Wine can be considered a beverage and food in itself and so we asked Andrew Corrigan MW to help us match food and wine for our Christmas feasts this year.
Think of wine as a seasoning for the food and the need for harmony. Don’t feel that this is a complex science! Don’t be bluffed by lots of detailed learned discussion about precise wine and food matches.
Rather than thinking of wine and food matching as a list of rules with a body of knowledge that must be learned, instead regard most food flavours as a good match for wine — assuming some common sense — and avoid the notorious clashes.
Match the “size” of the food flavour with the “size” of the wine flavour. Light-flavoured dishes are best teamed with light-flavoured wines – fuller foods require fuller wines. If you are having prawns for Christmas lunch, then match them with a light white such as Riesling.
If you’re whipping up a plate of cooked calamari with fresh lemon squeezed on it, it will team well with a young chilled Riesling, the latter having a crisp freshness yet softness and lightness. Acidic foods (pickled food, vinegar dressing) need wines of high acid (Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc) otherwise the wine will taste watery. Salt in food cancels acid and bitterness in wine and hence salt is a friend to most wines.
If you are doing the traditional Christmas turkey, or a soft meat dish such as veal or lamb, team with a lighter red – such as Pinot Noir or a softer Cabernet Merlot. A slow-cooked hearty meat dish such as beef cheek requires a big hearty red – a rich Shiraz, Durif or Zinfandel.
Food sweeter than the wine will make the wine taste thin. For sweet food, choose a really sweet wine.