Warning: this is not a suitable reading for vegetarians or vegans. For incurable meat eaters, however, read on…….
I realise that not everyone is a simple soul like me who is willing to eat anything and everything: from sweetbreads to tripe, from the bloodiest steak to succulent veal, from foie gras to any other form of offal. I put this down to several years of my life having been spent in France, one or two of which were very formative ones, where such dishes are commonplace and usually they have the perfect wines to match. But a good honest English roast is served in my house at least three times a month and a bottle of wine is a necessary accompaniment.
Everyone knows that red meat works best with red wine (in theory, of course but it you prefer white, go for it) so let’s start with white meats such as chicken, pork and veal which might seem trickier to identify a perfect wine partner, possibly because you could go either way, white or red, or indeed rosé. I would usually recommend a white with roast chicken but often it depends on how the food has been cooked, for how long, the richness of the sauce and the flavours which may have been added.
For example, a chicken liberally basted with butter would be delicious with an oaky Chardonnay, lemon chicken with a zesty Sauvignon Blanc and one stuffed with sage and onion need look no further than a Chenin Blanc for its perfect partner, but what about Coq au Vin? Or Chicken Chasseur? These are going to work a little better with a red – a Fleurie, Corbières or Primitivo would be my suggestions.
Veal probably isn’t at the top of everyone’s shopping list but if you like Blanquette de Veau I discovered on a week-long trip to Champagne that mature vintage Champagne is a particularly good match. The point was unintentionally laboured as every lunch and dinner we were coincidentally and rather annoyingly, served this dish. If Champagne is a tad OTT, try a Chablis or a Pessac-Leognan white.
Good old English Pork and Apple Sauce needs a zippy fresh Viognier with a bit of weight and texture – I am impressed with Waitrose Jean-Luc Colombo Redonne (£12.99) from the Rhône Valley or, if you are pushing the boat out, a Meursault is an excellent choice. If you prefer red, a young Burgundy or Chianti Classico will fit the bill but go easy on the apple sauce accompaniment.
With beef the whole red wine world is your oyster. If you like your meat rare then you can serve a deeply tannic wine as the protein will cope with said tannins and soften them too to a certain extent – a young Bordeaux, a Barolo, an Aussie Shiraz or a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, for instance. A mature Bordeaux or a Rioja Reserva will pair better with less pink joints and if you like lashings of horseradish on the side consider a Malbec from either Argentina or Cahors, a Tannat from either Uruguay or Madiran or a Dão from Portugal.
Actually, lamb is possibly even more versatile than beef because it has such a delicious sweetness to it. You could match a full-bodied red or a more medium Pinot Noir, a St.Emilion (try Sainsbury’s TTD St Emilion 2010 £9.99) and other Merlot dominated reds or even a dry rosé. One of my all-time favourite food/wine matches was roast lamb served with a 1989 Louis Roederer Rosé Champagne which was 21 years old at the time. You might be forgiven for thinking I have expensive tastes, but this was a meal I enjoyed as a guest (i.e. at someone else’s generous expense) and I’m still relishing and savouring it but I’ve never actually repeated the experience in my own home!
If you are particular about the quality of your meat, then it’s worth not stinting on the quality of your wine. With both, better quality delivers greater flavours, mouth-watering tastes and an all round superior dining experience. If you need help with your cooking Leith’s Meat Bible is a heavy tome of fantastic fail-safe recipes from gammon and turkey to kangaroo and snake! And with wine match suggestions so you can’t go wrong.