Perfect match: Wine and dine (+recipes)

By Don Kavanagh, Grant Allen


Food will sing on the plate when accompanied by the right wine, finds Grant Allen.

Sauvignon blanc is a true standby that goes well with most dishes, but especially well with mussels. Photo / Doug Sherring
Sauvignon blanc is a true standby that goes well with most dishes, but especially well with mussels. Photo / Doug Sherring

Last month I visited Adelaide to attend Taste Australia, a wonderful week of food, wine and fun promoting South Australia as a food and wine destination. They are extremely proud and passionate about what they grow and produce, and so they should be as it is a cornucopia of gastronomic delights. Several of the restaurants offered to match food to wine. Usually one would decide what to eat and then pick a wine to go with it, but there the process is reversed. You pick a wine and the kitchen comes up with food to complement it. I'm no wine expert so I thought it would be fun to get Living's drinks columnist Don Kavanagh to choose some wines and I would make food to match. This is the result.

A few words from Don:

Wine and food are perfect partners and have been since some clever person worked out that letting grape juice ferment resulted in a much more interesting drink. These days, wine is a commonplace part of a meal, but choosing the right wine for the right food can still be a bit of a mystery.

It shouldn't be, as there are no hard and fast rules for food and wine matching. There are, however, some general guidelines that can help.

Firstly, the old myth about white wines with white meat and reds with red is just that - a myth. Chardonnay can partner well with lighter red meat dishes and plenty of pinots and merlots will sit perfectly well with pork, chicken or even fish.

The main thing to remember is that the wine and food should complement each other. Neither should dominate, although you can match different flavours and textures that work well - an acidic riesling will cut through the fatty texture of duck breast, for example.

And don't forget that you can cook in wine as well. One of my few culinary triumphs was venison steaks flash fried in a particularly expensive merlot. Therein lies the lesson - if you are cooking with wine, don't use a wine to cook in that you wouldn't be happy to drink. You'll only be cheating yourself.

The most popular dinner wine styles are sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir and either cabernet sauvignon or a cabernet blend. We chose four wines from an average supermarket, the same way most people buy their wine.


Villa Maria Private Bin

Don: Sauvignon offers lovely, lively flavours of gooseberry, capsicum, passionfruit and citrus, delivered with a zingy acidity and a refreshing overall flavour profile, flavours that offer a lot of variety in what to drink it with. From crisp salads to rich fish dishes and Asian-inspired cuisine, it's a trusty standby that won't let you down. The Villa Maria Private Bin offers one of the best-value sauvignons on the shelf and its consistency from vintage to vintage is admirable.

Mussels for Four

1 Roast and skin a red pepper and slice into thick ribbons.

2 Heat a little oil in a good sized pan that has a tight fitting lid. When the oil is hot add a punnet of cherry tomatoes and let them soften.

3 Add 20 cleaned mussels, a slug of sauvignon blanc, the zest of half a lemon and a squeeze of lemon juice. Put the lid on the pan and allow the mussels to steam open and cook (throw away any that don't open).

4 Season well and add the red pepper strips and a bit of butter to swirl through the juices.

Serve with some bread and a crisp green salad.

Here are other food and wine matches you can try:

* Chardonnay with chicken pasta, bread and walnut crumbs

* Cabernet with winter's night Scotch

* Pinot noir with autumn venison

* Dessert wine with blue cheese, honey and roasted figs

- Herald on Sunday

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