Food & Wines

I have written about food and wine-matching for twenty-five years. Thirteen of my fourteen wine books have featured comprehensive food and wine-matching chapters and I wrote over 1000 columns in the Daily Mail’s Weekend Magazine along this theme as well. I hope that the following 21000 word feature helps you towards getting your dinner parties ‘right’ and impressing your own palates along the way as well as those of your guests.

This is, however, not rocket science, but a matter of telling the truth about what works and what doesn’t in the flavour combination arena.  You will find that you swiftly learn the basic rules of food and wine-matching and how these combos impact on your palate.  You probably have most of them cracked already.  I say this is because you food match ingredients all of the time without even thinking.  When making a sandwich it is generally accepted that ham goes well with mustard and beef with horseradish, but not necessarily the other way around.

I know the flavour of most of the wines out there on the shelves because I spend every moment of every day tasting, and importantly, you know what your palate likes, too.  Put two and two together and food and wine-matching is about getting ham and mustard on the same page and avoiding the near-miss, which would be ham and horseradish!

I can help you do this and let you know the very best bottles in the UK, too, in my weekly and monthly columns which are all published on my website.

I realise that everything is a matter of taste – this is a subjective subject if ever there was one.  So if you are new to my writing it is important you realise I do not tell you exactly what to drink with your dinner here (that would, by definition, only work for my palate), but I tell you what not to drink, as much as gently guide you to a flavour or collection of wines that might work well.  It is up to you where to make your final decision, by plumping for a bottle that you know you like.

You can therefore relax and open a bottle.  It needs no longer be a nightmare trying to match wine to food when you are entertaining at home, or out and about.  Forget the pressure to ‘get it right’.

Your first step is to think of a menu, then find the dish in the A-Z and read through my recommendations.  Then, have a look at my recent articles and choose a bottle that fits.   You could always grab a few bottles of a multi-purpose, multi-talented style of wine. Some names pop up in this article more often than others – Sauvignon Blanc, the crowd-pleasing, refreshing, dry, white grape is always a winner and a safe place to go if you are worried. As are the juicy, smooth, black-fruit-driven, New World GSM (Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvèdre) blends, Côtes-du-Rhônes (the same blend) or many Languedoc reds (again the same grapes are employed).  It is also worth pointing out that Beaujolais, once one of the most ridiculed styles of wine in France, is incredibly versatile in the kitchen. It appears over twenty-five times in this piece, and it is a style of wine you mustn’t overlook!

I met up with some old pals the other day at a neutral venue (i.e. not one of the restaurants whose wine lists I know well) for a lunch party.  I bet you know what is coming!  Everyone wanted to order different things and the wine list was opened in front of yours truly.  I quickly conducted a straw poll of starters and main courses.  I thought that by ordering one bottle of red and one bottle of white, I could at least have a chance to chat and give myself a breather before having to order another bottle.  Following my own rules, I chose a fresh, zingy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a stunning bottle of Chiroubles (Beaujolais).   Every base was covered, from oysters, spring rolls, pâté, calamari, Caesar salad for starters and steak sandwich, soss and mash, seared tuna, lasagne, roast lamb for main course.  In the end, we just ordered the same bottles again, because they were such a hit!  The Sauvignon effortlessly sliced through the oysters, the fish dishes, the Caesar and the chilli sauce in the dip for the calamari.  The Beaujolais wasn’t too heavy for the pâté but had enough character and fruit weight to cope with the meaty main courses.  It is this reason why these wines are so incredibly popular in the first place.  There isn’t a Parisian bar that doesn’t sell Beaujolais and Sauvignon Blanc by the gallon.   Although I am sure that they would get their Sauvignon from the Loire Valley as opposed to New Zealand!