Some people say choosing the right wine for your food (or vice versa) is too complicated. Or that it’s all nonsense, so not worth bothering with – just go with whatever you fancy.
We beg to differ – in the most strident of ways.
We’ve both spent more than 20 years matching wines to food on TV, radio, events, podcasts and print. We know food is one of the best ways to make sense of wine, to learn more and to get beyond the pretentiousness – by focusing on basic flavours and personal pleasure.
Finding out what works best for you and yours takes a bit of time and an open mind, though. So let us help you!
This episode is the first in a mini-series, in association with Wine Club by Majestic, focusing on food and wine pairing. In this one, we sock it to the naysayers and serve up our 7 top tips to match wine and food successfully, illustrating the basic logic by pairing a series of wines to a cheese board. (The results are almost certainly not what you’d expect).
We also grill Majestic buyer Elizabeth Kelly MW on her favourite food and wine matches, guilty pleasures and top tips – and hear briefly from Louis Roederer cellar master Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon and gastrophysicist Professor Charles Spence.
All that, AND we answer a question from Jonathan in New York about whether his wine fridge is ruining his treasured bottles…
Following on from this appetising entrée will be a series of short-form video pods, in each of which we’ll take one dish and find a wine or two that works as a delicious pairing. Again, explaining the logic as we go along, and having a bit of fun along the way.
This episode is brought to you in association with Wine Club by Majestic – a new service where you subscribe to receive a different case of wine four times a year. What’s more, when you sign up you get the value of your first case back in money-off vouchers to spend in Majestic stores or online – plus a magazine that not only explains the wines but also gives you delicious recipes to match.
The wines below are available from Majestic – or exclusively through the Wine Club, as per the notes. Prices are either for the whole case (for the Wine Club) or the mix-six price at Majestic. NB: Wine Club wines are available seasonally so will change in time (the current region at the time of publication is Spain and Portugal).
We’d love to hear YOUR take on food-and-wine matching.
Maybe any sensational pairings you’ve been lucky enough to enjoy, or indeed any disasters!
Any guilty food and wine pleasures always of interest. (We may even reveal ours too…)
Or maybe you disagree with the whole thing – if so we’d be interested to hear your rationale on that front too. Hook up on social media or leave us a message via the magic of Speakpipe…just click on the button below to record:
Susie Barrie MW: What’s your favourite food and wine match?
Elizabeth Kelly MW (EK): Fish and chips and a bottle of champagne, or English sparkling wine.
Susie Barrie MW: It’s such a good match, isn’t it?!
EK: It’s such a good match. Sometimes you don’t need the most haute cuisine meal. Sometimes it’s about simplicity and a really good bottle of wine.
Susie Barrie MW: Why would you say it’s such a good match?
EK: You’ve obviously got lots of fried food there with the fish and chips. The acidity from champagne really helps cut through. But the rich flavours from the frying and champagne is quite a rich complex wine from all the ageing it’s had.
Susie Barrie MW: What’s your guilty food pleasure and does wine come into it?
EK: OK. At the end of the week, when I’ve been tasting wine all week, I’m probably more gin and tonic than wine. Sorry, it is a gin and tonic pairing! Probably go with a huge bag, a family sharer bag just for me, lime doritos and salsa. And a gine and tonic is my guilty pleasure.
Susie Barrie MW: We love putting wine with cheese. What’s your favourite cheese and wine match?
EK: Lots of people pair red wine with cheese. Often it doesn’t go as well. So I’m much more likely to pair white wine with cheese. Eg white burgundy, especially from south with more fruit, less new oak. Goes with a wide selection of cheese.
I also like an Alsace Pinot Gris with those washed rind cheese, just a touch of sweetness to balance. But not over the top. Or I love camembert and maybe with a Normandy or Breton cider, absolutely perfect, that sweet/salty combination.
Susie Barrie MW: Do you have any food and wine matching tips?
EK: Always good to start with what you like. Just because a wine is supposed to go with a particular food, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be right for you if you’re not a big fan of that style of wine.
It’s also thinking about the most basic components: how strong is the food you’re having, how full flavoured is the wine? Good to have the same level so one isn’t overpowering the other. Thinking about structural components.
Also regionality: food and wine from a local area often goes together because they’ve come up together. It’s finding that perfect compliment so they each improve the other.
It’s not you’re having a food that makes a wine better, or wine that makes the food better, it’s like a perfect marriage.
Susie Barrie MW: I totally agree. I was sitting at the weekend and we had some very old Rivesaltes – I’d made some sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream. At one moment, I tasted the clotted cream then the Rivesaltes. It took you to another level. When they go so well together, it stops you in your tracks, even at the end of the night. Quite extraordinary.
So, some people say food and wine matching is nonsense, a waste of time, just drink whatever you like with whatever you’re eating… What’s your view on that?
EK: if it’s just a casual evening in, and you’re only going to drink so much with dinner, that’s fine. But if you get the right combination then it really does lift both the wine and the food. It doesn’t need to be strict rules, exactly about what goes with what. But everyone wants the best experience from what you’re eating and drinking. So working towards those classic pairings lifts the whole experience.
Susie Barrie MW: How do you go about selecting wines for Wine Club by Majestic?
EK: We look at a theme for each quarter, then we work with producers that we know are an expert in that area. We sit and think about, if it’s a specific country, what we want to show. Maybe a mix of classic wines but also new things that different producers are doing. So we can really show both the tradition and new wave projects in the country. So that customers get a great diversity of products and understanding of what that country can offer.
We taste hundreds of wines each time to narrow it down to 12 wines per case, or 6 wines for the top case. It’s really looking for diversity, the highest quality and having a story so that customers can really get to grips with what that country can offer.
Susie Barrie MW: You’re a Master of Wine and you buy wine for Majestic. What’s the best and worst part about your job?
EK: So the best part is the thing most people think I spend all my time doing: tasting wine, travelling, meeting wonderful producers, getting stories from across the world.
Unfortunately that’s probably only about 10-15% of job. The other 85% is spread sheets! But it’s a great job to have despite the excessive amount of spread sheet usage as a buyer. But it is always interspersed with tasting, and finding great wines to bring to customers, which is always really exciting. When a product lands on shelf and you get feedback from stores about what customers thought about it, it really makes everything worthwhile.
Susie Barrie MW: Beth, lovely talking to you.
EK: No problem, thank you!