wine and food

Wine and food, a match made in heaven. Here are some of our pairings as well as a few general thoughts and recommendations.

Matching food and wine: a tarragon custard on raspberry purée dessert with sweet Riesling

With the raspberry season coming to an end, it is high time to write up what is one of my favourite desserts and also one of my favourite wine and food pairings: tarragon custard on raspberry purée with a lovely, sweet Riesling from the Mosel. This recipe brings together sweet, sour, acidity, bitterness, fruit and a herbal creaminess - components that are present in both wine and pudding.

You will need for this (for four): raspberries (200g), sugar (50g), fresh tarragon, 4 eggs, double cream (150ml), milk (150ml) and cocoa powder. And a sweet Riesling, of course.

Matching food and wine: how to deal with asparagus

Asparagus is said to be difficult to match with wine. The reason is that asparagus contains substances that can make wine taste bitter, vegetal and strangely 'green', sometimes even bordering on outright weird. If you stick to a few very simply rules though there is no reason to be afraid of asparagus and wine, quite the opposite - it can be an excellent match, as I discovered last weekend when I serves a Riesling with pan-fried smoaked cod and English asparagus. Read on for a little background and, most importantly, a few suggestion on how to match asparagus and wine.

Matching food and wine: oven roast pheasant and Pinot Noir

Pheasant is one of my favourite birds, and luckily it is available in abundance in England. Obviously, it is no longer in season, but as I did not get around to write this posting in winter let me invite you to join me in the memory of past delights. And to think ahead to the pleasures of next autumn. I am not only a fan of pheasant, I also adore Pinot Noir. Even better, I think the two can be an excellent match, particularly when you roast the bird in the oven and serve it with a lighter sauce and herbs.

The reason I mention the sauce is that it is actually more important to match sauce and wine than to think too much about matching meat and wine. Chicken with a spicy sauce might be good with Riesling, but in a casserole with a cream sauce it could go with a Chardonnay and if it was a red wine casserole even a heavier red might be suitable. So why pheasant and Pinot Noir then?

Matching food and wine: sparkling wine and scallops (seared, with avocado purée, peppered port-melon and avocado toast)

Ever since I moved to the UK I have been in a constant love affair with scallops. I had them before on a few occasions, but living in London makes it so easy to get fresh, hand-dived scallops for a reasonable price that they became a regular guest in my kitchen. Today I want to share a recipe that, I think, goes perfectly with a good sparkling wine:

Matching food and wine is rarely an easy task. The basic rule of fish=white, meat=red, for instance, is sometimes correct and sometimes wrong, but even when it fits it is way too general to be really helpful. Would you know whether a dover sole goes better with an off-dry Riesling, a full-bodied Pinot Blanc or an Austrian Grüner Veltliner? There just is no answer to this question as it mostly depends on how you intend to cook the fish and, in particular, what sauce you are going to serve with it (the same goes for meat, btw). What I think works best is to think about the different elements of your dish, how they will taste and what type of wine could go with it. You are serving a rich, creamy sauce? A rich and creamy Chardonnay could be a good partner. Or you are going for a roast game bird with herbs - why not have a lighter Pinot Noir with toasty aromas and herbal notes? Your wine merchant should be able to help you here. And the Wine Rambler has a few suggestions too, for instance about scallops, avocado and sparkling wine.

Rudolf May, Retzstadter Langenberg, Silvaner Spätlese trocken "Wellenkalk", 2008

Silvaner time again. After our Silvaner appreciation campaign last year, we were not planning to keep quiet about it in 2010. But it still needed Lukas Krauß engaging defense of the grape here to put it back on the immediate menu. Based on the river Main north of Würzburg, in classic Silvaner territory, Rudolf May is making his Wine Rambler debut today (he must be so nervous...).

Georg Mosbacher, Forster Elster, Riesling Kabinett trocken, 2007

When german Riesling is praised for its "finest perfume of fruit supported by a lightweight frame", it would seem that its ever-delicate balance must be so fragile that it would never survive contact with heavy, savoury food. Not so. To realise what Riesling can do with Sauerkraut, black pudding and liver sausage, you need to have tasted this classic german pairing* (do not, I repeat do not, take the Wine Rambler's word for anything).
For this, you need a Riesling that is dry rather than fruity, steely rather than floral, firm rather than ethereal. You need, in short, a dry Kabinett from the Pfalz. You also need good Sauerkraut and freshly made (raw, that is) sausages, of course. In what may simply be a local tradition or may have deeper and more sinister reasons of carnivore logistics, Munich butchers offer these every Friday.

Matching food and wine: spicy food and sweet Riesling (example: pasta with carrot-chilli sauce)

Even if you do not know very much about pairing wine and food you might have heard that wine merchants often recommend Riesling with Asian or other spicy food. Or you might have come across a few wine labels that had similar suggestions. While certain wine labels do praise a wine as compatible with pretty much any food ('This wine goes well with salads, chicken, fish and various meats.'), there is indeed a connection between some spicy food and Riesling, especially sweeter Riesling. I will not exhaust this topic tonight, but I will give an example (with recipe) to illustrate how and why sweet (Riesling) and spicy (food) can go together, based on what may be the most important rule of food and wine pairing: match a wine with the sauce (not with the meat). So here it comes, a semi-sweet Riesling from the Mosel and pasta with a chilli-carrot sauce.

Matching food and wine: braised oxtail and a Malbec from Argentina

Christmas time, a time of peace, quiet reflection and many calories. The Wine Rambler's Christmas was no different, just add a few more extra calories from lovely wine to the mix. And because combining the food and wine was such a joy, I am going to share some of it with you now. It all started with a sea bass in salt crust with a dry Muscadet, which was a pleasantly light way to kick off the festive food and wine season. After that I felt the need to be more robust and moved on to braised oxtail:

Domaine Les Hautes Noelles, Muscadet sur lie Côtes de Grandlieu, 2005

Certain ways of cooking fish and shellfish just cry out for a clean, light and crisp dry white wine - especially if you bake a whole sea bass in a salt crust. This is an excellent way to celebrate the delicate flavour of fish and it works well with a range of fish, including sea bream. Just put a little pepper and some herbs into the fish and then cover the whole fish in a dough made of salt, water and perhaps a few egg whites. This seals in all the moisture and preserves the delicate flavours of the fish. Serve the fish just with a bit of olive oil, pepper and salt, perhaps a little lemon and enjoy with very simple side dishes, perhaps just a few slices of white bread.

And make sure to select a wine that will not overpower the fish - I find a dry Muscadet works very well in this context.