Kedgeree was first introduced to the UK from India in Victorian times by those returning from that country after military or diplomatic service. Then, it was mainly eaten as a breakfast dish in some of our large country houses. Today, it is more likely to be seen as a lunch or light supper dish – and that’s when my wife and I enjoy it. But how do you find a wine to pair with a mixture of smoked haddock, pungent spices like cumin and coriander, the sweetness of sultanas and that simple ingredient that is so often described as a ‘wine killer’: eggs?
Let’s start with the basics. Although I’m not one for sticking rigidly to the ‘white with fish or poultry, red with red meat’ idea, in this case, the tannins of most red wines are likely to make the spices taste much hotter (and so, out of proportion with the rest of the dish) and I can’t see a rosé – even the most assertive example – standing up to all those strong and powerful flavours.
So, we’re thinking white wine. But what sort? You might have heard ‘oaked with smoked’ and I certainly wouldn’t put you off a nice oaked Chardonnay as a match for the smoked fish, but the sweetness and spices gave me another idea: Gewurztraminer. The word ‘gewurz’ means ‘spicy’ in German and wines made from this variety often have a slightly spicy edge to them. It’s a grape that is native to both Germany and France’s Alsace region, although it’s now grown more widely – I’ve tasted some lovely bottles from New Zealand, for example.
But we had one from the excellent co-operative in the Alsace village of Turckheim on our shelf (Corks of Cotham, £12.99) and the cool, aromatic, slightly off-dry taste went fairly well. But, as anyone who cooks will know, even if you follow a recipe, dishes don’t turn out tasting exactly the same every time. Perhaps I was too conservative when adding the spices as this Kedgeree wasn’t nearly as flavoursome as I expected. As it was, the oaked Chardonnay might have worked better – or an Alsace Pinot Gris or even a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Next time I’ll make sure I taste the food before choosing the wine!
‘Lemony’, ‘citrussy’, ‘refreshing’, ‘clean’: you often see these words in descriptions of wine. What they’re really saying is that the wine has plenty of acidity, but in a good way. And, so long as the acidity doesn’t dominate and is in balance with the rest of the flavours, I’d generally agree that some acidity in a wine is a positive. It can make the wine more refreshing and attractive on the palate and it can also help make it more food-friendly by cutting through any richness or greasiness in a dish. But a few people – including a very good friend of ours – are particularly sensitive to acidity and my ‘lemony-freshness’ becomes their ‘tart and shudderingly unpleasant’. As a result, they need to choose their wine very carefully.
Wines made from certain grapes tend to be naturally more acidic than others: famous varieties Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon all fall into this category. So, despite their attractions for the rest of us, acidity-haters should concentrate their attention elsewhere. But it’s not just the grape variety that’s important: as grapes ripen, the level of sugar in them increases but the level of acidity decreases, so wines from warmer regions of the world, where the grapes are likely to be riper, will, in general, be less acidic than those from cooler climates. Those are two useful factors to bear in mind but, as with much in the wine world, things are not as simple as that: some producers actually add acidity during the winemaking process – it’s quite legal and they would argue that they’re just compensating for what would otherwise be an unbalanced wine.
So, where should those who dislike acidity look? The pictures above suggest a few good places to start: for white wines, Gewurztraminer, Viognier and Semillon are all varieties that are naturally quite low in acidity while, for reds, Tempranillo – the main Rioja grape – or Grenache – a key player in many Côtes du Rhônes, are the same. And, watch out for wines made by less interventionist winemakers, as they are less likely to have acidity added.
But, most of all, taste widely and, if you find wines that suit your palate, stick with them.