I’ve mentioned before in my Bristol Wine Blog how often the food and wine of an area pair well together. Perhaps the most famous and obvious example is a dish from France’s Burgundy region, Coq au Vin – chicken cooked in the local red wine. Traditionally it is said that you should put a bottle of Burgundy into the pot to cook the dish and another on the table to drink with it. Given the price of even basic Burgundy these days, many would seek a cheaper alternative to cook with.
I remember when I worked as a wine guide in Harveys Cellars, one chef in the restaurant there had a different view: “Ian, you have got it wrong – it is a bottle of good Burgundy in the dish and another in the chef while he is cooking”! Perhaps that explains why Harveys restaurant closed many years ago!
But the idea of drinking something similar to the wine that the dish is cooked in does make sense, even if the quality of the 2 wines used is rather different.
When we cooked a version of coq au vin recently, we didn’t use a Burgundy in the dish but a simple red wine, which seemed to do the job perfectly well.
And we didn’t drink a red Burgundy either but the same grape – a Pinot Noir – but from New Zealand (Zephyr Estate from Marlborough, Wine Society, £13.50): fresh, full of red fruit flavours and not too heavy – in short an ideal match for the chicken. For me, a white wine, perhaps a more obvious choice with chicken normally, is unlikely to work as well with the fuller flavours of a dish cooked in red wine.
So, next time you’re wondering what to drink with your meal, think where the dish comes from and try and find a wine from the same area or, failing that, something that you feel reflects the same sort of place.