Monday, March 23, 2015

Pairing Wine with British Gastro-Pub Food

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Scotch eggs and meat pies have never been known for how they pair with wines. But leave to an American couple of Scottish-Welsh origin, who recently opened a winery and restaurant compound in the Napa Valley, to begin to sort out how the two might work together (even better than with beer).

Wine's acidity can be as beneficial to a food pairing as beer's hop-driven ability to refresh. I have long been a fan of wine pairings with lots of non-Western foods. Bright acidity can take the burn off spicy Thai or Indian dishes as easily as it ca cut through the intensity of heavy or friend food.

Stacia Williams, co-owner of Cairdean Estate in the Napa Valley and sommelier for the gastro pub restaurant The Fox & The Farmer had some insightful ideas about what makes traditional UK fare work with wine.

Pairing Ideas
Williams notes that, "Traditional pub food is typically pretty heavy, mostly fried and best for soaking up large quantities of alcohol." Nonetheless Cairdean's Napa Valley outpost is trying to make these dishes a little lighter in order for them be more wine friendly, she notes. 

"If you have a dish that is rich, you want some acid [wine] .... to balance your experience." Cool climate acidic wines--whites and reds from the Loire Valley or  austere Burgundies and tight Dolcettos--will be up to the task. Williams seconds the thought noting that,  "Acidity cuts through fat, which is why we look to dishes such as foie gras, veal and triple cream brie to pair with highly acidic wines."

A Touch of Sweetness Does the Trick
As often works well with non-Western foods, and in this case richer versions of traditionally British foods, sweeter wines that are not fortified  are good pairings. They tend to have higher levels of residual sugar and lower levels of alcohol.

Williams adds that, generally speaking, Rieslings and Gew├╝rztraminers pair better with foods that have higher spice levels. For instance she pairs a Riesling with the restaurant's Squab Tikka Masala. Rieslings from Alsace will be a particularly good match as they can have a hint of sweetness, but not so much as to overpower the dish. Also New York State Rieslings, such as Dr. Konstantin Frank's "Salmon Run," also work with a wide variety of rich dishes.

She adds that, "We avoid pairing any tannic wines with food that is spicy or light. I can be caught having fish with a rich Cabernet Sauvignon, but I know it is not the 'perfect pairing.' "

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.
Photo Credit: Nash Bernardo

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