CHEF 'S CORNER/Wine

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Matching Wine with Food 

Matching the right wine with the right food can make a vaste difference to the appreciation and enjoyment of your dining experience and some people get so concerned about it that they choose something else to drink altogether. When people first began to enjoy wine with spicy dishes in numbers, experts with their routes firmly in French tradition, recommended heavy wines and strong spicy wines such as Gewurtztraminer. The problem was that they understood the wines but not necessarily the food as it is just as important that the wine does not drown the spicing than the other way round. Normal rules suggest "like with like" is a good basis from which to operate:-

Sweet wine with sweet food ; sour food with acidic wines ; bitter with bitter ; salty food with acidic wines ; red wine with red meat ; white wine with white meat.

This is, however, two simplistic for ethnic cuisines so we give below some broad suggestions that may help. Look for advice on the menu and look for blends such as Semillon Chardonnay, and Cabernet Shiraz, and Italian wines such as Orvieto and Pinot Grigio well chilled are excellent with spicy cuisines. Oaked wines often do not work well with spicy dishes and remember - a house wine is supposed to be the recommended best value wine not always the cheapest. Wines should compliment spicy food not fight with it for prominence.

Wine type

Food type

Chardonnay - medium to full-bodied, dry

Poultry and game birds, veal and pork, rabbit, fish and pasta preparations which feature cream and or butter, mushrooms and most Indian spiced dishes when served at correct temperature. Possibly the most popular white wine.

Sauvignon Blanc - light-medium bodied, dry

Starters, seafood, most ethnic dishes, pasta, curry, salsa, tomato sauces, oil based dishes, vegetable dishes.

Chenin Blanc - light to medium-bodied, normally off-dry

Chicken, sushi, curry, Oriental dishes, pork. South African and Chilean particularly good at present served well chilled.

Traminer - light to medium body, usually semi sweet, occasionally off-dry

Spicy cuisines such as Chinese, Mexican and Indian but can be too strong for happy marriage. Some labels are excellent.

Riesling - light to medium bodied, semi-sweet to off-dry

Crabmeat, appetizers, pork, salads. Depends very much on the label. Considerably improved of late

Semillon - medium bodied dry white

Fish, foods with creamy sauces such as pasta. Very good for spicy cuisines when blended with Chardonnay.

Verdelho - medium bodied dry white

Grilled fish, fruit platters, pastas with cream based sauce

Cabernet Sauvignon - medium to full-bodied, tannic and dry

Beef, lamb, pork, duck, game, cheeses

Merlot - medium to full-bodied, less tannic than Cabernet and dry

Beef, lamb, pork, duck, game, stews, pizza, pasta, spicy dishes. One of the best house wines

Shiraz - medium to full bodied

Excellent with rich spicy meals. Veal, kangaroo, duck. Some sparkling Shiraz can be very good with pastries and puddings

Grenache - medium to full bodied dry red

Fillet steak, sweet seafood, chicken and red meats. The white Grenache can also be very good with spicy cuisines as a good value wine.

Pinot Noir - medium to light-bodied, dry, low tannin with silky texture

Lamb, duck, turkey, game birds, beef, rabbit, semi-soft cheeses

Rose - great variations depending on level of residual sugar

Smoked foods, quiche, pork, some Mexican and Thai food. Can be served with any food

Brut - dry sparkling

Aperitifs and first courses. Fuller bodied variations go well with any fish or chicken. According to scientific research sparkling wine and champagne in particular stimulate the palate and flow of gastric juices as an ideal aperitif much better than traditional sherry or Martini. Champagne raises the necessary stomach acid to 95% of its maximum level and beer is surprisingly high at 85%. Martini could only score 57% and calvados and armagnac hardly register which is why they are best at the end of a meal as an aid to digestion. Start your spicy meal with a glass of bubbly!