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Having a dinner party?


Let`s assume you are having a dinner party – the sort of evening you put on your nice chinos and get out the best cutlery, maybe even light some pretty candles; as opposed to a barbecue or a casual supper. These are the special occasions which provide us with opportunities to open fine wines. This is theatre now, where the decanter and fish-bowl size glasses are at home. In preparation for such events many of our customers come to us to be advised on the most suitable wines for the occasion, and it`s not unusual for us to go through entire menus, with dish-by-dish recommendations. Here now I will provide some brief insight into the thought process behind matching wine with food.

So, in the first place we naturally draw from our own personal experiences, but also there is the benchmark, long-established matches – the so-called marriages in heaven: Oysters with Chablis, etc.  We`ll get to these in future weeks.  But menus don`t always have obvious wine choices and this is where it gets to be fun – where off-the-map food combinations require deduction and best-guess analyses. So here`s my approach: First, I consider the food in weight terms and I aim approximately for equilibrium – a light dish with a heavy wine will be overpowered. Yet by the same token a light, yet fervent dish – with a certain spice or flavour intensity – will require a light but equally intense, vibrant wine. A benchmark example of this is light, spicy Thai with light, dry (or off-dry) Riesling. The zesty acidity of the white wine quells the spice. A richer dish will correspondingly be more suited to a richer wine: Lobster risotto with Chardonnay, Viognier or Albariño, for example.

Another approach to matching like for like is matching by contrasting – often explosive taste sensations, for example pitching sweet wine against the savoury salt of cheese. Port with stilton still one of our favourites… happy days…

The Wine Centre, Great Horkesley  Opening hours 10am to 6.30pm Monday to Saturday. Telephone 01206 271 236 , email

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