Wine has been an accompaniment to food for centuries, providing a satisfying beverage companion to all culinary ventures. This trend is continuing today, but with an advanced methodology, as a great many diners are experimenting with wine to see which types go best with different meals, and to find out which wines not only complement meals, but which also enhance those meals.
After a recent article about a delightful food and wine pairing luncheon at Tinkabell restaurant in Harare, I was inundated with lots of readers’ questions about wine. Zimbabweans are falling in love with wine and many are keen to know more about this delicious beverage. There are a great many myths attached to wine drinking with food, and the general rule of thumb these days is; if you enjoy it, then make that match. However, it is still important to be guided by what the winemakers suggest will go best with specific foods, as they create their wines to bring out or match flavours and very often their ideas are, indeed, absolutely right.
I often fall out with the ‘‘experts’’ as I am assured that one can ONLY drink white wine with fish, or I am forced to accept that red wine MUST be served at room temperature. I enjoy red wine more than white and thoroughly enjoy my wine and food experiences when matching suitable reds with my fish meals . . . so I gracefully part with tradition!
I also note that when red wine is recommended to be served at room temperature, this is with reference to colder climates and not to hot, African summers. These days winemakers state on the bottles that reds should be served at temperatures around 15 to 16 degrees Celsius, which is way below average room temperature here in Zimbabwe, for example. Although experienced wine drinkers tend to like dry wines, there is nothing wrong with enjoyment of medium-dry to sweet wines, as these are especially popular among younger drinkers and people just starting out on experimentation with wine
At wine training sessions in Harare with which I have been involved for quite some time, I am often asked about these generalisations, and I suggest that flexibility is important, but note it is also very important to know what the ‘‘experts’’ say, as this often flows from experience and learning curves. But I also stress that wine drinking is all about enjoyment and the only strict rule is this: do it in moderation, and the rest is absolutely fine! Wine training sessions for enthusiasts and beginners alike are taking place at the moment and anyone wishing to know more about them can contact me through the e-mail address at the end of this story and I shall be happy to pass on information about them.
I have been asked by a great many readers for some ideas on linking wines and food, so today here’s some suggestions for good pairings that will provide satisfying experiences with good food and good wine. I will make just a few suggestions related to wine varieties that are commonly found and enjoyed here in Zimbabwe.
Sauvignon Blanc: this is a light and crisp white wine with high levels of acidity and citrus-type flavours on the nose and palate. Winemakers tell us to pair this wine with feta cheese, goats’ cheese, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, prawns and sushi, as well as asparagus and light or citrus-based sauces containing chives and tarragon.
Chardonnay: some chardonnay has spent quite some time in oak barrels, and is ‘‘smoky’’ or oaked, while others have no exposure to oak at all and is lighter, and less ‘‘buttery.’’ Mild, semi-soft cheeses go well with un-oaked Chardonnay, while havarti, Stilton or other blue-veined cheeses go well with oaked Chardonnay. Both styles are fine with veal, chicken, pork, prawns, crab, lobster and vegetables such as potatoes and squash. Cream and pesto sauces are perfect in combination with this wine.
Pinot Noir: this red varietal is becoming more popular in Zimbabwe and has been described as having “a beautiful juxtaposition of flavours and aromas.” Meat and poultry pairings are lamb, sausages, fillet mignon, chicken, tuna and salmon, as well as dishes featuring mushrooms, dried fruits and figs. Mushroom sauces and light red sauces are also good.
Syrah or shiraz: another great red, to be paired with cheddar, Roquefort or other blue cheeses, various nuts, game meat, pizzas, spicy sausages and salmon, as well as with braai sauces and heavy, red sauces. It’s also great with chocolate cake and coffee-based desserts. Avoid white fish, oysters and prawns with this wine.
Merlot: a popular red in Zimbabwe, and it goes with Parmesan cheese, grilled meats, steak, grilled fish, caramelised onions, tomatoes and sauces like bolognese, béarnaise. Goes well with dark chocolate, berries and fondue food.
Cabernet Sauvignon: one of the heavier reds, known as the king or grandfather of reds; pair with cheddar cheese, most venison, rib-eye steak, beef stews, curries and grilled fish. Brown sauces and tomato sauces are ideal in matching this wine.