, and liquorice. Great energy. Impressive length.

Chambertin “Clos de Beze” Grand Cru 2008

Star of the show: Gamey with red and dark fruits, in the mouth dense, dark, layered fruits, liquorice, spice, earth and gamey notes with fine tannins. High energy wine, dense and delicious.

Blagny 1er Cru “La Piece sous le Bois” 2009

Open style, in stark contrast to the Chambertin, young, fresh and floral, with pure red fruits. Some interesting mineral in the background and a fair grip in support of the generous fruits.

Beaune 1er Cru “Clos de l`Ecu” 2009

Plenty of red fruits, raspberries and cherries, with higher acidity than the Blagny. Good robust palate, for a Beaune.

Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Porets St Georges” 2009

Lovely nose, touch of animal, but mostly red fruits, followed by soft palate, red and dark fruits and mineral. Smooth texture, ripe and  structured. Yet showing restraint, needing time to evolve.

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “La Combe aux Moines” 2009

Lots of dark cherries and plums here – a powerful wine, superb tension and gamey, liquorice notes. I prefer the power of the Cazetiers, but this is just as masculine and with time who knows?

Corton “Clos des Cortons Faiveley” Grand Cru 2009 Monopole

Great wine to finish: violets and cherries. Attractive and luscious,  bold and spicy. Some pretty raspberry and currant fruits amid a full palate, again with floral characters. Juicy mid-palate with background structure. Well defined, superb wine.

 

So – a great tasting of fine wines by Faiveley. While all still very young they are immediately attractive with much to show for themselves. In time they will show even more, especially the premier and grand cru wines. That is when we will be bringing some of these wines to Great Horkesley. Meantime we invite you to enjoy a range of Faiveley wines of the earlier vintages, in store now.

My thanks to Mark Bingley MW and Jackie Brown of Maisons Marques Et Domaines, for the invite and escort (and the Louis Roederer Champagne on the trip down), and thanks to Faiveley`s Export Director, Vincent Avenel, and to their Technical Director, Jerome Flous, the perfect hosts.

 

Anthony Borges

PS. Should you be planning a visit to Burgundy the restaurant Caveau des Arches in Beaune is highly recommended, as is a visit to the historic Hospices de Beaune.