Stawbs & cream

(by peter & susie)

Fresh fruit is one of life’s joys.

And the next question on any wine lover’s mind is: so what to drink with it?

As odd as it seems, pairing wine with fresh fruit isn’t easy to get right. The juicy acidity and punchy fragrance of the fruit can jar with many wines – the secret is to keep things simple and soft on the wine front.

A refreshing and gently fruity style often works best, with fizz also a good bet – the classic fresh fruit wine match is Moscato d’Asti: gently fizzy, medium sweet, fragrant and fruity. You can see how it all fits together.

Recently we tasted through a number of wines as part of our What Food What Wine competition, which aims to find the best wines to go with 16 classic British dishes – from Christmas turkey to chicken tikka massala via fish’n’chips.

One of the dishes was that quintessentially British summer dessert: strawberries and cream.

Alongside all the dishes in the competition, we – together with our experienced co-judges – tasted the wines blind, ie we knew nothing about them other than whether they sold for over or under £10 (retail). The only thing that mattered is how well each wine went with each dish. This led to some surprising results…

For example, our overall trophy for the best match with our Sweet Eve strawberries and cream went to an under £10 wine: E&J Gallo’s Barefoot Moscato NV (£4.99, widely available).

While the winning style wasn’t a surprise, the Gallo brand was – it tends to be disregarded by many wine experts for being irredeemably low-brow and mass-produced (though it must be added that respected winos like Jancis Robinson MW and the Guardian’s (and our esteemed senior judge) Fiona Beckett have recently championed the brand).

More power to wine drinkers, we say – here’s a great value wine that goes brilliantly with strawberries and cream. It’s widely available, easy to drink and low in alcohol (at around 8.5%) so you can enjoy it indulgently.

Other wines that did well included two English fizzes from the same producer. The tangy, serious Jenkyn Place Sparkling Rosé 2008 and the straight Jenkyn Place Brut 2008 (both £25, available from the winery) won four-star awards for their pairing. What’s more, both fizzes also did well in the smoked salmon category – so worth considering as versatile book-ends for a meal…

In the three-star category, winning fizzes included Cono Sur Sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé (£9.99), Aldi’s Castellore Pinot Grigio Frizzante Blush NV, Laithwaite’s Rosé NV champagne – while Morrison’s The Best Riesling Auslese 2011 was a nice point of difference, as was the Jacob’s Creek Moscato Rosé 2011.

If you fancy savouring wines like these alongside their matching dishes, join us on Saturday 24th November at Lord’s in London for What Food What Wine Live. It’s a delicious day out for only £35 – click here for more details and to buy tickets. We’d love to see you there!