“Quando si cerca di decidere quale vino ordinare, un consiglio utile è quello di pensare alla ricchezza e all’intensita’ del piatto che si sta per mangiare.”
_as with many things in life, when matching food and wine it can seem easier to play it safe and follow the usual rules. But if yo’re brave enough to try something new, you may well discover a truly exciting flavour combination or ingredient pairing that is a match made in heaven.
When it comes to food and wine, tradition has a lot to answer for. It was always received wisdom that you drank red wine with red meat and white wine with chicken or fish, but nowadays these pairings can seem a little old-fashioned. Sure, it’s hard to beat a full-bodied Argentinian Malbec, Spanish Rioja or Italian Chianti with a perfectly cooked, juicy steak, but very often there are several flavours on the plate, so it makes sense to think about wine with the whole meal.
For example, if you are serving a fish soup or ‘meaty’ fish such as red mullet or tuna in a tomato-based sauce, a white wine could seem weak and not assertive enough. A light red such as Pinot Noir or Beaujolais or even a rose wine, would be a much better choice.
When trying to decide which wine to order, a useful tip is to think about the richness and intensity of the dish you are about to eat. Slow-cooked lamb with olives, anchovies and garlic will demand a much more robust wine than a light dish of grilled lamb chops. In the first instance, a full-bodied red wine will be a good choice, but for lamb chops you could easily serve white.
If you are eating a pizza, think about the topping. Anchovies, tomatoes and olives will need a wine that has much more character and body, such as a medium-bodied red, while a lighter, pizza Quattro Stagione or Pizza Marinara goes well with white wine such as Muscadet or Sauvignon Blanc, which complements the acidic nature of the peas, asparagus and artichokes and is a good match for seafood.
Cured meats – salami, chorizo, prosciutto and mortadella – can be challenging to match with wine. However, they are meaty, with salty and spicy elements to them, so a red wine can work very well. For something unusual, try a sparkling red, such as Lambrusco which is light, flavourful and zesty, or even champagne. The acidity and sparkling nature of these wines is a good contrast with the rich fattiness of the cured or smoked meat.
One of the most conventional pairings has to be cheese and wine, with red wine automatically being offered along with the cheeseboard. But this is another fallacy. Cheeses come in thousands of types, with many characteristics: just think about a creamy yet sharp Gorgonzola, a nutty Parmesan, sweet manchego or tangy Cheddar. Each of these needs a different drink to highlight its best characteristics. Many cheeses go well with beer – the light, hoppy, yeastiness of beer seems to accentuate the flavours in a cheese. A nutty, sweet cheese even works well with fortified wine – as served in Spain, where cured meats and cheese tapas are traditionally eaten with dry or even medium-sweet local sherry.
A surprising pairing is dessert wine, made from Moscato grapes, with cheese. A wine such as a French Monbazillac works well, as does Vin Santo or Passito. The latter, made from dried grapes in Sicily, where the fierce heat intensifies the wine’s raisiny, spicy flavours, is excellent with cheese. Just as you could easily eat fresh grapes with your cheeseboard, drinking a wine made from dried grapes offers a more intense taste experience. Try it with blue cheese or something piquant. You won’t regret it.