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#6: Wine with Food | ⚪️ WHITES
Arguably the pickier of the grapes for most, but with so many options to pair. Team Burgundy or ABC (Anything but chardonnay)? I may be biased, but this is a non-discriminatory, safe space.
Deep into Christmas and Winter we go. Which makes it red wine season!
Wrong, on so many levels in my book.
I’m more of a white drinker these days to red, I much prefer the slurriness to the sleepiness you get with one too many glasses (not that it happens all that much). I find it a lot more drinkable on its own, but can really sharpen or bring a good food up rather than mellow which is what you tend to get with a red.
I also enjoy the challenge and hypotheses of trauma that are behind the humble white grape. Chardonnays that are better on a salad over in a glass have made the ABC (anything but chardonnay) club popular, and there’s always that pub wine that left a head in the bowl, only for Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc never to be touched again.
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Riesling also can lead to an eye twitch at the mere name, for fear that the only style available is that of Blue Nun from the 80s and 90s. Along with windbreakers, perms, Talkboys and BN biscuits, we have moved on - despite the occasional irony.
Jancis Robinson, one of the top wine writers has a very good way of describing how food should be paired with wine: as you like it. We all have different palates and preferences, so it’s not surprising that we should experience different things and not agree with the perfect match. Same goes for food - an art, not a science always.
Without further ado, let me bring you through my take on different styles of white, and what dishes you could match them up to as a musing. But please tell me your own which I will be happy to hear about!
⚪️ Whites: Finding the food to go with the wine
Technically I should have the green emoji for white since it’s from the green grape but I could also say the same for reds coming from black grapes so… you get the jist.
Full bodied whites have, as you may guess, a lot going on. A good Californian or French chardonnay should give you an idea of this with some acidity, spice and oakiness which is a beaut when done well, and smoothly. I’d pair this up with a grilled red meat and dauphinoise potato which would be quite delectable. Yes, it will hold up to steak.
My pick: Cave de Lugny 'Les Chenaudières' 2020, Majestic Wines, £13.99. Absolute steal from just South of Burgundy, the home of the best whites (arguably) where you’ll generally get a lot more fruitiness and ripeness out. Fabulous with a hunk of cheese, cherished on its own or with richer dishes.
Lighter bodied whites such as Muscadet are generally crisp and will help complement something that needs a spritz up or where there’s quite a few flavours going on. Shellfish and other seafoods are a good shout here, as we don’t want to take that away all too much.
Wines that are middle of the road in body are what I generally feel are plump. Balanced as not too crisp, not too tutti fruity which makes for very easy drinking. Chenin Blanc from the Loire in France (Vouvray being the best) or South Africa hits the agenda for me here, which is a dream with some ceviche or a creamy prawn risotto, extra bisque.
My pick: Mullineux, 'Kloof Street' White, Natty Boy Wines, £18.99. Saffa wines are the best way to get the most bang for your buck currently for a high quality wine. This one comes full of the typical flavours you should get from a Chenin - it’s a good wildcard between serving chardonnay or sauvignon.
Buttery wines come with hints of yoghurt, cream or butter as a wine undergoes a bacterial fermentation, which generates a bit of lactic acid in the wine. Hence, the dairy is not far away, but makes for a very smooth operator. Pinot gris (which is a similar style to Pinot Grigio) generally gets this treatment, which can have hints of candied ginger if you’re lucky. This will go really well with a grilled lamb rack or even a carbonara if you fancy it - along with some smoke or spice along the way.
My pick: Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Gris Alsace, Tanner’s Wine Merchants, £19.80. This is a fabulous quality house in Alcase just on the German border, made biodynamically. Pure flavours and a richness makes this a really lovely mix with spicy food as well.
Floral wines will give you hints of camomile, elderflower or other laundry-fresh Spring notes. Soave is a Northern Italian number that flies under the radar often, but gives a light and fresh palette which would brighten up the fat in a good chicken caesar salad beautifully. Note that not all Italian whites are bland or flabby, as some may say - I personally LOVE a Gavi I haven’t managed to squeeze in here.
My pick: Pieropan Soave Classico, Slurpp, £17.95. Classico as a rough rule generally means that an Italian wine will be of better quality, but not necessarily. This pick should be a good overview of an all-too-drinkable number.
White wines that are fruity typically win hearts and minds easily. Oyster Bay fans, I’m looking at you (without judgment). Spanish whites give a fun break from the mould, such as the limey Verdejo or peachy Albariño which are still fresh and fun. Also, the Southern French Picpoul du Pinet is a firm trend that’s looking to last, and good value. These are good barbeque picks for pescis: I think grilled fish, veg or halloumi is a match made in heaven for any of these.
Aromatic whites, I have so much to say about you. These wines are typically very fruity, but have some richer undertones that can be waxy or like diesel. You’ll know these ones once you’ve tried them. Riesling, viognier and torrontés to name a few go really well with a LOT of things - but particularly with spice and umami as the splash of sweetness helps to balance them well. A good all-rounder choice if you’re out for teppenyaki, bimibab or dim sum.
My pick: Kooliburra Clare Valley Riesling, Aldi, £7.49. Aldi have some incredible wines when you veer away from the mass norms, and much like everyone should work in retail, everyone should try a Clare Valley Riesling. This comes from Australia where the wine is dry, not sweet - but tastes of barbequed pineapple with some kerosene notes. Hard to write enticingly, but it really does pack a punch.
Last but not least, sweet wines. These are often subject to further rotting or freezing on the vineyard and while it sounds quite un-glamorous, the remaining nectar is quite something. Hungarian Tojaki and Bordeaux whites generally have the best reputation here, but there’s some excellent muscat and rieslings available in many different levels of sugar, with or without fizz. They go well with, well, dessert as a dessert wine.
My pick: Ilot de Haut Bergeron Sauternes, Naked Wines, £14.99. Sauternes is traditionally drunk in its native Bordeaux with foie gras, but it also goes fabulously with seafood - and basically anything. It’s syrupy and rich in texture but more mellow and mineral in flavour… Basically, give it a bash.
I realised I haven’t added a Sauvignon Blanc in here, which - to my palette, isn’t always my favourite. But in order to not haemorrhage subscribers out of disappointment. It’s fine in my book, ok? For those that love it, give Jumping Juice a go (Juiced Wines, £23.99). It’s a Western Australian Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon blend from just outside Perth, it will keep the aromatic and fruity flavours that you’d expect in a Marlborough. It’s a little grassier, and a little sweeter, just to give it a little pzazz off what you would generally expect. And in a cute bottle!