Sure, white wine goes best with fish, red wine goes best with beef and rosé goes best with sunshine. They may be clichéd pairings but clichés are clichés for a reason; because they work. But no one wants to play by the rules all the time. If you don’t experiment you run the risk on missing out on some incredible taste experiences:
1. Tuna and Red Wine Made with Carbonic Maceration
Fish! And red wine! You must have been drinking, I hear you say. Well – I have. I’ve been drinking red wine that’s undergone ‘carbonic maceration’, which prevents bitter tannin entering the wine. It’s the tannin that makes red wine bitter, and also disgustingly metallic when paired with fish. So once the tannin’s out of the equation, you really can have a red with fish. However it’s still best to go for a fairly meaty fish like tuna which can tolerate any trace tannin in the vino. Luberri Maceración Carbónica is a great example of this style.
2. Oloroso sherry with pork and crackling
While a crisp white or a red Rioja may be the natural choices when it comes to a roast dinner with pork and crispy crackling, an Oloroso sherry with its rich, nutty style and notes of leather and raisins can be the perfect accompaniment to Sunday lunch, particularly if you’re also serving apple sauce.
3. Cava and chips
The most memorable food-and-wine pairing you could have may well be a bag of chips laden with salt and vinegar, eaten from newspaper at the seaside with a chilled glass of Cava. The bubbles break down the starch in the potatoes giving a lighter, crispier taste to your chips.
4. Garnacha and oysters
Before you throw your hands up in horror at the idea of oysters served with red wine, give this a try. This fresh, fruity style of red has notes of black tea and the lemony aromas of hibiscus which work well with meaty varieties of oyster.
5. Curry and Asti
Picture the scene. Someone’s celebrating their birthday down the curry house, and they want something bubbly to mark the occasion with. The natural choice for a curry is a lime lager. Yet these people are trying to keep things classy. Well, the obvious celebratory wine for our snobby friends is champagne. However these people aren’t stupid – champagne doesn’t stand up to spicy Asian food. The thing our snobby, picky friends need is Asti. (Ha! Wine snobs are going to have a hard time swallowing humble Asti).
Yet Asti is a great match with curry because underneath the grapey flavours of muscat are spicy notes. While Asti has a reputation for being sweet, the heat of chillies reduces the sweetness of the wine, and so the Asti will taste great accompanying a hot, savoury main meal. What’s more, unoaked, fruity wine is perfect for spicy dishes. All round, Asti just works.
6. Manzanilla and sushi
Not everyone likes drinking sake with sushi. After all, you’d be drinking rice wine with rice; a bit too much rice for anyone. Instead, a Manzanilla sherry with its tangy, sea breeze aromas can enhance the subtle flavours of sushi.
7. Asparagus and Sauvignon Blanc
Sometime it feels like asparagus is being difficult on purpose. It has a meaty texture, but lots of ‘green’ flavours, while also coming across as a bit sulphurous and altogether nutty. What on Earth do you put with a meaty vegetable that tastes like a nutty egg? Cool climate Sauvignon Blanc – that’s what. This style will have more the asparagusy, herbaceous notes that work well with the vegetable, and Sancerre is a great example of it. Or from Spain, you might want to try Palacio de Bornos Sauvignon Blanc.
8. Riesling and tacos
Instead of a beer or a red wine, a refreshing Riesling with its low alcohol content can balance out spice with its fruity aromas. Plus, served cold and it should take the burn away from any hot sauce you’re splashing on your tacos.
9. Globe Artichokes and Tannat
Here’s a very short parlour game for artichoke lovers. Eat an artichoke, and then sip some tap water. It’ll taste like sugar solution. Why? The artichoke has ‘cynarin’ in it which blocks your ability to taste sweetness, but when you wash your tongue, the taste buds spring into action again. That fools your brain into thinking that you’ve just drunk something sweet. Because of this curious chemical composition, you can get away with a fairly bitter wine, which will taste much less astringent after nibbling artichokes. Try the delicious combination of artichokes stuffed with sausage meat, and add a bottle of Tannat – normally a very bitter if intensely fruity wine of Southern France. It should transform to reveal lots of red fruit flavours to pair with the red meat.
10. Torrontes and peanut butter
It’s almost impossible to match wine with peanut butter because it’s too unctuous. It coats the mouth, which is tricky for a wine to cope with. But we think we’ve found the solution, a dry,spicy Torrontes which has the right levels of acidity to wash down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
11. Chardonnay and popcorn
Sure, you could just have a glass of cola with your movie-night popcorn, but you can elevate a simple night in with this pairing. The popcorn brings out all the nutty flavours of the Chardonnay while the buttery nature of the Chardonnay compliments the taste of the corn.
12. Chicken and pinot noir
Most of us automatically reach for the white when serving chicken but red can work just as well. A Pinot Noir goes beautifully with a simple roast chicken, particularly if you’re serving with a rich gravy.
13. Teacakes with Blackcurrant Jam and Gran Reserva Rioja
After making this suggestion, I’ll be on the run from the bodegas. Teacakes! With black currant jam! And Gran Reserva Rioja! ¡Madre mía! But wait – this combination works. Think about it – all that barrel ageing has given the wine lovely toasty qualities, like a teacake warmed in the oven. Rioja from really good estates can overflow with black currant flavours, and you just need to find a bottle with a bit of acidity to match the slight sourness of blackcurrant jam. I found Faustino I was just the ticket.
14. Prawn toasts and gin
Yes, we know we said wine pairings, but some dishes are particularly delicious with gin. The herbal, floral flavours of gin compliment Chinese food, particularly prawn toasts.
15. Whatever tastes good
At the end of the day though, wine and food are two of life’s pleasures and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. If you like the food and you like the wine, and you like how they taste together, then you have found the perfect pairing.