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Wine with Food

Wine with Food





                                                                                                                        

 
This page is very much entwined with Wine Descriptors
here.


Contents

Introduction here

Overview here

Index here

Entire extract here
 
Contact here
      



 



                                                                                                 
 

Introduction


This page comprises two extracts from The Quick and Easy Way to Choosing Wine with Food, K McWhirter & C Metcalfe, 1989, St Michael  as depicted.

The first extract provides an overview and the second gives a lot more material on "The Taste of Wine".

The book has been chosen as it is a very good read.  More will be made of it in due course.  I am sure you will enjoy the sample here and that you will go on to explore the main extract here.  There is an Index here.

The book only measures 12cm by 19cm or 5" by 71/2" but it is packed with highly-readable and useful information.  Alas, it is out of print and this page goes a long way to improving the situation. 

Alan F Harrison
(Prof)
   
         


 


Overview comprising short passages.
 
  
 

Terms are generally highlighted at first mention on a page.  "Descriptors" are in blue text, specifically-wine mentions and headings are in pink text, and where the authors relate the wine to food, it is in green text.   The terms are on the related page here in list form and you can delve into many more later.                                                                                                                                                        
 

Acidity

If the food you are trying to
match contains an acidic ingredient such lemon juice, vinegar, tomatoes or sharp fruits, aim for an appropriate level of acidity in the wine you choose. A wine with low acidity will taste dull with a sharp sauce or a tart fruit pudding. Acidity in a wine can also be used to counteract richness in the food (from oil, butter, fat—especially from deep frying—or from cream and egg yolks), rather as you might squeeze lemon onto fried fish, or sprinkle vinegar over your fish and chips to make them taste less greasy.

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Tannin acts as a preservative, so growers making wines for long ageing will make them very tannic and initially quite undrinkable. Apart from tasting unpleasantly tough, the tannin masks the wine's fruitiness. This tannic flavour diminishes with time. Wine producers in most areas try to make their simpler wines low in tannin so that they are soft and fruity enough to drink immediately.

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Sweetness
 
It's not as easy as you might suppose to judge just how sweet a wine is. Even professional wine tasters get thrown off track by various other constituents of the wine. High acidity in wine reduces the sensation of sweetness. Alcohol itself tastes slightly sweet, and you may therefore judge a dry but alcoholic wine to be medium dry.
 
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We're all aware that white and rosé wines come in varying degrees of sweetness, but most red wines contain a little natural sugar, too. Even the driest wines usually contain a little sugar—'residual sugar', as it's known in the trade: the last little bit the yeasts didn't manage to convert to alcohol during the fermentation.

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Oak
 
Think of the smell of the woodshavings in a carpenter's shop, or the smell of a recently sharpened pencil.  …  Sometimes oaked wines smell and taste rather coconutty—the Australian Semillon is a good example—or of vanilla, like the Marques del Romeral Red Rioja Gran Reserva. Sometimes oak produces a rather savoury, spicy flavour. (Oaks grown in different places taste different.[Not an idea one thinks of until told.)

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Melon

Originally a Burgundy grape, this variety is now almost restricted to the Muscadet region of the Loire estuary. You'll never see it named on the label, but you can be sure that nothing else goes into Muscadet. It has a rather bland flavour, sometimes with a slightly salty or yeasty tang, and it has high acidity except in really hot years. Muscadet is a good choice to partner bland or delicately flavoured foods that need a wine with highish acidity. True to reputation, it's a good match for fish and seafood, but also for vegetable and pork dishes.

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Gamay

Boiled sweets or fruity bubble-gum flavour is the trademark of the Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais. The pinky-crimson colour of Beaujolais is typical of the wines it makes, and Gamays are generally lightish in body and very fruity, with tangy acidity and little tannin—which makes them soft and gulpable.

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Pinot Noir

Burgundy's great red grape makes fine, fruity reds with scents and flavours reminiscent of raspberries and strawberries, sometimes made more complex by pleasantly vegetal, gamey, 'rotty' or 'composty' aromas—which may sound repulsive, but actually taste delicious. ...

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CHANGES IN FLAVOUR AS WINES MATURE

A wine's flavours and characteristics change with age, sometimes for the better, often for the worse, and this will affect the way that wine combines with food. Elderly vintages aren't necessarily better wines than those only one year old. Many wines, especially inexpensive ones, are deliberately made for drinking young, fresh and fruity, and they may taste extremely dull if you hoard them up for a year or two.   .....
 
Any wine you buy at Marks & Spencer will already have gone through this 'ugly duckling' stage, and will be ready for drinking now.


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Index
 

Make your choice below and return here to find the page. 

 

79  80  81  82  83  84  85  86

87  88  89  90  91  92  93  

94                                                                                                        

   
a

acidic 81
acidity, crisp 89
acidity, fresh 89
acidity, steely 89
 
acidity, tangy 89
                  90 91
acidity, tangy 91
acidity, tart 93
alcohol, lowish 89
alcoholic 83
alcoholic 92
appley 87
appley 87
aroma, muted 90
aroma, sweetish 90
aromatic style 89
 
astringent, slightly                       
                     93





b

balance, drinkable                         
                 94
big 90 92
bigger 91
bitter 80
bitterly tannic 93
blackcurrants 85 91
blackcurranty 91
bland 88
body 91 93
body, fuller 90
boiled sweets 91
 
bone dry 90
 
bubble-gum, fruity                           
                      91
buttery 86 87










c

cachou sweets 87
character, minty 91
characterful 86
cloying 80
coconutty 85
colour 91
composty 92
crisp 79
 
crisp acidity 89
 
currant, flowering
                   89


















 
 
d

delicious 92 94
delicious tang 84
driest 83
 
drinkable balance
                  94
dry 83 87 89
dry,bone 90
dull 80 94
























e

easy to drink 92
 
easy-going 92
 
elderflower 89
 
extra-complex flavour 87


























f

fine 86 90 92 94
finer 94
firmness 93
 
flat 79 80
flavour, extra-complex 87
flavour, muted 90
flavoured, richly 90
flowering currant 89
flowery 89
fragrant 91
fresh 79 94
fresh acidity 89
fruit, good 84
fruitiness 81 85
 
fruity 81 85 86 92
         93 94
 
fruity bubble-gum
         91
fruity, vibrantly 85
full 92
full bodied 81 82
full body 87
 
fuller body 90
 
 
g






gamey 92
good fruit 84
gooseberries 85 89
grassy 86 91
gulpable 91 93































h

heavier 82
heavy 82
herby 93 94
honeyed 87 89 94

































 
i

inky purple 91
















































jk




































l

light 86 92 93
light and fruity 81
light bodied 82
light body 89
lighter 82
limey 89
liquorice 92
lively 79
 
lowish alcohol 89
 
luscious sweetness
             84
 
lychee 87


 
 
 
m

mature 93
medium 83
medium bodied 81
medium body 87
medium dry 83
 
medium-sweet style
              87
mellowly fruity 94
metallic 81
minty character 91
mouth-puckering 80
 
muted aroma 90
 
muted flavour 90
 
 
 
n























o

oak 85
 
oaky 93






















 
 
 
p

pencil 85
 
peppery character
              92
plummy 92
prunes 92
pungent 87 90
pungent tang 84













 
q






























r

raspberries 85 92
raspberry-fruity 93
red 91
rich 87 90 93
richly flavoured 90
ripe-tasting 87
rose petals 87
 
rotty 92




















 
 
s

salty tang 88
savoury 85 93
 
sharp, undrinkably
             94
sharply acidic 94
sharpness 79
 
slightly astringent
             93
soft 80 81 90 91 92
       93
steely 79
steely acidity 89
strawberries 85 92
subtle 85
sweet 83 89
sweetish 92
sweetish aroma 90
 
sweetness 80 82 83
 
sweetness, luscious
                  84


t

tang 90
tang, salty 88
tang, yeasty 88
 
tangy acidity 89 90 91
tart acidity 93
tartness 79
toasty 89
tough 91 92 94
 
toughish tannin 93



















 
u

'ugly duckling' 94
unctuous weight 82
 
undrinkable 81
 
undrinkably sharp 94































v

 
 
vanilla 85
vegetal 92
vegetal 94
 
vibrantly fruity 85
 
 
w

 
 
weight 82
weighty 90
woodshavings 85





x










y

 
 
 
yeasty tang 88
yellow 90
young 94
young 94

 
z










   
     





                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Taste of Wine
 
Acidity                                                                             
 
Lemon juice and gooseberries both contain so much acidity that they make your tongue curl up in disgust—unless their effect is diluted by other foods, or counteracted by lashings of sugar. Too much acidity in a food or wine makes it taste sour. Too little can make it taste flat. Imagine a salad dressing or mayonnaise with too little vinegar or lemon juice. Think of the difference between a bland, low-acid Golden Delicious apple and a crisp, sharp Granny Smith. Some foods simply need a certain sharpness or tartness to liven them up. So it is with wines. 'Crisp' or 'steely' are typical wine-tasting terms for wines with fairly high acidity. Acidity makes a wine taste fresh and lively. Wines with insufficient acidity taste flat. But ad-
  



 
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equate acidity comes in varying doses. Wines with pleasant but fairly use acidity are termed 'soft'. How acidic a wine tastes also depends on its sweetness. Just as sugar softens the effect of the acidity in gooseberries, sweetness in a wine masks its own acidity. So sweeter wines need a higher acidity if they are not to taste flat and cloying. Young, expensive wines sometimes taste excessively tart. Acidity acts as a preservative, and wine destined for long ageing tend to be made rather acid at the outset.This acidity softens as they age.
 
If the food you are trying to match contains an acidic ingredient such lemon juice, vinegar, tomatoes or sharp fruits, aim for an appropriate level of acidity in the wine you choose. A wine with low acidity will taste dull with a sharp sauce or a tart fruit pudding. Acidity in a wine can also be used to counteract richness in the food (from oil, butter, fat—especially from deep frying—or from cream and egg yolks), rather as you might squeeze lemon onto fried fish, or sprinkle vinegar over your fish and chips to make them taste less greasy.  ….
 

Tannin                                                                             
 
Imagine drinking a cup of strong, milkless tea that's been left to stew for ages in the teapot; chewing pomegranate pith; or accidentally chewing grape pips while eating grapes. That mouth-puckering, bitter taste, leaving a hard and furry feeling on the roof of your mouth and between your gums and cheeks, is tannin. Tannin is an important constituent of red wines, but some contain much more than others. It comes from the skins, pips and stems of the grapes, and, if the winemaker has matured the wine (only a more expensive wine) for some time in new oak
  
 
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barrels, some tannin will also have leached out of the barrels into the wine. Some grape varieties have much more tannin in their skins than others—Cabernet Sauvignon, an important grape in claret, has lots, while the Beaujolais grape Garnay has much less.  … White wines contain very little tannin—it's usually impossible to taste what little there is—because in white winemaking, the grapes are squeezed and the skins discarded before fermentation. Rosé wines contain a little tannin.
 
Tannin acts as a preservative, so growers making wines for long ageing will make them very tannic and initially quite undrinkable. Apart from tasting unpleasantly tough, the tannin masks the wine's fruitiness. This tannic flavour diminishes with time. Wine producers in most areas try to make their simpler wines low in tannin so that they are soft and fruity enough to drink immediately.
 
Only the softest of red wines, such as Beaujolais, Fleurie,French Country Wine or Gamay, are really good to drink on their own without food. Without the softening effect of food, even moderately tannic wines taste rather hard. But rich, flavourful foods such as venison, wild duck or casseroles cooked in red wine can tame even a very tannic wine. Like acidity, tannin can be of use with fatty foods to cut through and counteract their greasiness. But a tannic wine can completely overpower even quite flavoursome dishes, and tannin may react with certain foods (such as spinach, egg yolks or some fish) to produce a disagreeably metallic taste. Broadly speaking, the red wines in the 'Wines at Marks & Spencer' chart are progressively more tannic as they ascend the categories from 'light and fruity' through 'medium bodied' to 'full bodied'.
 
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Weight
 
It always seems a rather shocking statistic that over half our human bodyweight is made up of water. Unsurprisingly, wines are even wetter than human beings—over 80% of most wines is water. Apart from acidity, tannin, colouring matter, sugars and a large number of trace compounds, much of the remaining bulk of the wine is alcohol. And it's principally the degree of alcohol that makes a wine feel heavier or lighter, full or light bodied, in your mouth. (The sugar in sweet wines also gives them an unctuous weight, and the weight of a wine is also affected to a certain extent by the quantity of natural colour and flavour constituents it contains.) …
 
About the lowest alcohol level you'll come across in a wine that hasn't been de-alcoholized …  Any wine of under 10% alcohol tastes light, however. Any wine over 12.5% feels 'heavy' when you take a gulp. Most wines have somewhere between 9% and 13% alcohol. Hot countries tend to produce stronger wines than cool-climate regions.
 
Light wines are best matched with more delicately flavoured food; heavy, alcoholic wines seek robust flavours in a meal.
 
 
Sweetness
 
It's not as easy as you might suppose to judge just how sweet a wine is. Even professional wine tasters get thrown off track by various other constituents of the wine. High acidity in wine reduces the sensation of sweetness. Alcohol itself tastes slightly sweet, and you may therefore
 
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                                                                                      judge a dry but alcoholic wine to be medium dry. Labels are often even less of a help than an actual mouthful. EC legislation leaves labellers a lot of scope. There are upper limits for the amount of sweetness in wines labelled 'dry' and 'medium' and so on, but they are set fairly high. What actually goes on the label is left very much to the marketing eye of the people selling the wine. We tend to think it's smarter to drink drier wine, and wines that taste quite sweet occasionally get labelled 'medium dry'.       

We're all aware that white and rosé wines come in varying degrees of sweetness, but most red wines contain a little natural sugar, too. Even the driest wines usually contain a little sugar—'residual sugar', as it's known in the trade: the last little bit the yeasts didn't manage to convert to alcohol during the fermentation. Sometimes winemakers stop their yeasts fermenting at an early stage, to leave a higher proportion of residual sugar than normal. But the easy way to sweeten up an unfortified wine (and much more common in the case of cheaper wines than stopping the fermentation) is to add some sweet grape juice or sweet wine before bottling. Most German and English wines are made dry and then sweetened up in this way.
 
The finest sweet wines are made from grapes that have been attacked in the vineyard by an evil-looking mould called botrytis or noble rot. The same grey botrytis mould that tots your tomatoes and strawberries can do
 
 
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wonderful things to wine grapes, given the tight weather conditions. In warm, damp autumn, the mould feeds off the water inside the grape and causes all sorts of chemical changes to the grape juice that leave it with a delicious, pungent tang, lots of fresh acidity, and a luscious sweetness. Sauternes is made with 'botrytized' grapes, as are the best sweet wines of the Loire, such as some Vouvrays.
 
Matching sweet wines with sweet foods is primarily a question of picking a wine that's about as sweet or just a little sweeter than the food. Very sweet food will make a less sweet wine taste dry and dull, and a very sweet wine will make a less sweet pudding taste as if it's been cooked up for weight-watchers.
 
Surprisingly, sweet wines sometimes go well with savoury foods, too. Sweetness is a good foil for saltiness. That's why sweet wines go so well with some cheeses. In the Sauternes district of Bordeaux, one of the locals favourite ways of drinking their wines is with Roquefort cheese. They also drink it with savoury foods such as foie gras and pâté de foie gras. You'd be surprised how well sweet wines go with chicken liver pâté. And sweet or sweetish wines often suit a savoury dish cooked with fruit, sweet wine, or cider, such as rabbit with prunes, or Normandy pheasant (cooked with apples). The pungent tang of botrytized wines makes them go especially well with salty foods, and makes them a good match for some sharp fruits.
 


Fruitiness                                                                                                             
 Any well-made young wine starts out in life tasting very fruity. 'Good fruit', a typical professional tasting note, doesn't necessarily mean taste of grapes, however. Only Muscat grapes and one or two less common varieties turn out wines that really taste of fresh grapes. The initial
        


 
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flavour of the grapes is more often transformed during fermentation to a complex fruity flavour reminiscent of other fruits such as blackcurrants, raspberries, gooseberries or strawberries. This isn't just a wine-writer's fantasy: there are certain flavour compounds common to these fruits and to some wines.
 
A certain level of fruitiness is essential for a wine to be enjoyable with or without food. If you're drinking wine on its own, as an aperitif or at a party, a young, very fruity wine will be most pleasurable. With food, wines with more subdued fruit (Frascati, for instance) sometimes go better than a vibrantly fruity wine that may overpower the food flavour. Foods cooked with fruit need a very fruity wine, however: they would make a less fruity wine taste dull.
 

Oak
 
Think of the smell of the woodshavings in a carpenter's shop, or the smell of a recently sharpened pencil.  …  Sometimes oaked wines smell and taste rather coconutty—the Australian Semillon is a good example—or of vanilla, like the Marques del Romeral Red Rioja Gran Reserva. Sometimes oak produces a rather savoury, spicy flavour. (Oaks grown in different places taste different.[Not an idea one thinks of until told.)
 
Why oak? Winemakers age wines in oak barrels with the express purpose of overlaying their natural flavour with the added complexity of oak. Some even ferment their white wines in oak to achieve this. All the top wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy are aged in this way, and oaked wines are popular in Australia, too. Oak barrels are expensive (between £300 and £400 [1989 prices] for a 300-bottle size), and they can be used only for five years or so before the succession of wines occupying them has leached out all the flavour they have to give. So naturally it's the most expensive wines in a producer's range that get treated to a spell in young oak barrels. Wines may be left in new or newish oak barrels for anything from two months to about two years, though rarely longer.
 
For most wine-drinkers, oak flavour is at its best when very subtle, a gentle spicy-savouriness just overlaying and slightly subduing the fruity flavours. This savoury flavour blends well with a lot of savoury food flavours. Smoked foods, in particular, go very well with oaked wines—mild smoke with gentle oak flavours, stronger oak with stronger smoke.
 
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GRAPE FLAVOURS                                    

 
Hundreds of grape varieties are used to make wine, but only a smallish proportion of these can be turned into characterful or fine wine. Just like different varieties of apples or other fruits, different grape varieties have their own distinctive flavours. A Granny Smith apple will always taste tarter than a Golden Delicious, and less sharp than a Bramley cooking apple, and in the same way, some grapes tend to make sharper wines than others, some red grapes make very tannic wines, some turn out really fruity wines, some make wines suitable for long ageing, and so on.
   






Some wines are a blend of many varieties, but many wines are either made from a single grape variety, or a blend in which the flavour and characteristics of one variety are dominant. We explain on the following pages what the wines of each variety taste like, how they vary in different parts of the world, and how their flavours and characteristics combine with food.
 
 
 
WHITE GRAPES
 
Aligote

Burgundy's second-best white grape after the great Chardonnay. It usually makes light, tartwhite wines with a grassy, buttery flavour, but the Marks & Spencer version is softer and easier to drink than most. Except in hot years, Aligote wines have a high acidity, and it's this acidity that you need to bear in mind when matching it to food. The label will always say 'Aligoté'. Most Aligote goes especially well with tangy or sharp food containing lemon or lime juice or vinegar, but the Marks & Spencer wine makes a good match with many fish dishes, and partners chicken and turkey exceptionally well. …
 
 
Chardonnay

The great white grape of Burgundy and Champagne has been adopted by practically every winegrowing country and region in the world, to make either pure Chardonnay wines or to boost the flavour of their own native varieties in a blend. In temperate areas such as Burgundy
 
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and, especially, Chablis and Champagne, it makes wines with fairly high acidity, and the finest wines have a rich, buttery flavour. Cheaper Chardonnay wines tend to be quite light, appley and slightly buttery. Hot- country Chardonnays can be very heavy and rich, very ripe-tasting. More expensive Chardonnays (especially in Burgundy, Australia and California) are often aged in oak for an extra-complex flavour. Except on examples from Burgundy, Chablis and Champagne, the label will almost always say 'Chardonnay'. Styles of Chardonnay are so varied that Chardonnay wines can be paired with a vast range of dishes.   …
 
 
Chenin Blanc

This is the white grape of the western end of the Loire, grown throughout the vineyards of Anjou, Saumur and Touraine, though it is rarely mentioned on the label. It makes wines of fairly high to very high acidity, with an appley, honeyed flavour. Most are dry or nearly dry, but in those parts of the Loire that experience especially warm and humid conditions in the autumn, Chenin grapes develop noble rot (see pages 83 to 84), and make sweet, slightly pungent, markedly honeyed wines. Chenin wines go well with foods that themselves contain high acidity, and the medium-sweet style is very useful for matching slightly sweet savoury dishes, such as Marks & Spencer's duckling a l'orange. …
 
Gewürztraminer

This richly flavoured grape is grown in modest quantities in various parts of the world. In Alsace, it almost always makes dry wines of medium to full body, with a very characteristic smell and flavour reminiscent of the Chinese fruit lychee, rose petals or cachou sweets. It's so strongly flavoured that it's hard to match with food, but it is a brilliant match for sweet peppers, good with onion dishes, and goes remarkably
 
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well with a variety of cheeses, including Cheddar, Chaume, Emmenthal, goat's cheese and Roquefort. This grape will always be named on the label.  …
 
Melon

Originally a Burgundy grape, this variety is now almost restricted to the Muscadet region of the Loire estuary. You'll never see it named on the label, but you can be sure that nothing else goes into Muscadet. It has a rather bland flavour, sometimes with a slightly salty or yeasty tang, and it has high acidity except in really hot years. Muscadet is a good choice to partner bland or delicately flavoured foods that need a wine with highish acidity. True to reputation, it's a good match for fish and seafood, but also for vegetable and pork dishes. …
 



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Muscat/Moscato/Moscatel

Muscat wines smell and taste very strongly of grapes—which, believe it or not, you can't say of many other grape varieties. Left to ripen on the vine until well into the autumn, Muscat grapes get very sweet indeed, and are ideal for making sweet wines, though Muscat is turned into dry wines in some places, notably Alsace. The Italians tend to make their Moscato sweet and fizzy or slightly fizzy, and very low in alcohol. Sometimes, very sweet fortified Muscat wines are made by adding alcohol to the fermenting juice before much of the sugar has had time to be converted to alcohol. The label almost always mentions Muscat. Sweet Muscats go well with strongly-flavoured desserts and puddings (such as Christmas pudding), and the fuller ones can cope with assertive food flavours such as chocolate, coffee and peppermint. ….
 
 
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Riesling

Riesling is a name that has been much abused. The dull, insipid grapes that masquerade under names such as Laski Riesling, Italian Riesling or Welschriesling have nothing to do with the true Riesling whatsoever. True Riesling—and you can assume that plain 'Riesling' on the label, without 'Laski', 'Olasz', or any other strange description, is the real thing—refers to the variety grown in the Rhine, which makes the best of Germany's wines.
 
Grown in a cool climate such as Germany's, Riesling wines have very fresh, crisp, sometimes steely acidity, light body, lowish alcohol and a flowery, honeyed flavour. Dry ones do exist, but most sold in Britain are sweetish. Australia grows a lot of proper Riesling, too, but it ripens much more thoroughly in the Australian sun, and Australian Riesling is a more alcoholic, softer wine, with lower acidity and a limey, toasty flavour. Rieslings often taste a touch sweet, even if the label says 'dry'.
 
Sweetish German Rieslings are difficult to match with food because of their combination of sweetness, acidity and flowery flavour. They are best drunk as party or aperitif wines. Australian Riesling goes better with food, especially foods with a very slight sweetness, perhaps from onions or other vegetables. ….
 
Sauvignon Blanc

In white wines from Northern Europe, this is an easy grape to recognize because of its
tangy acidity, and pronounced aroma and flavour—reminiscent of gooseberries, elderflower or flowering currant. (Home-made elderfiower wine often has a very similar smell.) Bordeaux usually produces a slightly softer, less aromatic style of Sauvignon than the Loire. Sauvignons from hotter places (Australia and California)
 
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usually have more muted aroma and flavour, fuller body and less 'tang'. The name 'Sauvignon' only sometimes features on the label. Sauvignon goes especially well with dishes containing onions, leeks and garlic, and the softer ones from Bordeaux are extremely versatile, combining happily with a vast range of foods. …
 
Semillon
 
Along with Sauvignon, Semillon is an important white grape of Bordeaux. It makes quite rich, soft, yellow wines with fairly low acidity and a sweetish aroma even when bone dry—gentle dry whites in Bordeaux (sometimes pepped up with Sauvignon) and big, weighty, richlyflavoured wines in Australia.
 
In Sauternes, it gets converted by noble rot (see pages 83 to 84) into a fine, pungent sweet wine, with tangy acidity concentrated by the botrytis mould. The grape will be named on the label of some dry Semillons, but rarely on sweet ones. Semillons vary so much in style that they go with a vast range of foods. Australian Semillon is a good match for many spicy Indian dishes. …
 
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            I.


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RED GRAPES
 
Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Sauvignon is the great red grape of Bordeaux, and it has been 'borrowed' by winemakers all around the world. It has a deep red colour or even, when young, an inky purple, and a rich flavour reminiscent of blackcurrants, sometimes with a minty character, too. Cheaper Cabernets can be very soft and fruity, but finer ones tend to have a lot of tannin and are therefore fairly tough when young, though they become softer as they mature. In Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with Cabernet Franc, which makes similar wines but lighter in colour and body and a bit more fragrant and 'grassy', as well as with Merlot (see below), but the blackcurranty flavour is usually dominant. The minty flavour is often dominant in Australian Cabernet, and the Australians make a big, strong, fruity and very flavourful blend with Shiraz (see below). Young Cabernet wines need food with a medium to-strong flavour, though as they age and become more delicate, they can partner subtler but still flavourful foods. Cabernet goes particularly wonderfully with lamb, and light ones go well with beef. ….
 
 
Gamay

Boiled sweets or fruity bubble-gum flavour is the trademark of the Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais. The pinky-crimson colour of Beaujolais is typical of the wines it makes, and Gamays are generally lightish in body and very fruity, with tangy acidity and little tannin—which makes them soft and gulpable. The exceptions are the finer wines of Beaujolais such as Moulin-à-Vent, which is a bigger wine with more tannin. This tastes a
 
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little tougher, though it is still light and easy-going for a red. Beaujolais never names its grape on the label, but Gamay wines grown elsewhere will always be called 'Gamay'. The Gamay's good acidity makes it an excellent red choice for fatty foods such as duck and its fruity flavour goes well with dishes cooked with fruit. It goes extremely well with beef, pork and ham. Because of its lack of tannin, red wine from the Gamay is a good choice to serve on its own at parties. …
 
Grenache

This southern French grape is responsible for a lot of the red wines of the Rhine, usually blended with a number of other local varieties. It makes full, soft reds, often with a spicy or peppery character, which go very well with spicy foods, but also with other full-flavoured dishes and many types of meat. The grape is rarely named on the label.
 
 
Merlot

One of the three great red grapes of Bordeaux, where it is often blended with Cabern
et Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. It makes fairly big, plummy, sometimes alcoholic wines with a sweetish taste, even when all its sugar has been fermented out. It can be fairly tough and tannic (though not as tannic as Cabernet Sauvignon), but cheaper versions are often quite soft and easy to drink. This softer style goes well with plainly cooked white meats such as chicken and turkey. …
 
 
Nebbiolo

This North-West Italian grape makes big, tough, tannic wines sometimes labelled simply 'Nebbiolo', and sometimes appearing under names such as Barolo and Barbaresco. It can have a perfume and flavour reminiscent of liquorice and prunes. Nebbiolo wines overpower most foods, but are good with kidneys, venison and Camembert.
 
 
Pinot Noir

Burgundy's great red grape makes fine, fruity reds with scents and flavours reminiscent of raspberries and strawberries, sometimes made more complex by pleasantly vegetal, gamey, 'rotty' or 'composty' aromas—which may sound repulsive, but actually taste delicious. All Pinot
 
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Noir is fairly pricey, but the cheaper wines can be quite light and soft, increasing in body and firmness along with the price. Expensive Burgundies can be bitterly tannic until they are really mature, and they often have an oaky flavour (see page 85). Pinot Noir generally has fairly high acidity, especially the wines produced in cool years. Pinot Noir is one of the few great stars among wines for drinking with cheese—it goes well (unlike most wines) with a wide variety of cheeses including Cheshire, Cheddar, Gruyere, Chaume and Munster. Its 'rotty' flavours are also a brilliant match for game—pheasant, for instance. …
 
 




Sangiovese

Savoury, fruity, herby, often slightly astringent reds are made throughout Central Italy from the Sangiovese grape. The vine comes in various strains, making wines of varying quality, and there's a big variation in winemaking styles, too, giving wines that range from the light and gulpable to the big and rich. They often have quite tart acidity and the bigger ones may have toughish tannin. The flavour is a good match for kidneys and strong game flavours such as those of wild duck, grouse, hare or venison. They also go with a number of difficult-to-match cheeses: Camembert, Brie, Munster, Roquefort and Chaume. …
 
 
Syrah/Shiraz
 
Inky-black, rich, intensely raspberry-fruity, tannic wines, with a smell and flavour slightly reminiscent of tar. The Syrah is the single red grape variety of the Northern Rhône, and it's widely grown in Australia, where it's known as the Shiraz, and where it's often used for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon. Syrahs need strong, powerfully flavoured food, and they are among the few wines that can stand up well to Indian spices.  …
 
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CHANGES IN FLAVOUR AS WINES MATURE

A wine's flavours and characteristics change with age, sometimes for the better, often for the worse, and this will affect the way that
wine combines with food. Elderly vintages aren't necessarily better wines than those only one year old. Many wines, especially inexpensive ones, are deliberately made for drinking young, fresh and fruity, and they may taste extremely dull if you hoard them up for a year or two. Finer, more expensive wines generally develop more complex and interesting flavours as they age (spicy, herby, vegetal and honeyed), and various elements of their make-up soften and round out—they become less tough and tannic, less sharply acidic, and more mellowly fruity. Wines intended for ageing are made with more of all of these constituents (and hence may seem undrinkably sharp and tough when young) so that one day all the parts will come into delicious, drinkable balance. Some grape varieties are capable of making wines more suitable for ageing than others: the more expensive Chardonnays, Rieslings, Chenin Blancs, Semillons, Cabernet Sauvignons, PinotNoirs, Merlots and Syrahs are the main ones (see pages 86 to 94 for wines made with these grapes).
 
Any wine you buy at Marks & Spencer will already have gone through this 'ugly duckling' stage, and will be ready for drinking now. Some of the more expensive wines may continue to improve for several years.
 
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