THIS summer sees the follow-up to last year’s inaugural food-matching competition What Food, What Wine, which features BBC1 Saturday Kitchen couple Peter Richards and Susie Barrie.
Wine is tasted blind and assessed against one of 16 different food categories.
Results range from the familiar to the startling. For example, the selected companions for fish and chips include the orthodox (Kiwi sauvignon blanc), the mildly surprising (fizz from Jura) and the totally unexpected (manzanilla sherry). Full details of the results appear at www.whatfoodwhatwine.com.
Looking for general pointers, I discovered the ‘best with steak’ wines seemed (regardless of grape variety) to combine quite high alcohol and a certain sweetness behind the fruit, along with touches of vanilla and black pepper. A good example is the ‘less than £10’ winner, an old friend of this column, Waitrose Reserve Shiraz, St Hallett Barossa Valley 2010 (£7.49).
After a malbec unexpectedly topped last year’s ‘roast lamb’ list, orthodoxy returned, with a rioja securing one of the main prizes, partly because it has plenty of the acidity needed to neutralise the slight fattiness of lamb.
Roast turkey showed versatility when it struck up great matches with New Zealand’s Hunter’s Pinot Noir 2010 (£16.99, Laithwaites) and a creamy Chilean white, Chardonnay Reserva Vina Mar 2010 (£8.95, Corney & Barrow). Despite their differences, both have pronounced fruit (raspberry in the pinot, tropical in the chardonnay) that add succulence to the dryness of turkey.
Surprisingly, no Italian wines took the honours with lasagne or mushroom risotto. Harmony was the watchword for the winners here, where the savoury influences of New Zealand’s Villa Maria Private Bin Syrah 2010 (£9.99, Majestic) chimed well with the lasagne’s meat while the richness elsewhere in the dish smoothed out the wine’s tannins. Spice, however, was the key link that made Portugal’s Montaria 2011 (£8.49, Naked Wines) integrate so well with the food, and let the wine’s robust black cherry and damson fruit to lift the entire dish.
Interestingly, it sometimes needs only a brilliant match with one main element to make a marriage blissful. For example, with mushroom risotto, the creaminess we have already noted in Chardonnay Reserva Vina Mar 2010 scored well because it complimented the food’s creamy texture, but top marks also went to New Zealand’s Nobilo Icon Marlborough Pinot Noir 2010 (£14.89, www.drinksdirect.co.uk) because of the earthy touches in both the pinot and the mushrooms.
Next came a range of Oriental dishes, with four main conclusions.The first was weight, where prizes were won by restricting big, rich reds to dishes like lamb rogan josh and using white or rosé with lighter dishes; although chilled young pinot noir did well with prawn curry. Second and third, look for wines with touches of spice and sweetness – such as the perfumed Villa Maria Private Bin Gewurztraminer 2011 (£9.99, www.yourfavouritewines.com) or viognier. But reds like Barefoot Shiraz (£6.49, Tesco) also have sweetness and spice and work well. Finally, freshness and acidity will balance spiciness in lighter dishes. The mineral and herby Artisan Pinot Gris 2009 (£13.99, Laithwaites) shows how it should be done with chicken tikka masala.
Although the winners provide a great guide, isolating why they won will improve meals for years to come. Equally useful is following trends. This year and last, for instance, chardonnay (rather than a red) was best with mature cheddar, which illustrates the real benefits of competitions like this.
2011 Monte Vallon Chardonnay Languedoc, France, 13.5 per cent
This delivers New World-style peach and pineapple flavours but combines them with smoothness, careful oaking and restrained acidity. It’s perfect with soft cheeses like brie. £6.99, Majestic (in a mixed case of six)
2010 Les Jamelles Mourvedre Reserve Languedoc, France, 14 per cent
For a Languedoc double, this excellent red from an unusual grape. It has concentrated damson and bramble fruit, rich clove and cinnamon spices with sweet edges and a beautifully smooth texture. The even better 2011 vintage arrives next month. £6.99, Co-op
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West