#5: The Main Pairs | REDS 🔴
Wine with food pairings can be overwhelming. Let's start with some ground rules, and dispelling a few myths. Unsure of steak going with a Bordeaux or a Barossa? I'll stretch it a little bit more.
A late good morning!
I’m really excited to get into the bones of why I started this project in the first place. I want this post to be a handy toolkit that you’ve hopefully landed on, or can pin for another time. If you have any questions, drop me a comment or pop something in the chat!
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Wine meets food.
As with all new creative ventures and in line with the design process, changes come as you work, write and reflect.
Reflecting on why I want to burn the midnight oil and still stay excited about this, there’s a few reasons:
The wine list is something of handing someone an aux cable at a party: you might like know the music you want to hear, but you’re terrified at the prospect that not everyone will like it.
We pair wines with food after we’ve chosen our meal(s) of choice. Which can get awkward when there’s people with very different dishes and one bottle is the end goal.
Wines, much like food, come in different colours, grapes, regions styles and vintages. Not to be the enjoyment police, but we tend to get a lot more adventurous about flavour palettes from different dishes or cuisines food, but hardly ever as much from wine when there is SO MUCH TO ENJOY!
We draw within the lines of certain (old) rules that reigned the 80s and 90s we haven’t shaken off yet with wine, even though the styles have changed so much. You CAN have a white wine with roast lamb. Fancy a red with fish? YES, that’s totally fine!
I’ve tried to dig into the science behind which compounds in a wine might react with a food to make it heavenly, but it doesn’t seem to be there. Also, wouldn’t that strip the joy out of trying to find the ideal pairing, or stop us once we’ve found the most scientifically compatible pair? I think so, at least.
I’ll leave my soul search there, and leave you with some ground rules for what types of wines should infuse some inspiration for food on my own spin. Expect recipes soon, and whites next week!
There is a LOT of general assumptions here as part of some spectrum, by no means definitive. I’ve tried to keep options reasonable here as well, so no bank has been broke.
🔴 Reds: Finding the food to go with the wine
Wines with a lighter body like Pinot Noir are going to go beautifully with fish if you fancy a red, or go well with a Sunday Roast chicken. Nice, mellow and comforting, Sunday-scary ignorant vibes.
My pick: Scott Kelley Oregon Pinot Noir, Naked Wines, £16.99 (if you’re an angel). Oregon is a little cooler than the better known Californian wines, which lends itself to some really good quality pinot noir which will pack a punch, but not crazy on the tannins if you don’t like it grippy.
If you want to go to more of a full body like a Shiraz/Syrah or a Cabernet Sauvignon, you want something richer in flavour to hold up to the leather and coffee flavours you’ll get. Hello, gamey meats!
My pick: The Winery of Good Hope Syrah, JUICED, £12. This Stellenbosch Syrah punches thick on dark fruits (plum, black cherry) and a full body in the style you’d expect from a Southern French wine at a steal of a cost.
There’s also the wines that are delectably middle of the road, which isn’t always a bad thing. Medium bodied they may be, but certainly not in flavour: Rioja or a Tempranillo wine is generally medium to slightly full bodied, but come packed with flavour and complexity. Heavenly with the fatty pork and sharp pineapple that comes with sweet and sour, and egg fried rice - obviously.
My pick: Gran Cerdo Tinto, Sip Wines, £11. Is there a better value wine than Gran Cerdo out there? Big challenge for you. Bombing together a sassy brand, balanced fruit and a keepsake bottle, you MUST try this one if you haven’t already.
You can get some floral or herbal notes in red wines in some cases: Italy is generally a good example of this, from a Chianti to a Barolo where you might pick up some oregano or violet if you’re lucky. Stick to the local cuisine here: a creamy porcini mushroom risotto or polenta will hold up fabulously here.
My pick: Definition Barolo, Majestic Wine, £24.99. Italian wine can climb very high in price very fast, and there’s a lot of dud ones out there. This one should be a good ol’ reliable.
Fruity notes are always present in reds, differ hugely. You’ll get lighter red berries and banana with a Beaujolais that would hold up lovely to a bean cassoulet with a hint of cured meat. Portugese reds (one of my fave) can often be akin to Port in christmas cakey, syrupy fruits which can make it a good choice for cheese or something sweet.
My pick: Aluado Alicantae, Laith Wines, £12.99. This is an inky wildcard to a conventional Portugese red, but it packs a near syrupy punch of dark fruits and spice. An excellent bottle to have on the table at Christmas.
Spice in red wine is generally in the form of black pepper, clove or sometimes a touch of cinnamon. A Grenache (or Garnacha in Spain) will typically be a good shout to experience this, but I wouldn’t necessarily mix this with too much spicy food - otherwise it might get a bit too much altogether. These go well with high quality meats or fished cooked well, and letting those flavours speak for themselves. Or for plant based, maybe something like Ottolenghi’s roast celeriac or a burrata would be divine actually.
My pick: Vina Zorzal Sea of Dreams Garnacha, Natty Boy Wines, £16.50. Spanish reds are coming with me to a desert island, and this peppery little number is packed in my hand luggage (assuming security isn’t a medium to get there of course, otherwise I’ll glug it before I need to go through).
Chilled reds are having something of a moment. These can be lightly chilled by popping into the fridge about a half an hour before serving, or else kept there and left out to warm up a little. While they’re making their way around bougie pubs and can be drank on their own, they can get fairly hefty after a while. Snack wise, this would go well with pork scratchings, nuts or crisps. As a main? Tuna nicoise in the summer could go quite nicely here, IMO.
My pick: Cuvée des Vignerons Beaujolais, Waitrose, £8. One suggestion had to be a Supermarket wine, didn’t it? Light wines such as Beaujolais or some Pinot Noirs are perfect for popping in the fridge to chill them ever so slightly before serving - they don’t need to be ice cold. 30 minutes will do here for this one.