Our wine editor Bruce Palling on breaking the rules of food and wine pairing, along with his latest wine selection from Lea & Sandeman.
Is there any point to rules about what to drink with different foods? After half a century of dedicated exploration, I have to admit that there is not much point to most of them. Yes, many whites wines are easier to drink with fish than red, and no, I wouldn’t drink white
Burgundy with a rib of beef, but aside from this, most of the time it is a question of personal taste. Cheese is a case in point. The usual preference was red wine with cheese but more recently, adventurous souls have recommended Sancerre with Brie or goat’s cheese and Sauternes with Stilton.
My friend, Jeremiah Tower, who practically invented California cuisine, once served Château d’Yquem with roast beef and it was deemed a huge success. There are some wines, such as those made with the Sangiovese grape in Italy, that beg for a robust food to show off their complexity. Sometimes, it is the balance between the two that is memorable. I still recall a meal at a grand Parisian restaurant 40 years ago, where the calf’s liver and the red Burgundy (a Gevrey-Chambertin from 1971) perfectly complemented each other. The wine was enhanced by the taste of the liver, which it then eradicated, so that it was like a culinary tennis match with each bite or taste being completely new and perfect.
Strong fish such as red mullet can easily go with either red Burgundy or a good Beaujolais, while chicken is more than happy to team up with a delicate red or white. Other food though, especially game, should always be eaten with red wines. Hugh Johnson, when asked what goes best with grouse, replied “the most expensive and old
Bordeaux or Burgundy that you could afford”. These excellent wines from Lea & Sandeman could easily stretch across different food categories, especially the rosé and the Grüner Veltliner, so don’t be afraid to break some rules.