Wine and Food…What?

(by peter & susie)

This month, food and drink loom large on our agenda.

OK, so it’s hardly a departure from our usual field of focus, but this is a food-and-drink month with a difference.

It’s not just because we’re doing more than our usual fair share of food-and-booze events (reports on which to follow). It’s principally because, in a few weeks, we’re launching our brand new food-and-wine competition, What Food What Wine?

The competition is a new angle on the standard wine competition.

We’ve teamed up with food author and presenter Jo Pratt and assembled a list of ten classic British dishes – from fish’n’chips to apple crumble via chicken tikka massala. Producers submit wines in the food categories of their choice and we taste them together to find out which wines match best with each dish – and which don’t.

To help sort the cream from the crop, we’re very proud to have a superb team – surely one of the finest bevy of food and wine experts ever to have come together in these fair isles.

Such luminaries include M&S buyer Jo Ahearne MW, the world’s best sommelier Gerard Basset MS MW of Hotel TerraVina, Guardian columnist Fiona Beckett, ETM Group’s Paolo Brammer, Sarah Jane Evans MW of BBC Good Food, Mentzendorff’s Elizabeth Ferguson, Rebecca Palmer of Corney & Barrow, Hakkasan sommelier Christine Parkinson and Hotel du Vin wine director Ronan Sayburn MS.

As competition chairmen, Susie and I are very excited to be tasting alongside this hugely talented group. We can’t wait to see what delicious surprises are in store – and we look forward to reporting on it all here in due course.

At the same time, we’re somewhat anxious about the amount of calories we’ll be consuming as part of our tasting duties. There may well have to be some spitting of food (as well as wine) going on, as strange a concept as it seems. Either that or an exercise bike or two installed in the tasting room…

On a more serious note, the aim of the competition is to help wine drinkers experiment with confidence when it comes to choosing wines to go with their favourite British dishes.

We hope that the results will champion those styles of wine which don’t often win in competitions precisely because they’re not very showy in style – but which, paradoxically, often means they work best with food.

Unlike most other competitions, we won’t be judging by country, region or grape variety. The judges will know absolutely nothing about the wines they’re tasting other than whether they are under or over £10. The idea here is to approach wine the same way most normal drinkers do – ie either as an everyday or a special purchase – and rate it accordingly. This means that we’re being fair on cheaper wines as well as putting the more expensive drops in a proper context.

This system also means that wines from all around the world get to compete on an equal playing field. The only thing that matters is how well each wine goes with the dish in question. It puts wine where it should be – on the dinner table – and evaluates it accordingly.

There’s already been a good deal of interest in the competition, and so far we’ve teamed up with Essentially Catering and as partners. Food sponsors are coming online and entries are coming in.

We can’t wait to get started and to bring you all the results of the winning wines. In the meantime, for more information, including Jo’s brilliant (downloadable) recipes for the dishes, visit the site For those wine producers still keen to enter, the deadline is 15th June 2011 – click here for more details.

(Photography courtesy of Georgia Glynn-Smith)