The flavours and ingredients of 2022
Although this is the time of year for getting out your crystal ball you might wonder how much things really change from one year to the next. It definitely doesn’t happen overnight on December 31st, more like a slow realisation that you’ve moved on.
There are of course foods and ingredients that are always in fashion – chicken, Cheddar and chocolate to name three though they don’t necessarily have to begin with ch – but there are ingredients and styles of cooking that have insinuated their way into our fridges and store cupboards almost without our noticing. Not all of these are easy to pair with wine. I struggle with spicy kimchi and gochujang paste but others, like miso and beans, are remarkably wine friendly. Pulses, in particular, are one of the best ways to show off a good red if you don’t eat meat.
Some trends of course are more transient, especially these days with Instagram and TikTok crazes when suddenly everyone you know is making baked feta and tomato pasta and deep-fried potato stacks (which are extraordinarily good with Champagne as I’ve discovered!).
But look further back and there has been a seismic shift in the way we eat. Even those of us who are card-carrying carnivores eat meat less regularly. Meat and two veg for many of us has been replaced by meat as a treat. Some of us who may have dismissed vegan food as cranky find ourselves eating it without really noticing.
We’re all flexitarians now!
Umami-rich miso – fermented soybean paste – has become a regular part of our cooking arsenal over the last couple of years. It comes in different colours – mild sweet white miso or more robust brown or red dark miso which I always think of as the 21st century answer to gravy. Used as a deeply flavoured marinade with saké, sugar and soy for ingredients such as steak, pork or aubergines, dark miso works brilliantly with rich savoury reds like syrah, GSM (grenache/syrah/mourvèdre) blends or carignan. Milder sweet miso may be used with fruit such as apples and bananas to give them a salted caramel kind of vibe with which you could partner a regular dessert wine.
Not many people are aware of how well miso goes with steak and a really economic - and healthy - way of preparing it is to slice it up and make it go further. It’s an easy and lovely vehicle for reds
Roast - and grilled - veggies
Even if you weren’t a vegetarian yourself there was always the dilemma of what to serve your veggie friends as a main course. Not any more with whole veg taking centre stage. Cauliflower, celeriac and even swede now pop up on restaurant menus and home dining tables alike providing just as good a foil as roast meat for a hearty red, a richly textured earthy Rhône or other southern French white or even an orange or skin-contact wine. Maybe it’s even time for the return of the good old baked potato. (Maybe – sssssh, whisper it – it never went away!)
The whole BBQ movement has spilled over into veggies too. What difference does that make to wine? The char, basically. It means you can drink heartier reds and more full-bodied whites than you would if your veggies were raw as in a salad or slaw. Which again is good news for lovers of big flavours – exactly what you want at this chilly time of year.
Definitely more people are turning to veg making them the centrepiece of a meal rather than a side. You can really be inspired and creative with them
- Bulgarian Heritage Dimyat Orange Wine, Via Vinera 2020
- Lirac Blanc La Fermade, Domaine Maby 2020
- d'Arenberg The Money Spider Roussanne 2020
- Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc 'Les Arbousiers', Domaine La Réméjeanne 2020
Pulses & grains
You might feel beans and lentils have been around forever, or at least since the hippy sixties, but they’ve been given a new lease of life by brilliant middleeastern cooks such as Ottolenghi – roasting them and pureeing them and using them as a base for substantial veggie and vegan dishes – even combining them with pasta as they would in Italy. For the most part I’d opt to drink an Italian red with them like a Chianti but if you were serving them cold as in the classic tonno e fagioli you could go for a classic Italian white like a vernaccia di San Gimignano or verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. Beans also appear regularly in Spanish cuisine often in spicy pork dishes with chorizo, which you’ll find work really well with Rioja, Ribera del Duero and similar tempranillo-based reds.
People don’t always think about combining pulses with pasta but it’s simple, healthy and rings the changes
Quick fix noodles
I wouldn’t say noodles are the new pasta – when did we ever fall out of love with our favourite food? – but whether they’re dry or wet, hot or cold they increasingly tick the box for quick midweek food. Think ramen, Vietnamese-style cold noodle salads, fragrant with herbs, Chinese-style cold sesame noodles, spicy Singapore noodles – basically the flavours of Japan and south-east Asia. Beer would be the traditional accompaniment, so should you drink wine with them? Absolutely, if you fancy it, though personally, I’d lay off the reds. Their zingy fresh flavours always push me towards aromatic whites – riesling, with its touch of sweetness being the obvious choice, but Austria’s grüner veltliner is an equally good and arguably even more versatile option, particularly with Vietnamese food.
Not just on-trend but now enduringly popular, this style of cooking has become part of the regular repertoire for many. Quick, spicy, clean-tasting noodle dishes or stir-fries with fish, chicken or veggies call for aromatic whites
- Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling 2020
- Kompsos White, Karavitakis 2020
- The Society's Saar Riesling 2019
- Geyerhof StockWerk Grüner Veltliner, Kremstal 2020
Gluten & dairy-free desserts
Not so much a flavour trend more a growing lifestyle choice for many these days. In fact, if you’re following a dairy-free regime, dessert wine could be your treat rather than cream. Citrusy desserts like orange and lemon polenta cake are equally as delicious with wine as their flour-based equivalents – try a Tokaji with orange cake and Sauternes and other Bordeaux-style sweet wines or late-harvest riesling with a lemon one. And with on-trend salted caramel? You’ve a choice between classic dessert wines such as Coteaux du Layon for lighter dishes or a rancio or fortified wine like a sweet sherry with more intensely flavoured ones. Just think of your wine, which should generally be sweeter than your pud, as an extra layer of flavour.
Lots of people tend to avoid full-on puds and chocolate at this time of year, so opt for lighter desserts and satisfy your sweet tooth with dessert wine instead