Samui Wining & Dining
Kentucky Fried Claret

Matching wine with modern and take-away foods.

 

18The rules of which wines go with what foods are centuries old. But these hard and fast rules are outdated, the world has moved on from the days of formally structured dinners, always with meat or fish dishes as a main course. So what about our modern foods? Who has investigated, or even taken seriously, the best wines to serve with the great American hamburger? How about settling down to a quiet evening with a good book, a good wine, chocolates and potato crisps? What kind of wine goes with pepperoni and anchovy pizza? Is there a proper wine for crispy fried chicken from Kentucky, or barbecued pork sausages, or fragrant Thai noodles, or Thai curry dinners?

    Let us begin with the ‘Big Mac’. A hamburger, regardless of its name, is made from beef. And therefore, all of the wines that usually accompany beef dishes should prevail. Try a tannin-driven Shiraz or Aussie Cabernet Sauvignon blend. If, however, there is a strong influence of tomato in the burger, in the form of a tart relish, then look towards Italy. Barolo or Barbaresco will raise the expertly char-grilled burger to gourmet status. By this stage, I expect that some of the die-hard traditionalists amongst you are choking on your Beaujolais (and likening Barolo being drunk with hamburgers to something along the lines of putting a diamond tiara on a chimp!) But you must remember that, to the new generation of wine drinkers, the old food and wine rules are an anachronism. In 21st century wine consumption, anything goes.

      Whether you have it in a restaurant, send out for it, or make it yourself, there’s nothing like a pizza. Pizza toppings, like people, vary. One can pile enough ingredients on that flat piece of dough to build it into a veritable Mount Vesuvius. What wine can accompany a mass of anchovies, pepperoni, cheese, mushrooms, peppers and all of the other imaginable (or unimaginable) possibilities? Well, the basic materials of a pizza are dairy products, and thus call for a white or rosé wine. A Californian Chardonnay (because of its fruitiness) or a dry Chenin Blanc will fit the bill. An Alsatian dry rosé is also an inspired accompaniment for the ever-popular pizza too. If however, you are enjoying a heavily meat orientated pizza, then either go with an acidic red wine, like Chianti, or better still, a dry red wine with a big flavour, like Rioja or Petite Sirah.

       At modern barbeque parties, there’s a myriad of food choices. But let’s concentrate on the red meats, often marinated in strong, woody and sweet flavours. Add to that the onions, mustard, ketchup and other condiments that will usually accompany them, and it will make the choosing of a wine very difficult. In homage to tradition, the wine should be red. And for me, the one wine that stands out for serving at barbeques is Zinfandel! Few wines fit a barbecue situation as well as a red Zinfandel. Its berry like flavour and aroma can stand up to some of the strongest foods. And a good Californian example will delight most wine enthusiasts, particularly outside of the USA, where it has yet to be fully appreciated, in my opinion.

      If you have brought home a bucket of southern fried chicken (and why not?), then a crisp and aromatic white wine will do nicely. Sauvignon Blanc, or Soave, is the kind of wine that will cut through some of the greasiness found in this type of food. And in this case, as there are no powerful flavours to compete with, it can be a subtle wine too. A Riesling could work, and a gorgeously fragrant Muscat is an obvious partner for the “secret recipe of herbs and spices.”

      So to Thai food, and Thai noodles in particular. Although I have never seen anyone drinking wine at one of the ubiquitous noodle soup stalls, it is an interesting challenge. As with any ‘wet’ food, the wine accompaniment does not come intuitively. The only way to make a wine choice is to try to balance with the ingredients, rather than the broth. Pork is the most popular meat, and is, strictly speaking a white meat, but that somehow seems to suggest lack of flavour. Not so for Thai pork. Here, it’s often cooked by double boiling in stock, which imparts strong flavours, along with a darker colour. So the meat is certainly substantial enough to carry a red wine. On the other hand, when in a soup, it still steers me in the direction of a white wine. I once attended a wine tasting featuring German wine together with a ‘piggy plate’ of hams, roast belly of pork and pork knuckle. The star matches were a crisp zesty Riesling, a rich aromatic Pinot Gris and a fruity dry Riesling. And I’m sure all these would be good companions for pork-based Thai noodle soups. And for other Thai favourites, white wines also work far better than reds. A medium sweet, medium bodied white wine is best for balancing pungent dishes, such as the famous Thai curries. Varieties like Chenin Blanc or Australian style Chardonnay blends will thrive. And if you can find them, there are some surprisingly competent Thai wines available. The white varieties are often with full body and subtle sweetness, especially blended to balance Thai food’s spiciness.

      Finally, the answer to the question “what wine to serve with a good book, chocolates and potato crisps?” In case you don’t know, chocolate and red wine are made for each other (ideally the chocolate should be bitter) - old world (Italian or Spanish) Merlot would be my first choice. And for the irresistibly tangy and salty potato crisps, like Pringles? But of course… Champagne! s

 

Peter Jame


 


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