Summer food and wine matching tips
Hot summer weather has finally arrived and with it the need for a different style of wine and a different type of food. In these conditions you need wines which reinvigorate and refresh you - with freshness and acidity, neither too heavy nor too alcoholic. Your appetite diminishes in the heat and your taste in food moves towards fresher salads and vegetables and smokey, flavoursome fish and meat from the barbecue.
Here are a few personal tips to help you decide which wines to open alongside your traditional Summer dishes. Simply click on the grape/wine style highlighted below to see our special wine recommendations:
- Match the dominant flavour in your food to that in the wine; normally one or two flavours will stand out above the rest in most dishes. For example the taste of fresh asparagus in a salad combines perfectly with a crisp Sauvignon blanc from the Loire or New Zealand. Dishes comprising “tropical” fruits such as peaches, mangos or apricots match extremely well with German Riesling or a Viognier from its home in Condrieu in the Northern Rhone Valley or a delicious example from Chile’s exciting Elqui Valley. The tart flavours of green apple in a salad combine easily with a crisp, appley Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley. Dishes including red fruits such as strawberries and raspberries are perfect with a light, fresh, fruity Swiss rosé or a gentle, slightly-chilled Beaujolais.
- Match the weight or structure of your food to that in the wine. You need a wine with full body and firm structure to counter the weight and fattiness of red meat from the barbecue. Structure in a wine comes mainly from its tannins, and tannins come from the grape skins. So choose a thicker-skinned red grape such as Malbec, Shiraz or Cabernet. Lighter foods such as veal, chicken or fish on the other hand need wines with more freshness and acidity and less tannins; thin-skinned red grapes such as Pinot Noir or Gamay (Beaujolais) or most white wines.
- Smoky foods off the barbecue work very well together with the smoky, toasty or vanilla flavours given by oak in a wine. Most Spanish or New World reds have a noticeable oak aftertaste and are perfect with grilled sausages or burgers, whilst a rich, oaky Chardonnay tastes perfect alongside slightly charred fish or chicken. Creamy or buttery sauces on fish or white meat also taste delicious alongside buttery, barrique-matured Chardonnays.
- Spicy foods need wines with acidity and ideally a touch of sweetness. Try any spicy Asian or “Fusion” cuisine with a Riesling spätlese from Germany; its gentle sweetness and fresh acidity are the perfect counter to the heat and spice of the food. Alternatively match spicy dishes with spicy wines – a Gewurztraminer or Pinot Gris from Alsace or a Syrah/Shiraz from the Northern Rhone/Australia respectively.
- An easy to follow general rule is to match a food from a specific region or country with a wine from that same region. In Europe food and wine have been part of our culture for centuries, and often local cuisine has been developed to match the local grapes and wine styles. Italy and Spain jump to mind here, and pairings such as Spaghetti alle Vongole from Liguria with a fresh local white from the Vermentino or Arneis grapes, or herb-covered lamb off the grill with a fruity Rioja taste perfect on a warm Summer’s eve.
Most important however is to choose a wine you like, which makes you feel happy and helps you appreciate these long-awaited, balmy summer days to the full. Don’t waste a moment - it will be September before we can blink!