Wine and Food – problem dishes, part 1

May 8th, 2009 | Uncategorized

I have been threatening for some time now to write about food and wine recommendations and/or parings etc, and today is the ‘first in the series’. I thought I would start by highlighting some of the more difficult foods to match, that are perhaps best avoided, not just with Albariño, but possibly with any type of wine.

The most obvious are the highly spiced dishes that incorporate curry or chilli spices. Before I moved to Spain I had always believed that the Spanish enjoyed the odd hot dish or two, and that in the South there would be recipes influenced by historical connections with North Africa. Not so – the Spanish use hot spices very sparingly in their cooking, and in reality have a very low tolerance to piquancy.
Several years ago I was fortunate enough to participate in an experimental tasting of different wine styles and spicy Asian foods. Whilst we discovered one or two wines that could just about stand up to the heat (such as an aromatic Sauvignon Blanc for example), most wines, red or white, were almost completely overpowered. This being the case, it would certainly be a waste of money to invest in a fine, subtle wine only to have it blown away by the food on your plate. My advice therefore, with strong Chilli or Curry….. stick to beer!

OK, so that’s one or two of the more obvious dishes out of the way, so now for a few things that you might not immediately realise could spell disaster for your favourite tipple.

Making good wine is really a question of balance – balance between the basic elements such as fruit, acidity, tannin etc. We spend a lot of time, not only prior to picking, but also in the making of our wine to make sure that there is no single element that dominates another, and that the end product is well-balanced. In this way you will soon understand why the following foods can have a big influence on your wine.

Any food or condiment with a high acidity such as vinegar, will certainly have a detrimental effect – the addition of acetic acid in a salad dressing for example, could not only ruin the balance, but will make many red wines taste sour and volatile. If you must use vinegar try to find one that is a little more mellow.

For the same reason an excess use of lemon juice can also throw your wine out of shape. It rather depends on how dominant the lemon flavour is, and how much acidity is already present in the wine. On our website I have suggested that Albariño might support a lemon sauce or other sharp flavours, but I will qualify this by saying that it is a question of degree – don’t be too heavy handed with the lemon squeezer! Oh, and by the way, lemon and red wine? Probably not a good idea.

Slightly less obvious is the humble tomato, or tomato as we say here in Europe (old joke, or old song actually). Once again it can be the acidity that does the damage, more especially to ripe and fleshy red wines. Having said that Italian red wine, that can have a slightly elevated acidity, may help to solve this problem. It is possible that Italian reds have actully evolved like this over time, to help deal with the oil and tomato so used widely in the national cuisine.

End of Part 1

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