Do you match the wine to the food or the food to the wine? And do the old adages still stand, that white wine is best with fish and red wine with meat? If wine and food matching seems like an old-fashioned rather than modern pastime to you, join the club. We’ve all heard that white wine is too light a match for a medium-rare Argentinian steak and a big bold shiraz is an overpowering wine to drink with a delicate sliver of white fish, but rules are made to be broken, such as that time when we ate fish ’n’ chips on the beach with a light-bodied pinot noir and it tasted like heaven. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?
Well, yes and no. When it comes to food and wine matching, the old rules applied because they evolved around traditional wine styles in regions where the variety of food was limited to what naturally grew or grazed in that area and was grown or caught for dinner. Today we live in a world where sushi is de rigueur and lentils and mushrooms are a perfectly valid alternative to beef bourguignon.
This column features a bunch of beautiful New Wave suggestions for modern matches, which will hopefully encourage us to throw caution to the wind and find wine and food pairings that really do taste as if they were made in heaven.
This is not the be all and end all of food and wine matches, only a new look at some classics. Try these modern matches out for size.
Great basic modern matches:
• Fish ’n’ chips: champagne or the best bubbly you can afford.
• Pizza: light reds such as beaujolais or gamay (think Amois, Easthope and Mount Edward).
• Potato rösti: chardonnay or verdicchio (if you have access to a decent bottle store).
• Roast mushrooms with parmesan: a good pinot noir.
• Sashimi: full-bodied sauvignon blanc, such as Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon.
• Tomato-based pasta: Southern Italian reds or Spanish tempranillo.
• Vegetarian burgers: full-bodied reds such as syrah or a weighty pinot noir.
• Warm olives: savoury reds such as Côtes du Rhône and Chianti.
Dinner party inspo
01 Cauliflower-topped Puy and Mushroom Lentil Pie – chenin blanc
Easthope Two Terraces
Chenin Blanc 2019, $36
Full-bodied, smooth and dry with a hint of creaminess and a citrus-meets-honey flavour profile. Winemaker Rod Easthope buys his chenin blanc grapes from the small, meticulously nurtured Two Terraces Vineyard. A must-try for all white wine lovers and a great match with cauliflower, in all its delicious forms.
02 Fresh Beetroot Carpaccio with Goat’s Cheese – dry Riesling
Mount Edward Central Otago Riesling 2019, $25
White wine with red vegetables?
It sounds like a strange match, but crunchy fresh beetroot and tangy goat’s cheese are beautifully balanced by dry riesling’s fresh lime and lemon aromas. Think of it the same way you’d use a citrusy dressing on a fresh salad. This is a match made in heaven.
03 Beetroot Fritters, Fresh Salad Leaves and Tangy Citrus Dressing – pinot noir
Dog Point Marlborough
Pinot Noir 2019, $49
Bold red summer berry flavours and ripe tannins add taut structure to this complex Marlborough pinot noir, which is made from certified organic grapes given wild yeast fermentation. The finished wine is aged for 18 months in French oak. This wine has great aging potential, but why wait when it tastes so divine with bold beetroot?
04 Lemon and Cardamon Cake with Coconut Cream – luscious riesling
Whitehaven Noble Riesling, 2018 $26
Candied apricot meets lime zest with dialled-up flavour, and together they make the perfect match for a lemon dessert, especially one with spicy notes of cardamon. Riesling is usually relegated to the sweet wine camp, but this one highlights the freshness that acidity brings to the table to balance sweet flavours.