Our second part of this blog focuses on two of the nation’s favourites. Fish and Curry Food and wine matching is a combination of making the food enhance the wine and the wine enhance the food. This doesn’t mean that you have to go out and spend huge sums of money on wines to compliment the perfect meal. There are some great value wines as well as wines you may not have considered before.
When we look at fish a high percentage of the wines that we would discuss will be white and as a result we have to consider acidity. I was always told in my early wine days to never say the word acidity when discussing wine with people. You can’t spell acidity without acid. What I have learned over the years is that acidity is key in all wine production. The challenge is to get the balance right. As consumers we naturally drink higher acidity wines, (Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio) but poor examples have low or unbalanced acidity. As a result, the wines might initially have a pleasant fruit driven character, they often however feel to full or to intense and the chances are you will find that the second and third glasses are much less pleasant. It’s not always the case but acidity is not a word to be feared in wine, its something to be embraced especially with fish.
As somebody who grew up near the mouth of the River Tyne, fish was always something I ate on a regular basis. In my younger days it was always cod and not much else but as I got older, I have found I enjoy a huge variety of fish. I love to cook and enjoy cooking with fish. I have picked a few favourites and thought about how you might pick the perfect wine to match with it.
Cod – when I cook with it I tend to oven roast it with vine tomatoes, garlic and chilli and serve with crushed new potatoes. Cod is quite an elegant flavour and quite soft when cooked like this. I tend to think of something that’s aromatic but refreshing. I enjoy a Gruner Veltliner from Austria. Whilst not hugely well known, Gruner has that lovely green, herbaceous note on the nose with notes of peeled lemon, orange and apricot. They are quite easy to find and worth seeking out.
Salmon – My favourite way to have salmon is with a teriyaki marinade with pak choi. It’s a very punch flavour with lots of tang from the mirin and ginger. The recipe I use takes 20 minutes. With my Little Wold hat firmly on the wine I pick with this is the Barley Hill. It’s a beautifully balanced and expressive wine with an aromatic and floral nose with a subtle grapefruit hint. The palate has a lovely roundness and more apple, pear and delicate citrus notes on the finish. The key with any dishes that contain aromatic foods is to use aromatic wines. Very dry wines with aromatic foods tend to bring the acidity to much to the fore and as a result you lose the fruitiness of a wine such as Sauvignon Blanc. The aromatic, “off dry” qualities of Barley Hill make this a great match.
Tuna – Tuna is the most popular fish in the UK. High percentages of that will be tinned and whilst there are plenty of things to do with tinned tuna, I do like to treat myself to tuna steaks every once in a while. If actually love it ceviche, (thinly sliced and left in lime juice). I then make a dressing with oil, lime, coriander, chilli and fish sauce. The taste is so zingy and refreshing it leaves you wanting a lip-smacking wine. Choosing a Sancerre or Pouilly Fume gives that natural dryness and zip of acidity but if you wanted something a bit more subtle try our James’ View. I think it strikes a great balance between the citrussy nature of a Sauvignon Blanc but a slightly more subtle finish.
Fish & Chips – We eat 380 million portions of Fish & Chips a year making it by far the nations favourite takeaway. You might be thinking that a pot of tea or a dandelion & burdock is the choice, and you may have a point. However, if you want to take the experience to the very highest levels, think bubbles. Whether Champagne, Cava or English Sparkling the natural acidity in Sparkling Wine cuts through the fat in the batter and compliments the fish perfectly. I was once lucky enough to try Krug Grand Cuvee Champagne, (£160 per bottle!) with Fish & Chips. The combination was sublime. Personally, I think our own Tom’s Cuvee is a great match. Its made in the same secondary fermentation method as Champagne but using the Seyval grape, widely planted on our vineyards. The nose has a subtle baked apple note with some toasty characters. The palate is fresh and light with some honeyed and toasty character coming through on the finish. Who can wait till Friday!
Whilst fish & chips maybe our favourite takeaway the nations dish is curry. Whether spicy or mild its become easier than ever to make curry at home. If you have the time making a curry paste or base from scratch is a fabulous thing to do as your house will smell incredible for days. It seems that most people tend to think of beer when they’re having curry. In my experience wine can elevate that hard work you've put in making your favourite curry.
When picking a wine to pair with curry don't assume that something refreshing, and crisp will help alleviate the heat or spice. This is similar that water won’t cool it down, you need milk for that. High acid wines like Sauvignon Blanc taste even more acidic with heat. My recommendation? use aromatic grape varieties. The likes of Riesling, Gewürztraminer, & Torrontes do a far better job of bringing to life those spices without feeling to sharp or unbalanced. They might not be what you would pick on a Friday night after a long week at work but they really come into their own here.
Personally, I like to cook a lot of Thai influenced dishes. From crab cakes to the classic Thai curry, I find the intensity of flavours amazing. Wine is a terrific match for Thai food. My favourite dish to cook is a Massaman curry. It combines potato, tamarind, coconut and peanuts. It’s not spicy but it has a subtle heat to it. I’ve tried it with Gewürztraminer and its a great match but try our Barley Hill white. It has those lovely aromatic notes lift the coconut and the tamarind but don’t dominate the overall richness of the meal.