Grow together

Inspiration / Lifestyle & Opinion

What doesn't grow together might well still go together

Contents

David Williams David Williams

Wine writer David Williams on the perplexing array of cuisines now at our disposal and how on earth one finds a wine to match

Even if you don't quite buy the line that cooking is the new rock and roll and chefs the new rock stars, it really does seem that food has taken on at least one of the roles played by music for previous generations. Where generation X-ers like me expressed our identity through the records we bought, squabbling with our mates over which band was the most 'relevant' (even if we weren't really sure what we meant by 'relevant'), your average millennial is more likely to project an image of worldly cultural clout by being the first to try and advocate an increasingly exotic range of dishes, ingredients or cuisines.

Is it currently the thing to eat Korean bibimbap or are we now onto steamed Taiwanese bao buns? Are we still supposed to be out foraging for roots, leaves, possibly even rodents, in our local park, or should we be ironically deep-frying chicken? Is it Persian this week, or Israeli? What exactly is a 'rough fusion taco' or, heaven help us, a 'freakshake'? Can anyone order a cronut and keep a straight face? It's hard to keep up.

Taiwanese bao buns

But for all that it can sometimes lead to a painfully cool brand of oneupmanship – and for all that it might make some of us feel old – I wouldn't swap British food culture as it is now for how it was at any other point in my lifetime. Of course, this is most visible in the trendier corners of big cities such as London and Manchester, where new street food stalls or small-plate restaurants seem to open every day. But even if you never go further for your dinner than the local supermarket, you can find a wealth of cuisines and ingredients – from Japanese nori and Korean kimchi, to pulled pork sandwiches and harissa paste – that, as recently as a decade ago, would have been available only through niche specialist importers.

Indeed, for wine-lovers, the only problem posed by this explosion of new flavours and textures is what to drink with them. For years, the old chef's maxim that 'what grows together goes together' was pretty much all you needed to know to come up with a reliably good wine and food match. OK, it didn't work for Indian or Chinese. But given that so much of the food we ate in the UK, certainly in restaurants, was from European traditions where local wine developed hand-in-hand with local food, a little of that local knowledge – Muscadet with oysters, duck with Madiran, lamb with Rioja, wild mushrooms (or, if you're lucky, truffles) with Barolo – went a long way.

With today's almost bewildering eclecticism, however, that advice will only take you so far. There is no time-tested wine match for dishes from traditionally non-vinous countries; when served with a plate of nasi goreng, you can't very well ask what kind of wine grows in the vineyards of Java. Neither does history provide obvious wine pairings for the molecular malarkey pioneered by Heston Blumenthal and the Spanish new wave or the foraged minimalism that has seeped into the UK from Scandinavian restaurants such as Copenhagen's Noma. Even a less exotic trend such as the posh makeover of American fast food is based on a blueprint designed in a bygone USA that had not yet got the wine-drinking bug.

Of course, one option would be to ditch wine altogether and go for the local brew: sake with your sushi, baiju with your bao, Anchor Steam with your Wagyu burger – all have their merits. But there is, I think, at least as much fun to be had from finding the right wine. Indeed, new classic food and wine matches have already emerged from the deliciously creative chaos of the contemporary global food scene. And while the following suggestions may sometimes grow thousands of miles apart, they get on together better than many neighbours.

Sushi

Sushi

There is a small but flourishing wine industry in Japan, and its most successful (if still rather expensive) wines so far, the light, dry whites made from the native koshu grape in the Yamanashi prefecture, have a delicacy and subtlety that actually goes very well with those same qualities in sushi and sashimi. But my own preference would be dry whites drawn from the Alps. Both Swiss chasselas and jacquère from the Alpine French region of Savoie have a softly insinuating freshness – like an Alpine stream if you're feeling poetic – and a gentle blossomy flavour that could have been made for sushi.

The Swiss 2014 Fendant Classique from Domaine des Muses displays all the Alpine freshness David refers to above. For wines with a similar lightness of touch try The Society's Grüner Veltliner or The Society's Vinho Verde 2016. Rosé Champagne and manzanilla sherry would also work well. Try Marguet Shaman Rosé Grand Cru Brut NV or Hidalgo Pastrana Manzanilla Pasada.


Kimchi

Kimchi

Loaded with garlic, chilli and ginger, the fiery fermented Korean cabbage condiment might seem like a bridge too far for wine. In fact, when you think about it, the dish is not a million miles away from a classic of Alsace cuisine, choucroute – or sauerkraut – and a good wine match can in fact be found in the same patch. Alsace pinot gris and gewurztraminer, ideally in an off-dry, full-bodied style containing some sugar to offset the spicy heat, has a similar range of exotic spicy flavours that work so well with kimchi and, indeed, many other forcefully spicy and perfumed East Asian dishes.

Our wine recommendations

Léon Beyer's 2014 Gewurztraminer fits David's profile perfectly, and don't forget that Chile makes some excellent benchmark wines from this grape, try Matetic Corralillo 2015. South African chenin blanc has proven to be a great success with forcefully spicy food, try the aromatic Percheron Chenin Blanc-Viognier 2016 from Swartland.


Vietnamese

Vietnamese

One of the signatures of the various cuisines of South East Asia is a combination of subtle flavour and prettiness of aroma with prickly heat, and Vietnamese food exemplifies that perfectly. In a dish like a classic rice paper roll with nuoc cham sauce, for example, you have the freshness and perfumed zing of mint, basil and coriander, the lightness of the rice noodles, the tang of lime and sweet sour chilli, and the savoury base note of fish sauce. Again, a very tough match on paper but one that has an almost uncannily natural partner in the filigree, off-dry style of Mosel riesling known as Kabinett, where the sharp blade of steel-like acidity, the smidgen of heat-absorbing sweetness, and the floral complexity is a like-for-like hit.

Our wine recommendations

Try the excellent-value Ruppertsberger Hoheberg Riesling Kabinett in the fresh new 2016 vintage or what about from Washington State, Grace Lane Riesling 2014 whose grade-3 sweetness levels and lick of lime sound just about perfect for the job and The Society's Vin d'Alsace is on cracking form in the 2015 vintage.


Peruvian ceviche

Peruvian ceviche

There's nothing new for British palates in the combination of fish and citrus. But the use of lemon and/or lime to effectively 'cook' the fish or seafood in ceviche is on a different order of intensity from a wedge of lemon with your scampi. Two individualistic white wine styles have the intensity of citrussy flavours to take on this currently fashionable Peruvian genre: dry Australian riesling, from the Clare or Eden Valleys, has a blistering lime tang; Greek assyrtiko is more like Chablis with extra lemon and saline minerals.

Our wine recommendations

Our go-to assyrtiko, Hatzidakis Santorini 2015, has that requisite seam of ripe acidity which would enable it to strut its stuff against a ceviche, and the clean crisp lime-driven intensity of our Madfish Great Southern Riesling 2016 would meet Mr Williams' criteria too. Alternatively, new English wine, Stopham Estate Pinot Blanc 2015 has a lime and appley acidity on the finish that would make an elegant match.


Eastern Mediterranean

Eastern Mediterranean

Inhabitants of countries as diverse as Iran, Greece, Lebanon and Israel would rightly point out that theirs are culinary traditions with their own unique characters. But there is a kinship in spicing and ingredients in each of these recently fashionable cuisines that gives them an affinity with a certain style of red wine pioneered further west in France and Spain. From the Rhône to Priorat in southern Catalonia – and from producers inspired by them in Swartland in South Africa, Australia's Barossa Valley, or indeed, modern-day Lebanon's Bekaa Valley – the blend based on grenache, syrah and mourvèdre, carignan among others can offer a mix of sweet spice and generous brambly fruit that is just right for meze featuring fragrant lamb and fresh, subtly spiced and herbed vegetable dishes.

Our wine recommendations

Lebanese cuisine has its wine partner in the form of this popular red from the country's oldest winery, Château Ksara Réserve du Couvent 2014. On the other side of the Med, the spicy red-fruit flavour of Black Kalavryta, Tetramythos 2016 from the Peleponnese, makes it a great wine for a whole panoply of Greek meze, possibly even served chilled. Lovers of tagines have their match in Alain Graillot's Syrah du Maroc 'Tandem' 2013.


Posh fast food

Posh fast food

The reclamation – or yuppification – of classic American fast food has been a feature of the 2010s. The idea is to seize on the basics of junk food such as hot dogs, fried chicken or burgers and transform them with high-quality ingredients, and careful cooking. Perhaps the most celebrated wine match for this trend is Champagne with hot dogs, as presented by the Fitzrovia restaurant Bubbledogs. Personally, I reckon the combination of penetrating fat-cutting acidity, fruit and savoury yeastiness you find in good blanc-de-blancs Champagne (or good-value crémant) is better suited to the snap, crunch and umami hit of fried chicken than sausages. For the posh burgers and dogs, best to go back to the source and another modern American classic: the sweetly vivid, Beaujolais-on-steroids juiciness of new-wave californian zinfandel.

Our wine recommendations If you want to go the Bubbledogs route when serving souped-up hot dogs, The Society's Reserva Cava NV, is terrific value and has lots of flavour too. The Society's California Old-Vine Zinfandel is a natural fit for fancy burgers or how about trying a sparkling Aussie shiraz, such as Bleasdale's Langhorne Creek Sparkling Shiraz.

David Williams is wine correspondent for The Observer, deputy editor of The World of Fine Wine and a member of the Wine Gang.

Society Promise
Members before profit
Awards

Our website uses cookies with the aim of providing you with a better service. By using this website you consent to The Wine Society using cookies in accordance with our policy.

Close

4.4. Cookie Policy

By using The Wine Society website, you agree to cookies being used in accordance with the policy outlined below. If you do not agree to this, you must alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you or cease using the website.

The Wine Society uses cookies to enable easy navigation and shopping on the website. We take the privacy of all who use our website very seriously and ensure that our use of cookies complies with current EU legislation. The following guide outlines what cookies are, the types of cookies used on The Society's website and how they work.

You may alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you, but this will cause difficulties when accessing and using some areas of the site. Instructions on how to do this can also be found below.

4.4.1. What are 'Cookies'?

  • Most major websites use cookies.
  • A cookie is a very small data file placed on your hard drive by a web page server. It is essentially your access card, and cannot be executed as code or deliver viruses. It is uniquely yours and can only be read by the server that gave it to you.
  • Cookies cannot be used by themselves to identify you.
  • The purpose of a basic cookie is to tell the server that you returned to that web page or have items in your basket. Without cookies, websites and their servers have no memory. A cookie, like a key, enables swift passage from one place to the next.
  • Without a cookie every time you open a new web page the server where that page is stored will treat you like a completely new visitor.
  • More recently, cookies have also been used to collect information about the user which allows a profile of their preferences and interests to be created so that they can be served with interest-based rather than generic information about available goods and services.

4.4.2. How do Cookies help The Wine Society?

Cookies allow our website to function effectively. Cookies also help us to arrange content to match your preferred interests more quickly. We can learn what information is important to our visitors, and what isn't.

4.4.3. How does The Wine Society use cookies?

The Wine Society does not accept advertising from third parties and therefore, as a rule, does not serve third-party cookies. Exceptions to this include performance/analytical cookies (see below), used anonymously to improve the way our website works, the provision of personalised recommendations, and occasions when we may team up with suppliers to offer special discounts on goods or services.

The Society uses technology to track the patterns of behaviour of visitors to our site.

4.4.4. What type of cookies does The Wine Society use?

We use the following three types of cookies:

4.4.4.1. Strictly Necessary Cookies
These cookies are required for the operation of our website, enabling you to move around the website and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the website. Without these cookies, services like shopping baskets or e-billing cannot be provided. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Authentication Cookie and Anonymous Cookie
    These cookies remember that you are logged in to your account – without them, the website would repeatedly request your login details with each new page you visit during your time on our website. They are removed once your session has ended.
  • Session Cookie
    These cookies are used to remember who you are as you use our site: without them, the website would be unable to tell the difference between you and another Wine Society member and facilities such as your basket and the checkout process would therefore not be able to function. They too are removed once your session has ended.

4.4.4.2. Functionality & Targeting/Tracking Cookies
These cookies are used to recognise you when you return to our website and to provide enhanced features. This allows us to personalise our content for you. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Unique User Cookie
    This cookie is used to:
    • store your share number in order to identify that you have visited the website before. Without this cookie, we would be unable to tell whether you are a member or not.
    • record your visit to the website, the pages you have visited and the links you have followed. We use this information to make our website, the content displayed on it and direct marketing communications we may send to you or contact you about more relevant to your interests.
    • This cookie expires after 13 months.
  • Peerius Cookies
    These third-party cookies are used to provide you with personalised recommendations based on your purchase and browsing history. They expire within 4 hours of your visit.

4.4.4.3. Performance/analytical cookies
These cookies collect information about how visitors use a website, for instance which pages visitors go to most often, and if they get error messages from web pages. These cookies don't collect information which identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. It is only used to improve how a website works. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Google Analytics Cookies
    These are third-party cookies to enable Google Analytics to monitor website traffic. All information is recorded anonymously. Using Google Analytics allows The Society to better understand how members use our site and monitor website traffic.

4.4.4.4. Authentication Cookie
In order for us to ensure that your data remains secure it is necessary for us to verify that your session is authentic (i.e. it has not been compromised by a malicious user). We do this by storing an otherwise meaningless unique ID in a cookie for the duration of your visit. No personal information can be gained from this cookie.

4.4.5. How do you turn cookies off?

All modern browsers allow you to modify your cookie settings so that all cookies, or those types which are not acceptable to you, are blocked. However, please note that this may affect the successful functioning of the site, particularly if you block all cookies, including essential cookies. For example, In Internet Explorer, go to the Tools Menu, then go to Internet Options, then go to Privacy. Here you can change the rules your browser uses to accept cookies. You can find out more in the public sources mentioned below.

4.4.6. Learn more about cookies

4.4.7. Changes to our cookie policy

Any changes we may make to our cookie policy in the future will be posted on the website and, where appropriate, notified to you by email. Please check back frequently to see any updates and changes to our cookie policy.