Wine and Food – problem dishes, part 2

May 11th, 2009 | Uncategorized

I deliberately used this photograph to remind you that food served as an appetiser, amuse-bouche, tapas or whatever you chose to call it can just as easily influence the taste of your aperitif wine.

Simple salted foods including cashew or peanuts will certainly modify flavour, as will olives (except that a nice glass of a bone-dry chilled sherry, such as a fresh Manzanilla, might save the day). Cooked olives however, as part of casserole or sauce will probably require a full bodied red wine, such as a good Rhone to support the richness.

In a similar way, artichokes have to be treated with great caution – the bitter, phenolic flavours of globe artichokes can and will make many wines taste decidedly odd, although a clean white wine with fresh acidity, such as an albariño, is a possible option (dependent on how the dish is prepared). I mention preparation simply by way of a reminder that it is not always the raw ingredient on it’s own that will decide the suitability of the wine you have selected, but just as importantly, the way that the dish is cooked i.e. the sauce or seasoning that has been added.

Also pay particular attention to oily or smoked fish – fresh, aromatic white wine should certainly help to give a lift, but please be aware that a good wine might be ‘tainted’ by a strong smoky flavour.

Cooking with fruit (fresh or dried) may once again play tricks with your wine. Fruit used in savoury dishes does run the possibility of making a dry wine taste thin, tart or even completely flat. So take care, and if in doubt, experiment at home before you invite your guests to dinner (a good excuse for a tasting, as if it were needed).

Dessert is a whole different subject….. There are many obviously good selections that can be made – sweet, fortified wine such as Australian muscat is the perfect choice with chocolate, in the same way that it can stand up to a palate-numbing ice cream pudding. I am sure that I have also seen Albariño as a recommendation for dessert, but this was probably made by someone desperate to sell wine (no, it wasn’t me!)

Finally, I will mention cheese. Now the traditionalists will say that you need a good Bordeaux to go with your cheese, or possibly a port with your Stilton, and who am I to argue? The only thing that I would say is that there are many styles of cheese, in the same way that there are many styles of wine – some work, and some don’t.

Sauternes with your Roquefort should be delicious, and a Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé will go very nicely with a goat’s cheese. Indeed, I once ate in a restaurant in Sancerre where the menu was made up entirely of goat’s cheese dishes, and by the end of the meal I had grown a small beard and developed the ability to balance on tree branches. OK, so the latter part is not true, but the wine suggestion does work. And last but not least, Albariño can also be served with goat’s cheese, more especially those with a tart, sharp flavour.

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