MatchingFood and Wine
Key Flavours: Lemon, melon, pineapple, butter and vanilla (when oaked).
Key Regions: Chardonnay’s home is Burgundy, where it used to make the world’s finest white wines, including Chablis. For the best New World Chardonnays look for top Californian producers such as Au Bon Climat and Ramey Wine Cellars, or top Kiwi producers like Isabel, Dog Point and Felton Road.
Key Food Matches: Most Chardonnays are very food friendly wines and are excellent with poultry, pork, rich shellfish and white fish.
Key Flavours: Wet wool, beeswax, honey, apple and almond.
Key Regions: In France’s Loire Valley glorious Vouvrays and hedonistic Coteaux du Layons are produced; especially good examples are made by Domaine des Forges and Gaston Huet. From the New World it’s hard to beat South Africa where Joostenberg and Waterford Wine Estate produce world-class wines.
Key Food Matches: Dry style: Simply prepared fish and salads. Medium style: Fish in rich sauces. Sweet style: Fruit tarts and almond based pastries.
Key Flavours: Lychee, rose petal, white peach and spice.
Key Regions: The Alsace wines are undoubtedly the best, and producers Hugel and Zind-Humbrecht consistently produce the finest examples.
Key Food Matches: Dry style: Smoked salmon, spicy Thai dishes, pâtés. Sweet style: Foie Gras, fruit-based puddings.
Key Flavours: citrus and peach flavours are esp. prominent, with spicy notes of pepper and a whiff of smoke with vivid minerality and bright acidity
Key Regions: Grown primarily in Austria (signature grape) and Slovakia
Key Food Matches: Grüner Veltliner’s vivid acidity and appealing spicy quality pair it very well with all types of food: pork (esp. roast loin), sweetbreads, veal (esp. roasted), Wiener Schnitzel , Vietnamese or Thai spicy dishes, steamed lobster, grilled scallops or shrimps, sushi, bitter greens like brussel sprouts and artichoke
Pinot Gris (aka Tokay Pinot Gris in Alsace and Pinot Grigio in Italy)
Key Flavours: Pear, honey, apple and citrus.
Key Regions: Alsace’s clay-rich soils bring out the grape’s honey characteristics, while from Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region marvellously rounded, elegant and mineral-laden examples are produced.
Key Food Matches: Dry style: Pork, creamy pasta dishes. Sweet style: Rich pâtés, fruit-based puddings.
Key Flavours: Lime, green apple, petrol and honey.
Key Regions: Germany for its nervy, mineral-laden dry wines and exotic sweeties, and Alsace where the grape produces earthier and weightier dry wines aswell as some of the greatest sweet wines in the world.
Key Food Matches: Dry style: Duck and goose, wild boar. Sweet style: apple puddings, fruit desserts.
Key Flavours: Gooseberry, cat’s pee, asparagus, grass, elderflower. Highly aromatic, strongly-flavoured, grassy wines.
Key Regions: In Bordeaux it is blended with Sémillon to produce prestigious white Graves and great sweet Sauternes. It performs exceptionally well on the Loire’s chalk and flint soils of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé.
Sauvignon Blanc is also responsible for New Zealand’s most famous wine: Cloudy Bay, but Chile and South Africa are also making very good quality, rounded, fruit-driven Sauvignon Blancs.
Key Food Matches: Asparagus, green salad, fish and shellfish, Thai green curry.
Key Flavours: Apricot, peach, pear and nutmeg.
Key Regions: Viognier is most famous for the Rhône’s white Condrieu wines, but increasingly the Languedoc is producing some excellent examples; Domaine Vins de Vienne’s Viogniers are outstanding.
Key Food Matches: Rich shellfish, roast pork and savoury dishes with apricots in them.
Key Flavours: Blackcurrant, chocolate, tobacco and mint.
Key Regions: Bordeaux’s Left Bank is the variety’s home, where it is blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Producers like Frog’s Leap Winery in California make powerfully fruity, oaky reds, while Italy produces Super-Tuscans like Sassicaia and Solaia. It also enjoys particular success in the Languedoc, Australia, Chile and South Africa.
Key Food Matches: Red meat and hard cheese.
Key Flavours: Raspberry, white pepper and smoke.
Key Regions: Grenache is the major stakeholder in most red blends in the Southern Rhône, including Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It is the most extensively grown grape in Spain, (aka Garnacha Tinta) esp. in Rioja (blended with Tempranillo), but the very best Garnacha wines come from Priorato (blend it with small quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon). Grenache is undergoing a revival in Australia’s Barossa Valley
Key Food Matches: Hearty casserole, lamb, venison and game.
Key Flavours: Plum, black cherry, pepper and coffee.
Key Regions: Merlot is the most widely-planted grape in Bordeaux. It thrives on the clay rich soils of the Right Bank (Pomerol and St Emilion). It enjoys success in California, Argentina and Chile too (Andrew Will, Pulenta, Errazuriz)
Key Food Matches: Beef, lamb and calves liver.
Key Flavours: Leather, prune, chocolate and licorice.
Key Regions: Nebbiolo is hardly ever seen outside the confines of Italy’s Piedmont (the great Barolos and Barbarescos) although there has been some experimentation with the grape in California but with little success to date.
Key Food Matches: Beef, offal, rich casserole, wild mushroom and game.
Key Flavours: Raspberry, cherry, violet and farmyard (aged wines).
Key Regions: Burgundy’s Côte d’Or is the best region for Pinot Noir. New Zealand and California vie for position of best New World region; For sparkling wines look no further than Champagne where the variety is used by the top Houses in the prestige cuvées to add body and elegance to their wines.
Key Food Matches: Sparkling: Smoked salmon, oysters, shellfish. Still: Poultry, light game, salmon, tuna and charcuterie.
Key Flavours: Blueberry, blackberry, black pepper and chocolate.
Key Regions: The great Northern Rhônes are made entirely with Syrah. In S. Rhone iti blended with Grenache. The Barossa Valley is home to the greatest Aussie Shiraz wines with Penfold’s Grange being the most famous. South Africa is also making some exceptional Syrahs.
Key Food Matches: Beef casserole, rare steak, barbecued red meat and hard cheese.
Key Flavours: Strawberry, tobacco and vanilla (from the oak).
Key Regions: Tempranillo’s spiritual home is Spain’s Rioja and Navarra regions and is almost always aged in oak. In Ribera del Duero it generally sees less oak. Outside of Spain it can be found in Portugal where it appears in Port blends and Douro table wines, and in Australia.
Key Food Matches: Lamb, boar, beef, wild mushroom and mature hard cheese.
More Advice Needed?
The biggest factor determining the style of a wine is the winemaker; it is he or she who decides which style of wine to produce (e.g. sparkling, sweet, dry, etc…).
However, the style is also determined by the amount of acidity, sweetness, tannin and alcohol and it is the grapes that influence this. The main factors that affect wine style are:
Winemaker: Skills and experience
Grape Variety: the type of grape/grapes used to make the wine
Viticulture: the effect of soil type and farming techniques
Viniculture: the methods employed to make the wine
Climate: a very important factor of how the wines will taste, e.g. the more sunshine the riper the grape
Weather: the vintage difference from one year to the next. This mainly affects the Old World vineyards and is why vintage can be important when selecting wines from these countries
Is decanting necessary? The simple answer is sometimes. The two most important reasons for decanting wine are to remove sediment or to allow it to breathe.
Today, the only wines that produce sediment are those made to develop in bottle, when solids (mainly tannins) precipitate as part of the maturation process. Mature Vintage Port and Claret are excellent examples.
Letting the wine breathe allows the bouquet to develop and the harsher (tannic) elements to soften. Examples are immature Bordeauxs or Burgundies, or heavyweight Barolos.
Wines become fragile with age and can only withstand oxygen for a short time before they begin to oxidise and deteriorate, so mature wine should not be allowed to breathe.
If a wine does require aeration, simply pulling the cork isn’t good enough. This exposes only a tiny surface area of the wine and the effects of aeration are minimal.
A decanter comes in handy for this operation.Of course you could pour the wine into a jug and return it to the bottle to serve it.