Saturday 29 May 2010

Food and Wine Matching

(Courtesy of Winenews)

Food Pairing Principles

When pairing wine to food try to match similarities of richness, texture, intensity, and flavor of the food to the wine. Here are some tips:

Similarities: Match wine and food with similar richness and texture such as fish in a butter sauce with a buttery chardonnay.

Flavor: Pair wine and food with similar flavors, such as a pepper crusted steak with a strong peppery syrah. Earthy foods, such as mushrooms, go well with earthy old wines. The dominant flavor is the key, especially when the food has a sauce. Typically the sauce is the dominant flavor.

Balance: Always try to balance the acidity and sweetness of the food to the wine. For desserts the wine should always be as sweet or sweeter.

Regionality: Typically a regions food goes well with local wines. For example an Oregon or Washington pinot noir goes well with Northwest salmon.

Cooking Method: Light wines go well with steamed or poached foods. Medium and full bodied wines go better with grilled, roasted, or braised dishes that have intense flavors.

The Keys to Flavor Matching

One of the most important elements to harmonize between wine and food is flavor. For example, a tangy tomato-based pasta sauce requires a wine with comparable acidity. Without this balance between the acidity of the dish and the wine, the partner with lower acidity tastes flabby and dull, while the other, too tart.

To find an acidic wine, you can choose one that is made in the same area as the food. Years of matching the regional cuisine and wine as well as similar soil and climatic conditions make this a safe bet. For example, you could pair a tomato sauce fettuccine with a Tuscan chianti. Or you can select a wine from a cool climate where the grapes don’t ripen to great sweetness, and maintain their tart, tangy edge. Crisp New Zealand sauvignon blancs and French chablis serve these dishes well.

Acidic wines also work well with salty dishes. For example, oysters are both salty and briny with an oily mouth-coating texture that can smoother most wines. However, a sparkling wine from California , a Spanish cava or French champagne can both refresh and cleanse your palate when eating fish. Carbonated wines also work well with spicy foods. Hot spice in Asian, Thai, curry and chili pepper dishes can numb the palate. Many of these foods also have high acidity from citrus ingredients such as lime juice as well as sweetness. Therefore, you need a wine with an acidic backbone as well as a touch of sweetness such as an off-dry California sparkling wine with lots of fruit.

While off-dry, acidic wines go well with many dishes, the two most difficult wines to pair with food are also the two most popular: chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. New World chardonnays can taste of oak, and are buttery, flavorful wines that overwhelm many dishes. But you can still enjoy chardonnay with your meal. Pair it with butter and cream sauces to marry similar textures and flavors.

Conversely, cabernet sauvignons can have bitter dark fruit flavors with mouth drying tannins (the same sensation you get from drinking well-brewed tea). Therefore, they find their happiest match in foods with juicy proteins such as a rare steak. The protein softens the tannin making the wine taste smooth and fruity. Steaks done with crushed black peppercorns sensitize your taste-buds, making the wine taste even more fruity and robust. However, the way in which the dish is prepared also has an impact. A well-done steak, for example, may taste too dry with a tannic cabernet.

Proteins are also at work with the marriage of wine and cheese, the cocktail classic. Red wines tend to go better with hard cheeses such as blue cheese as they can accommodate more tannins. However, whites suit soft cheeses such as brie and camembert as the creamier textures require more acidity for balance.

Game birds such quail, pheasant, turkey, duck, squab and guinea hen have earthy flavors that are more robust than chicken. Wild game often goes better with racy red wines that have a gamy quality to them, the classic being Burgundian pinot noir. The flavors of pinot noir — plum, cherry, mushrooms, earth and even barnyard (that’s a positive adjective) – accentuate the same gamy flavors in the food. Other wine options for game birds include Spanish rioja, Oregon pinot noir and lighter-style Rhône Valley wines such as Côte-Rôtie.

One of the most challenging flavors to balance is sweetness. Dishes with a touch of sweetness such as glazed pork do well with off-dry wines such as riesling and chenin blanc. However, rich desserts such as chocolate and crème brulée demand a wine that is sweeter than the dessert, or the wine will taste thin, even bitter. Sweet wines such as sauternes, Canadian icewine, late harvest wines and port will work not only for their sweetness but also for their unctuous texture.

Wine Variety Guidelines

When the marriage of food and wine works well, each enhances the other, making the meal greater than if you had consumed them separately.

Following are some suggestions for help deciding the best food matches for several popular wine types:

Red Wines:

Cabernet Sauvignon: Roasts & spicy red meat, spicy poultry, duck, rabbit, pate, sausage, kidneys, and cheeses like cheddar & blue.

Pinot Noir: Roasted beef or turkey, braised chicken, cold game birds (duck, rabbit, partridge), veal, truffles, and cheeses like Gruyeres.

Merlot: Roasted beef or turkey, braised chicken, cold duck, lamb, veal, venison, liver, stew, meat casseroles.

Shiraz : Heavily spiced or barbequed meats, braised chicken, chili, goose, meat stew, garlic casseroles, ratatouille.

White Wines:

Chardonnay: Seafood with butter sauce, pasta with cream sauce, veal, chicken, turkey, ham, and cheeses like Emmenthal & Gruyeres.

Riesling: Ham, pork, clams, muscles, Tandoori chicken, lobster Newberg, Coquilles St Jacques, Asian dishes, sashimi, and mild cheese.

Sauvignon Blanc: Ham, quiche, Irish stew, grilled or poached salmon, seafood salads, and strong cheeses like goat.

Gewurztraminer: Spicy dishes, Thai food, curry, pork & sauerkraut, smoked salmon, and spiced/pepper cheeses like Muenster.

Irish Mail On Sunday Wine Column - Feb 28, 2010

THEY say its good for the soul, so I’ll start today with a public confession - I was a card-carrying member of the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) club.
I became quite sniffy about it - even though the grape is behind the world’s greatest whites from Burgundy.
I was reminded of that embarrassing indiscretion at a wine club tasting this week when many attending were apprehensive when told that at their next tasting chardonnay would take centre stage.
Thankfully I got over my prejudice, resigned from the ABC club and have drank superb burgundies and chardonnays from all over the world recently.
The grape has regained its position as THE greatest white variety. Sauvignon blanc is still fashionable but it just doesn’t have the finesse or elegance of chardonnay - and the fad for Pinot Grigio will pass.
Oak - the over-use of it particularly in Australia and California - lies behind the massive fall-off in chardonnay sales during the late 90s.
So much of it was used - the Aussies nicknamed the over-alcoholic finished product ‘Dolly Parton‘ wines (too much upfront) - there was a real danger of getting splinters in your mouth!
Such wines are rare these days, winemakers across the world have toned down the oak and by sourcing grapes from cooler climes increased the freshness and acidity in their wines.
Wines from Australia’s Adelaide Hills and Yarra Valley are worth seeking out as are those from Chile’s Leyda Valley.
And back in Burgundy it is possible to drink well these days for around €15. Look to Chablis, Côte Chalonnaise and the Mâconnais.
I will return for a detailed look at chardonnays for the summer in the coming weeks. Today’s two recommendations will go down well for Mother’s Day next Sunday.

Domaine du Closel La Jalousie 2007
Savennieres, France
€19.99 from Superquinn

Classic Savennieres Chenin Blanc with great honeyed waxy fruit and good mineral backbone. Lemon gold in colour, with minerals, herbs, peaches and nectarines on the nose. Medium bodied palate, with a creamy texture and lifted nectarine palate. Will age well, as it has great, juicy acidity. A real discovery.

Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Rose
Various Regions, Australia
Widely available at €14.99 but shop around for promotions

This is a real favourite. A bottle fermented sparkling wine made with chardonnay and pinot noir grapes with a lemon citrus aroma from the former, and strawberry and red currant characters from the latter. The wine finishes soft and round, with wonderful lingering fresh berry flavours.

Irish Mail On Sunday Wine Column - Feb 21, 2010

WE are generally a nation of red wine drinkers. We love our big cabernets, jammy merlots and alcoholic syrahs and shiraz.

We have even taken a liking to the hearty malbec grape, especially those from Argentina.

But there are so many more reds out there that seem to sit on the shelf because we remain unadventurous or just afraid to try them.

Take Grenache, a grape with Spanish origins, where it is capable of producing cherry and pepper flavoured wines that can be quite alocholic. It tends to be used in blends but is producing some  deep coloured, fruity wines in France’s southern Rhone region

Speaking of the Rhone, Mourvèdre, a velvety purple colour grape with a powerful flavour that hints of licqourice is beginning to emerge as a single varietal wine in its own right.

In Spain’s ultra-hot Jumilla region the same grape – called Monastrell - is feted for the wines it is capable of producing.

Italy’s Sangiovese and Nebbiolo grapes are well worth seeking out.

Sangiovese is grown in Tuscany - especially in the Brunello de Montalcino and Chianti regions. It produces medium to full bodied reds with high acidity and plenty of tannin to give a sour cherry, plum, and dried herbs flavours.

Nebbiolo is the grape variety used in Barolo and Barbaresco in Piedmont. The wines are full bodied and powerful with a complex bouquet of berries, flowers, herbs and wood.
And we must not forget the Dolcetto grape from Piedmont. It makes wines that are easy to drink with flavours of cherries and red berry fruits.

A real favourite of mine is Portugal’s Touriga National – normally an essential part of Port but increasingly available as a table wine that can be highly tannic yet very concentrated with a smooth velvet finish.

Other red grape varieties to look out for are South Africa’s Pinotage, and California’s Zinfandel.

Heartland Dolcetto and Lagrein 2007
Langhorne Creek, Australia
€14.75 from better independent off licences

The Aussie blend packs a powerful punch at 14.5 per cent alcohol with lovely aromatics and savoury tannins. Purple in colour, it has cherry and coffee aromas and intense earthy flavours of spice cherries with good acidity and nice length. Perfect with pasta.

Velenosi Brecciarolo, Rosso Piceno Superiore 2006
Marche, Italy
€13 from better independent off licences

This wine is made from Montepulciano and Sangiovese grapes and is a deep ruby red. A wonderful woody spice and vanilla nose with lovely blackcurrant fruits on the palate and light tannins providing just enough grip. Will go well with full-flavoured Italian meat dishes.

Irish Mail On Sunday Wine Column - Feb 14, 2010

THERE is an unquenchable thirst for wine knowledge out there. Wine courses sell out quickly - no matter what the price - and many have large waiting lists.
Yet despite all this unbridled enthusiasm to learn about all things vinous, we remain, for the most part, very unadventurous when it comes to trying something different.

We are creatures of habit so when looking for a bottle for the weekend we invariably end up choosing a shiraz, merlot, cabernet, chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. These five grapes account for almost 80p per cent of all still wine sales.

Nothing wrong with that. There are truly some great wines out there made from these noble grapes. But there is so much more to be tasted - around 5,000 varieties!

In Spain alone there are over 600, among them is one of my favourite whites, the beautifully refreshing albarino from Galicia which works perfectly with shellfish.

Across the country in the Rioja region viura is the most important white grape, where it makes a lighter-bodied, lower-alcohol wine which is great to drink during in hot weather to quench the thirst.
In Portugal the citrusy and refreshing arinto is causing something of a stir these days and now the encruzado grape from the Dão region in the north of the country is getting the attention it deserves.
This is a beautifully fragrant white which can have aromas and flavours of apricots and nectarines and great acidity.
And we must not forget those beautifully scented white varieties from France’s Rhone region - marsanne, viognier and roussanne.
Further afield Argentina can boast torrontes with its enormous fragrance ranging from peaches to orange peel. The wines tend to have good, fresh acidity which makes them an ideal food wine.

These are just a few white varieties - along with my two recommendations below - which you may not have tried yet. So why not try something different this week? We will look at unusual reds next time.

Bethany Semillon 2005
Barossa Valley, Australia
€11.95 at O’Briens Wines

This outstanding example of an Aussie Semillon is a bright, gold colour with aromas of lemon and honey. The wine is soft on the palate with an oily character with complex nutty honeysuckle and lemon flavours. Barrel fermented, the wine also has a subtle hint of oak. A goof partner for prawns or with steamed mussels and crusty bread.

Trimbach Pinot Blanc 2007
Alsace, France
€13.95 Widely available

One of Alsace’s signature whites from one of the great producers, this Pinot Blanc is perfect as an aperitif. It is a light wine that has clean citrus and green apple fruit flavours, good structure and bright acidity. Good alongside fish and chicken dishes.

Irish Mail On Sunday Wine Column - Feb 07, 2010

THE nights are still cold and its another seven weeks before the clocks go forward and the evenings take a stretch - but, hey, February 1 was the official start of Spring and next Sunday is Valentines Day. 
I always toast the coming of Spring with something pink, still or sparkling. A decent bottle can lift the spirits after the dark, cold days of Winter.
The same kind of wines that will be well received next weekend with the hand-written inscription, ‘from your Valentine’.
However, the words have sent a shiver down my spine ever since a friend ‘who knows these things’ told me their origin - attributed to St Valentine, a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity.
The story goes that one of the last things he done before he died, on February 14, 269 AD, was to leave a farewell note for his jailer's daughter, who had become his friend. He signed it ‘From your Valentine’.
In France the day is celebrated in the village of St Amour, situated in the north of the Beaujolais wine region. 
Again its a Roman who attracts French lovers to the picturesque village, reputedly named after a disaffected soldier, Amor.
St Amour is also the name of a Cru Beaujolais, one of 10 crus that represent beaujolais. These gamay grape wines can be tight and reserved when young, but after a year or so they become supple and fruity, with flavours of apricot and cherries.
Rizzardi Fior Di Rosa,
Bardolino, Italy
€14.95 at O’Briens Wines

Elegance throughout from stylish bottle to last sip. A blend of local corvina, rondinella, sangiovese, molinara and negrara grapes that is gushing with raspberry and strawberry aromas. Wonderfully balanced with a soft fruit palate and nice length. Chill down and treat yourself - and partner - to some grilled king prawns and a glass.
Chateau de Pennautier Rose 2008,
Cabardes, France
€7.95 until St Valentines day at Dunnes Stores
Transport yourself to the south of France with just a sip of this excellent merlot and syrah blend rose from near Carcassone. Beautifully smooth, dry and elegant with soft fruit flavours, great acidity and length.
Torres San Valentin 2008
Penedes, Spain
€8.99 on promotion and widely available

A 100 per cent garnacha grape wine. Cherry colour with wonderful blackberry jam aromas. Silky palate, soft tannins with blackberry and pomegranate flavours. Good length and finish. Perfect for the man in your life next Sunday. 

Irish Mail On Sunday Wine Column - Jan 31, 2010

FROM Bierzo in the northwest to Jumilla in the southeast, we are fast discovering the vast array of great grape varieties and wines emerging from Spain these days.
But ask most wine lovers to name one Spanish region off the top of their heads and Rioja would most likely spring to mind.
Wine has been made in Rioja - situated south of the Cantabrian mountains in the north of Spain - since Roman times but modern winemaking techniques only arrived in the region around 1850.
An exodus of winemakers from Bordeaux escaping the phylloxera pest which was devastating vines in France brought new growing techniques and oak-barrel aging to Rioja.
While the production of white Rioja has increased in recent years, it is red wines that are synonymous with the region and here the Tempranillo grape is king.
This thick-skinned grape brings a richness, vibrant colour, a fair amount of alcohol and aging potential to the table.
But what makes Rioja so approachable, and a great food wine, is its blending with up to three other grapes - Mazuelo, Graciano and Garnacha (Grenache).
Mazuelo can add depth and vibrancy to the blend, Graciano elevates the wine with gorgeous glints of vibrant purple and spicy, fresh aromas, while Garnacha brings concentration, big red berry flavours, spice and soft tannins.
White Rioja is made with Malvasia, Viura and Garnacha Blanca grapes.
Both red and whites are classified based on aging in oak barrels and bottles.
The Crianza category is used to describe a wine that has spent 12-18 months in oak barrels, and at least another year in bottle.
Reserva wines will have been aged in oak barrels for 18-24 months, and 12-24 months in bottle and are known for their deep and complex flavours. 
The Gran Reserva category sees the wines aged in oak barrels for 24-36 months, and 36 months in bottle. They will have intense depth, with hints of cedar and wild berries on the palate.
Luis Cañas Rioja Reserva 2004 
Rioja, Spain
€22, widely available
Brilliant ripe black cherry red colour with excellent depth. Fruity aromas with elegant nuances of fine oak. Velvety in the mouth with a long finish. A Reserva with plenty of class and style framed by  24 months in oak with nice, spicy tannins. Try with
stews and hard cheeses.
Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva 2005
Rioja, Spain, 
€15 or less, widely available
Nicely rounded, with a soft finish. A wine made in a modern style that makes it very approachable. Ruby red in colour with sweet cherry aromas and silky oak flavours. It has a light, smooth velvety texture and is a great accompaniment to roast lamb. A balanced wine that is also well suited to pork, lamb chops, grilled steak, venison and cheeses.

Irish Mail On Sunday Wine Column - Jan 24, 2010

FAVOURITE wine? Reds, whites, fortified and sweeties. Pick just one bottle? I need time to answer, come back in a year.
Ask me to choose a bottle that I have not tried yet and one name instantly comes to mind - La Tâche Romanée-Conti from Burgundy, France. 
The 2005 vintage sells for around €2,500 a bottle, if you can buy one of the 4,500 produced that year. 
So, unless someone uncorks a bottle and offers me a glass then the chances are I may never taste what wine critics regard as the greatest wine.
What makes the wine so sought after is the grape - Pinot Noir. A delinquent grape plagued by difficulties from when its buds appear in May through to bottle aging.

It can be affected by every known bug and disease found in vineyards. Should the grapes reach maturity and are not picked at the right time they shrivel and dry out.
It is the most temperamental grape, but for all its faults it is capable of producing the most alluring and sensual wines that age gracefully for decades.
It will have a bouquet of cherries, strawberries and raspberries, with hints of mushroom, earth, truffle and leather. Oak can impart further aromas of vanilla. On the palate it has a soft and velvety texture.
The very best pinot still comes from Burgundy. But even a moderate quality bottle can set you back €50.  Thankfully, New World producers like New Zealand, California and Chile
are producing excellent pinot at affordable prices.
As temperamental and difficult as it may be, the grape has caught the imagination of winemakers worldwide. 
It is a classic food wine,  perfect with grilled salmon and roast beef, or any dish that features mushrooms. Classic French cooking has creations based on pinot, such as Coq au Vin and Boeuf Bourginon.
Try a bottle... soon.
Montana South Island Pinot Noir 2008
Marlborough, New Zealand
€12.60 and widely available
Winemaker Patrick Materman has managed to produce the best entry level pinot currently available. This elegant wine has wonderful berry flavours of strawberries and cherries with smoky hints of oak. It has, in small amounts, all that one would expect from a great pinot - fruit driven with fine tannin structure and good length.
Gold Label Pinot Noir 2008
Vin de Pays D’OC, France
€10.46 from Marks & Spencer
Grapes grown close to the Mediterranean in southern France make for a soft, smooth wine that is fruit driven with the ripe strawberry flavour typical of pinot shining through. Nice, soft tannins add to the pleasure of this wine with a decent length. Great with creamy cheeses.