Everybody seems to have an opinion on wine pairing these days. But is there really a definitive method, or is it ok to just drink whatever you like with any kind of food?
“Wine can be a tricky subject for some people, but for me a wine has its place based on its application or function”, says Liam Idzikowski, head winemaker at award-winning English wine producer Lyme Bay Winery.
“When people walk into our Winery, or meet us at events, they’re often coming across English wines for the first time. What’s more, English wine often doesn’t follow the rules, with its unfamiliar names of grapes and lower alcohol content, so I always suggest food pairing is the perfect place to start if you’re trying to get your head around English wine.”
Wine pairing: five basic rules
According to Liam there are five basic rules of food and wine pairing, which can help even the greenest gourmand get to grips with it:
- Acid with acid
The reason why Italian red wines go so well with pizza is because the wine has a high acidity to match that of the tomato sauce.
- Sweet with sweet
The wine must be sweeter than the food, otherwise, the acidity will seem overwhelming. While dessert wines with desserts are an obvious example, one doesn’t always have to go with extremes. On a side note, sweetness in a wine also works well to counteract the effects of hot spice.
- Contrast or handshake?
There are generally two ways to approach food and wine pairing options – Are you going to match the flavours by way of a ‘handshake’ approach, or look to cancel out certain elements via a contrast? One example of the contrast approach is using acidity to cut through fat.
- Alcohol content
Higher alcohol wines amplify the effects of certain elements in a dish and can vastly change the experience. A 14.5% ABV monster could dramatically increase the perceived spiciness of a dish, which could also in turn highlight the impact of the tannins in a wine. Our English wines typically have a lower alcohol of 11%-12% ABV and this makes them superb companions to food where delicacy and nuance is the focus.
At the end of the day, the key word to keep in the back of your mind when it comes to wine pairing is ‘balance’. Does the food overpower the elements of the wine or vice versa?
Advanced wine pairing
Once you’ve mastered the basics of food and wine pairing, it’s time to step things up a gear.
In her book The Wine Bible, wine writer Karen MacNeil urges consideration for ‘umami’ – the so-called fifth taste, which is responsible for a sense of deliciousness in foods.
“Chefs increasingly use foods high in umami, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, soy sauce, wild mushrooms, and most red meats, to build a dish, and potentially make it sensational with wine,” says Karen. “When wine and food are paired well together, adding an umami component to the food often serves to heighten the overall experience [but] dishes with high levels of umami are better with low tannin wines, to avoid undesirable bitterness.”
Wine and cheese pairing
Cheese has always been a traditional choice of food to pair with wine, so this is a great place to start getting your taste buds tantalised.
In general, there are more foods that pair well with white wines than reds, because whites lack the tannin that gives red wine its dryness and astringent mouthfeel. Tannins latch onto protein, and typically this is your tongue! However, combining tannic reds with robust red meats works well because the tannin ‘bonds’ with the meat, allowing other flavours to come to the fore.
Because cheeses are often high in acid, the handshake approach of acid with acid using a white wine works well. If you’ve got a favourite white wine already, why not try it with a variety of different cheeses and see which pairings you prefer. A word of warning though – those in the know reckon that blue cheeses don’t sit too well with most whites as their powerful flavours swamp the wine.
When it comes to pairing red wines with cheeses, the key is balance. Lighter reds go well with more subtle, creamier cheeses, whereas more intense, full-bodied reds can match the aged punch of firmer, saltier cheeses. And of course, who can fault the match-made-in-wine-heaven of a glass of port with a veiny blue cheese.
If this has got your mouth watering then we recommend piling up your cheeseboard and stocking up your cellar with the following combinations from our stable of award-winning English wines:
Shoreline mild cheddar, feta, halloumi
Sandbar goat’s cheese
Bacchus Block semi-soft cheeses, comté
Chardonnay semi soft and mildly smoked cheese
Pinot Noir Rosé parmesan
Blanc de Noirs gouda
Classic Cuvée savoury cheese dishes
Pairing Lyme Bay English wines
Whether you are new to our award-winning Lyme Bay English wines, or have been enjoying them since their launch back in May 2015, here are our top suggestions for pairing them with food.
Shoreline – View wine
Our Shoreline is a white blended wine designed to pair with the incredible seafood we have along the Jurassic coast. The wine is of a light and aromatic style, with plenty of fresh acidity and a subtle mineral/salt taste, and so naturally pairs well with shellfish and crustaceans. Take the following example: delicate brown crab, perhaps with a garlic mayo or tartare sauce to dip into. Shoreline’s light profile won’t overpower the white meat, as the salinity of the food and wine marries well (‘handshake’ with crab) and its acidity lifts elements as a wedge of lemon would whilst cutting through the fat of the accompanying dip (contrast with sauce).
Sandbar – View wine
Our Sandbar is made of 100% Bacchus grapes. In England’s climate Bacchus retains its bright, fresh acidity and as a result can work beautifully with citrus-dressed salads, mackerel and fish and chips.
Bacchus Block – View wine
Bacchus Block, our other 100% Bacchus wine, has an intense grapefruit freshness, broad tropical fruit notes and herbaceous undertones that make it a perfect wine pairing for scallops, sea bream, white meats and rich poultry, as well as asparagus and dishes in light cream sauces.
Chardonnay – View wine
Another example of a ‘handshake’ pairing would be using a light butter sauce and a light buttery wine such as our Chardonnay, as the creaminess in both elements is promoted in harmony. It is also a great match for salamis, olives, wild mushrooms and truffle, garden tomatoes and basil.
Pinot Noir Rosé – View wine
Herbaceous characters in a wine such as our Pinot Noir Rosé work fantastically well with earthy spices such as coriander and cumin. It’s also makes an ideal partner for Mediterranean flavours, grilled/seared seafood and light meats, and barbeque food.
Brut Reserve – View wine
Our Brut Reserve sparkling wine is outstanding with fish and chips because the wine has a rapier-like acidity that cuts through the fat element of the batter, leaving the delicate flavours of the white fish to show through.
Blanc de Noirs – View wine
Blanc de Noirs tend to be richer with more red fruits. Ours has earthy strawberry and cherry notes offset by a crisp acidity and a light toast finish which pairs brilliantly with roasted pork and quail, Thai food, mushrooms and root veg – and Liam recommends “oysters, oysters and more oysters”.
Classic Cuvée – View wine
A blend from the noble Champagne varieties, our Classic Cuvée has notes of lemons, peach and apricot, cooked apples, breadcrumbs, honey and almond. Its crisp and full mouthfeel makes it an ideal accompaniment for canapés, crab and lobster rolls, hazelnuts and almonds, deep-fried foods, white fish, English game birds and venison.
Sparkling Rosé – View wine
Our Sparkling Rosé still sits in the ‘Brut’ category, but with 10.2g/L residual sugar there’s enough sweetness to make it a delight with sushi and sashimi, mullet, tuna, tomato-based dishes, full flavoured duck dishes, charcuterie, desserts with red fruits such as Eton Mess – and of course a delicious Devon cream tea.
Share your pairs
If you’d like to place an order then we’d love to see you here at the Winery shop so do pop in if you are passing. Alternatively, you can always get in touch with our friendly team here at the Winery via email at [email protected] or by calling us on 01297 551355 if you’d like to order by phone.