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Food and wine pairing: A simple guide to help you get the perfect match

With the prediction of a three-month Indian summer heading to the UK this autumn, Ewen Crilley, Hospitality Operations Trainer at the University of Derby, discusses how best to pair food in season with wine.

By Ewen Crilley - 12 September 2017

What should I look for in food and wine matching?

Gone are the days when we simply think all red wine goes with meat and white pairs with fish. Yes, in certain cases this does apply however, we have so much access to global wines now, a consumer’s understanding of wine has grown tremendously. So, my rule of thumb is drink what you enjoy with what you enjoy!

That being said, here are some handy tips to food and wine matching:

Food that isMakes a wine tasteYou should
Sweet More Bitter and acidic Pair with sweeter wines
Savoury More bitter and acidic Take care pairing with high oak and tannins
Salty Smoother and richer Salt softens harsh tannins
Oily Less acidic Pair with higher acidic wines
Spicy More bitter less fruity Pair with light alcohol high fruity wines

Tips for buying food and wine

1. Understand what you are buying

Personally, I avoid the multiple of supermarkets. For me, it is always about quality of the produce.

2. Shop local

Speak to your butcher, a fishmonger, and the farmer who has fresh eggs, milk, vegetable suppliers or pop down the allotment. The food will last longer, be cheaper as you’re not paying for expensive packaging and, more importantly, taste amazing.

3. Visit your local wine merchants – and don’t buy cheap!

There are many locally who will post or deliver. Warehouses such as Majestic or Laithwaites are perfect, or join a buying club who send out monthly. The important thing to think about is quality. Don’t buy cheap. The value of the liquid is what you have to think about. If you buy a bottle of wine at £5 the value of the wine is under 50p. A £10 bottle of wine is double the price but six times the quality.

Great produce currently in season at the moment:

Lamb, crab, mackerel and sea trout, beetroot, courgette, artichoke, radish, spring onions, watercress, runner beans, figs, peaches, raspberries and strawberries.

Simple tasty food for me has to be easy. For summer it’s about healthy quick food, light and full of flavor:

  • Grilled beefburger, brioche bun, salad of mixed leaves, radish, peppers, cucumber and tomatoes. Paired with Pinot Noir, light red, med tannins to cut through the beef, but fruity enough to enjoy with salad.
  • Watercress salad with beans, courgette and beets to accompany grilled or BBQ meats, Steak, Chicken, Pork Steaks etc. Perfect with a Rioja or Shiraz, high in tannins to accompany the meat, smoke flavours and ages fruit.
  • Crab linguine with air-dried ham, rocket and cream pair with my personal favourite Albarino from Rias Baixas in Spain, a dry white wine with white peach notes and high acidity to balance the pasta and cream.
  • Strawberry’s and Cream or Eton Mess with a very chilled rose from California, made from Zinfandel grape, high in fruit flavours, light and range from sweet to dry or try a fizz, champagne, prosecco or cava to suit your palate. Champagne tends to have the yeasty notes and more complex in flavour. Prosecco and cava, can be light to full-bodied depending on the age. All perfect accompaniment to summer fruits.

Be adventurous

My advice is to keep tasting new and exciting ingredients. Don’t over complicate your cooking, keep it easy and simple, cook the food well and keep eating healthy. Get tasting wines, find wines you like and balance with food you like. Join a club or find a tasting night to go to.

Check out Wine Folly’s website for food matching charts.

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About the author

Ewen Crilley

Ewen Crilley
Senior Lecturer in Hospitality and Tourism

Ewen is the Programme Leader for our BA (Hons) International Hospitality Management programme. His role focuses on programme management, teaching and learning and developing student experience to ensure that our programme offers the skills, knowledge and attributes to allow our students to be successful in the industry.

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