Category Archives: Wine and Food

Wine with Anchovies?


We bought some nice trout recently caught locally in Chew Valley Lake and my wife was poring through some old recipe books looking for a tasty and different way to cook them:  “how about baking them and serving them with an anchovy sauce”, she suggested.  Just seconds after agreeing that the idea sounded really interesting, I suddenly realised the challenge I’d set myself: what sort of wine could possibly go with it?

The trout wasn’t the problem – unless they are quite old, when they can take on an earthy flavour – trout is quite wine friendly; it was the anchovy sauce that was causing my headache!

Why?  Anchovies are both salty and oily and, in addition, have quite an assertive flavour – all characteristics that can have an effect on wine.  Saltiness can be an advantage, taming tannin and making wines taste smoother and richer but it also makes wine seem less acidic – and it’s acidity that would be vital to cut through the oiliness of the anchovies.  And, with quite a strongly flavoured sauce, the wine would need some character if it wasn’t to be completely overwhelmed.

In all of this, the question of red or white faded into obscurity – until we tasted the almost-finished sauce, when we both agreed that we couldn’t see a red working at all.  So, a white; but which one? 

The food and wine of a region often work well together and, in this context, Portugal came to mind.  Not anchovies, but sardines have many of the same characteristics.

And so we opened the somewhat pretentiously named FP by Filipa Pato (Wine Society, £9.95). 

Pato WhiteFilipa is the daughter of Luis Pato – the man who, virtually single-handedly, put Portugal’s Bairrada wine region on the map – and she is certainly keeping up the family reputation with this delicious appley-fresh white made from 2 high quality grape varieties native to this area of Portugal – Arinto and Bical. 

One final thought: the surname ‘Pato’ means ‘duck’ in Portuguese.  I wonder how duck and anchovies might work together?  And the wine to match?  Any suggestions?


Turkey – or something else?



Last time in Bristol Wine Blog, I looked at sparkling wines to welcome your family, friends or guests when they visit over the holiday season.

Now, my thoughts turn to wines to match the food and I’m going to focus on the main course.  So, where to start?  Turkey, obviously!  Turkey, itself, is very wine friendly and would work well with almost any dryish wine – white or red.  The problem comes with some of the traditional accompaniments; bread sauce, cranberry sauce, chipolata sausages and stuffing all present their own problems – and that’s before you consider the ultimate wine-killer: brussel sprouts.  My view would be to go for either a big white – an oaked Chardonnay or Rhône, perhaps – or a really fruity red, say a New World Merlot or Syrah/Shiraz.  Either way, I would leave my best bottles for another time – there are simply too many conflicting flavours on the plate for a fine wine to show at its best.

But not everyone will be having turkey; if you’re having beef or game, the decision is rather easier and, in most cases, will involve a good quality, fairly robust red – Bordeaux, Burgundy, California or wherever your preference lies. 

And let’s not forget our vegetarian friends; many vegetarian options are really wine friendly.  Aubergine-, lentil- or mushroom-based dishes all work well with not-too-heavy reds – try something from Southern France or a nice Rioja.  The creaminess of a risotto would be brilliant with a creamy white – a Mâcon-Villages, perhaps – while spinach dishes need a red with plenty of acidity, such as a good Valpolicella.

The key with whatever you’re eating is to try and match the strongest flavour – that may be the sauce or one of the side ingredients, rather than the main – and also to consider how ‘big’ the flavours are on the plate; don’t overpower delicate foods with a chunky wine or drown subtle wines with strongly flavoured dishes.

And, above all, remember rule no1 of food and wine matching: there are no rules; drink wine you like, not the wine someone tells you is right for the dish.

A Birthday Celebration


2016-10-19-09-34-50You may not think a trip to a vineyard would be anything special or unusual for my wife – we’ve visited many together over the years (“too many”, do I hear?) – but that’s exactly how she asked to spend her birthday recently.  And not even a vineyard in some exotic location!  We travelled barely 40 miles (65km) north of Bristol to Three Choirs Vineyard, close to the town of Newent in Gloucestershire.

We’ve been to Three Choirs a number of times and watched it develop into what it is today: one of England’s largest vineyards with some 30 hectares (75 acres) of vines growing at least a dozen different grape varieties.  From these, Martin Fowke, their well-respected and multi-award winning winemaker, blends a range of wines available in their on-site shop and restaurant as well as on-line.

The restaurant gives you the chance to taste the wines and see how well they work with food.  We sampled four during our 2 night stay: the Classic Cuvée is an elegant, Traditional Method sparkling wine that makes a very pleasant aperitif, while Coleridge Hill is a light, dry, fragrant and easy-drinking white for fish or chicken.  Ravens Hill is the surprise package – a proper English red!  Understandably light-bodied but with aromas and flavours of damsons and pepper, you could easily take this for a good Valpolicella.  And finally, perhaps even rarer, the gently sweet Late Harvest is a good partner for a delicate fruity- or creamy-dessert.

But the real bonus is that, after dinner, you can stay overnight; choose a room close to the restaurant and winery or, for the more adventurous (like us!) one of the individual wooden lodges right in the middle of the vineyards.  There’s little to compare with waking up in the morning to a view of vines touched by the morning sun, changing to their autumn colour and framed by trees, followed by a short walk through the vines to breakfast.   

In many countries, vineyards are now offering accommodation and meals to those who want to get close to where their favourite wine is made – try one – you won’t regret it!

Wine: The Fennel Frontier!


Like many wine lovers, my wife and I also enjoy good food so the question of which wine to pair with a particular dish arises regularly.  Most of the time, it’s not too difficult – much of the food we cook is quite wine-friendly and there are probably 3 or 4 bottles in our rack that would work perfectly well; it’s just a question of which we decide to open on the night.  Sometimes, however, things are not as straightforward; take a recipe we followed recently:

‘Marinade some salmon steaks in a mixture of sherry vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, chives, spring onions, root ginger and ground coriander’

There’s enough tricky ingredients there already to upset any wine, but then the fish is baked on a bed of leeks and fennel. Absolutely delicious, but how do you find a wine to drink with it?  Ignore the salmon – that’s the easy bit!

Look for the strongest flavours in the dish is the usual plan, but, in this case, there are so many: the vinegar, the ginger, the coriander, the fennel – all are pretty powerful.  My first thoughts were for something quite aromatic – a New World Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc or a Viognier, perhaps, but my wife doubted that they would work with the aniseed flavour of the fennel.  I checked Fiona Beckett’s site ( – a useful resource – and she agreed with my wife, suggesting a lightly oaked white.

Crasto White

Crasto Superior from the Douro region in Portugal is just that (Great Western Wine, £12.95).  It spends 6 months in barrel and, although quite oaky on the nose at first sniff, has barely a hint of it on the palate – just enough to flesh it out.   The main impression is of a delightfully mellow and harmonious wine with lovely herby and citrus flavours to the fore – exactly the sort of flavours to go with our tricky dish!

Sometimes it’s good to be over-ruled!



Red Wine with Cheese?


Wine and cheeseYou’re enjoying a good meal with friends and it’s time to bring out the cheese board – whether this should be before or after the pudding, I won’t get into that debate! But, let’s think about the wine – what should you offer with the cheese?

The first suggestion of many would be red wine except if you’re serving stilton and then open a bottle of port. I can see the port and stilton pairing: salty flavours and sweet tastes are a classic match and the stilton’s attractive saltiness is balanced nicely with the sweetness of the port. But you can widen this out: many blue cheeses are quite salty (think Roquefort) and you can choose from a variety of sweet wines, not just port. So, why not try a Sauternes, a sweet Loire white or a Greek Muscat with your Dolcelatte or Bleu d’Auvergne instead?

As for the ‘red wine with cheese’ idea, I think it depends on the sort of cheese: cheddar, comté, pecorino and other hard or semi-hard cheeses are fine with a red (a Rioja Reserva can be particularly good) but with soft cheeses – brie, camembert and like – I find a white usually goes better. What did you drink as aperitif or with your starter? Is there any of that left over? You’re looking here for a wine with plenty of acidity to cut through the fattiness of the cheese – a Sauvignon Blanc, dry Riesling or crisp Chardonnay, perhaps.

And the Sauvignon will come into its own again if there’s a soft goats’ cheese on the board: Sancerre with a Crottin de Chavignol is a perfect example of matching the food and wine of a region.

But, one final word of warning: if you enjoy the most pungent cheeses, give the wine a miss – there’s little that stands up to a really ripe Epoisses or Stinking Bishop and it would be a shame to open a bottle for it to be completely overwhelmed by its partner. And, of course, all of this comes with the usual caveat: everyone’s sense of taste is different, so the only real answer to which cheese goes with which wine is to taste and see what works best for you.