Combinations That Work

Here’s a brief checklist of tried and tested combinations that generally work well:

Meat

  • Light meats such as chicken, turkey, pork and veal generally take on the character of other ingredients. Plainly cooked, they go equally well with light- or medium-bodied reds or whites.
  • Grilled and roast beef and lamb suit most kinds of medium or full bodied reds. Quickly sautéed meat, such as calves’ liver, is better suited to a  lighter red.
  • The stronger flavors of game suit Pinot Noir and mature oak-aged reds such as Rioja. Duck and goose, being a little fattier, often go well with Riesling.
  • Rich braises such as oxtail, venison and hare call for robust, full-bodied reds such as Barolo and Zinfandel.
  • Cold meats and charcuterie suit simple fruity reds and crisp dry whites.

Fish

  • Raw shellfish: perfect with crisp dry whites such as Muscadet (oysters and Chablis is a classic combination).
  • Cooked shellfish: luxury ingredients such as lobster, langoustines and scallops deserve a good burgundy or any other top-quality Chardonnay, or even Champagne.
  • Plainly cooked fish: crisp or smooth dry whites — not too fruity or heavily oaked. Fine fish, such as sole, salmon and turbot, will show off your best whites.
  • Oily fish such as sardines, mackerel or whitebait: a crisp, lemony white. Meaty fish like salmon and tuna, that responds well to char-grilling can take a light red.
  • Smoked fish: Try German Kabinett Riesling or a fino sherry. Smoked salmon goes well with Champagne, Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc.

Eggs

Breakfast/brunch style dishes such as scrambled eggs and omelettes: a light Chardonnay or Champagne (or a sparkling wine equivalent). These wines also suit quiche and egg-based sauces such as hollandaise and mayonnaise. Béarnaise is often better with a light red.

Cheese

Not always the marriage made in heaven you might imagine — particularly where extremely ripe cheeses are concerned. With soft unrinded and washed rind cheeses, white wine is often better than red (fresh goat’s cheese and Sauvignon Blanc is a great combination). If you’re serving cheese to finish off a red you’ve been drinking with the main course, go for a hard cheese such as Cheddar, Gouda, or even better with a fine wine, Parmesan. While not to everyone’s taste, blue cheese works surprisingly well with sweet wines. (Roquefort with Sauternes and Stilton with Port are the two classic combinations.) The best advice if you value your wine is not to overload your cheeseboard with too many kinds of cheese.

Vegetables

Uncooked or lightly cooked vegetables and salads: crisp whites and dry rosés. More robust vegetable dishes based on, say, mushrooms or aubergines can often take an equally robust red. Tricky candidates are asparagus (Sauvignon Blanc or unoaked Chardonnay), tomatoes (inexpensive white or rosé) and artichokes (no perfect solution but how often do you eat artichokes?).

Desserts

  • If you have a sweet wine that you want to show off, the best option is simple French fruit tarts (apples, pears peaches and apricots are more flattering than sharper red fruits such as strawberries and raspberries, though a little crème pâtissière (rich custard) helps).
  • Light textured puddings such as mousses, meringues and soufflés can be good with a semi-sweet sparkling wine such as Moscato d’Asti or a demi-sec Champagne. (Moscato also works well with fruit salad and lemon flavored puddings.)
  • Crème brulée is a good friend to dessert wine. Chocolate can be difficult — try an Australian Orange Muscat, a sweet red wine or a ruby or late- bottled vintage port. And for ultra sweet desserts such as sticky toffee pudding and pecan pie it’s hard to beat liqueur Muscat.

Tricky ingredients and seasonings The following are all likely to do terrible things to wine; avoid them if you can: foods that are very acidic (lemon juice, vinegar, sharp salad dressings and sour pickles); very hot (habanero chillis) or very cold (ice cream and sorbets).

Storing and serving wine


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