Breaking the rules of food and wine matching

<span>Photograph: Natalia Van Doninck/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Natalia Van Doninck/Getty Images

Domaine des Deux Vallées ‘Clos du Petit Beaupréau’ Savennières, Loire, France 2020 (£22.99, or £19.99 as part of a mixed six, I know that there are plenty of people (serious wine lovers very much among them) who feel that thinking too hard about wine and food matching is a level of fuss and fussiness too much. But, without ever feeling the need to be too proscriptive or hectoring about it, I do think there’s rather a lot of fun to be had in seeking complementary combinations. Often, the best matches entail going against some of the more resilient “rules” of this part of the art of hospitality, such as the near-instinctive idea that the only colour of wine for cheese of all kinds is red. While it’s true there are some lovely darker-pigmented pairings (such as vintage port and Stilton or old-style rioja and mature Manchego), often it’s whites that do the best job, from the classic match of sancerre sauvignon blanc and young fresh goat’s cheese, to a honeyed, apple-tangy dry oaked chenin blanc such as Domaine des Deux Vallées’ with a slice of equally creamy-tangy gruyere.

Artuke Rioja, Spain 2021 (from £12.95,; I have rather more time for the rule that white wines are best with fish: certainly, almost all kinds of white fish and all kinds of shellfish work better with the citrus-condiment-like capabilities of such famously seafood-friendly dry whites as chablis, muscadet, and albariño than they do with the tannins and stronger flavours of red wine. All the same, there is plenty of pleasure to be found in teaming some types of meatier fish, such as tuna and salmon, with lighter reds. This is a style which was once associated with northerly, cooler climes, but which has of late become popular pretty much everywhere, with even such warmer-climate regions as Rioja (in the shape of Artuke’s super-juicy tinto) and Portugal’s Douro (the charmingly expressive Quinta da Pedra Alta Pedra a Pedra Clarete 2021; £12.95, taking their place alongside traditional lighter styles such as the Loire’s A l’Origine Pinot Noir La Perrière 2022 (£10.49) as candidates to pair with tuna steak.

Morrisons The Best Oloroso Sherry, Spain NV (£6.50, Morrisons) There are some styles of wine that almost never get the chance to show that they can do with food, wines that are only broached for the warm-up aperitif or wind-down digestif slots. This is a real shame when it comes to sparkling wines, which can be brilliant with food, whether it’s a floral, tangy and textured pet-nat style such as Astro Bunny Pet Nat 2022 from the Riverland in Australia (£26.80, to wash down the aromatic herbs and subtle spicing of Vietnamese food, or crisp, patisserie-creamy traditional-method fizz, such as M&S Classics No 12 Crémant de Bourgogne NV (£12, Marks & Spencer) with fish and chips. Another traditional aperitif that is actually better with food than going solo is sherry, with the brisk-and-briny, yeasty, fresh dry style such as Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla (£13.99, Waitrose) as good as anything with garlicky prawns and a richer fruitier oloroso such as Morrisons’ excellent-value example, a real favourite both in and with mushroom soup.

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