Comfort Food and Wine Pairing

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The weather closes in, your favourite TV series is loaded in the DVD player to give you hours of enjoyment and you’ve got a slow cooked lamb shoulder with soft polenta in a bowl warming your lap. Now, to complete the picture, you just need some wine. This is textbook comfort food, food you hardly need to chew. Comfort food doesn’t always need to be slow cooked though. Comfort food can be a Sunday afternoon of fish and chips, or a bowl of vanilla ice cream. It’s simple, delicious, and something that you go to as if on autopilot. Let’s take a look at some classic pairings.

Slow cooked meat goes really well with big red wines, and lucky for us there is no shortage of these. The key to these pairings working really well is to choose a wine which still has fresh acid, and by that I mean it feels refreshing and a little sharp. As most slow cooked meats can be fatty and almost gelatinous, the wine should cut through the fat, making everything seem fresh and alive. You don’t want super rich food with overly rich wine where there is no cut, or contrast. The wave Barossa reds are perfect for this. Try Spinifex Bete Noir, or Torbreck Juveniles.

Few things beat the battered goodness and salt-laden soul food of fish and chips. It’s not an everyday meal but it will satisfy a certain savoury craving like no other. The elements of the food are fat and salt. It doesn’t sound even remotely healthy, but remember, everything in moderation. White wine is the best pairing for this type of treat - I prefer Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling. These aromatic wines have great acid to slice and dice the fat, and if they have a little residual sugar – unfermented during the winemaking process – they will work really well with the salt here too. The food doesn’t feel cloying and the wine seems fruitier. Try Ad Hoc Wallflower Riesling or a bottle of Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc. Simple. Delicious.

Hamburger with the lot, or even just accompanied by a few slices of cheese and bacon is hard to beat. The classic Aussie addition to a burger is egg and beetroot, and when I think of these inclusions I instantly think of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. Both are mid-weight wines and have a nice acidity. Acid is the key to most great food and wine matches. Chardonnay has some nice toasty notes if the oak regime is restrained, and it pairs with the bun and charry elements of the meat, not to mention the cheese and egg. Vasse Felix Filius would be a lovely companion. In the Pinot Noir department, something from Central Otago would be more than suitable. Central Otago Pinot Noirs tend to be richer and fuller, but also with the compulsory acidity. Squealing Pig or Nanny Goat Pinot Noir are both highly appropriate pairings.

At the end of a long day you probably don’t want to be stirring cake mixes or setting crème brulee like a sous chef. So unless you have someone who has done this for you, a bowl of ice cream with a ball or two of Malteasers is hard to pass up. Far too often we neglect dessert wines and end up eating sweets with dry red wine. This isn’t recommended, for obvious reasons, but it’s worth noting that you’ll drag down the flavour at both ends. Step it up a little - dessert wine can be as simple as a bottle of Penfolds Club Reserve Tawny, or as elaborate as De Bortoli Noble One. The Club Reserve will go nicely with the hit of malt and chocolate and add a rum ’n’ raisin note to the ice cream. If you choose the Noble one you could add some dried apricots to mirror some of those dried fruit notes. Which ever you choose, you won’t be disappointed. Bon Appetit!

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