Unusual Drink Pairings

Written by
Michael Jappy
February 16, 2017
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Experimental dish and drink matching you need to try.

It’s easy to get your corkscrew in a twist when thinking about matching up your carefully curated meal with some delightfully delicious tipples. Until recently, if some unwritten food and drink matching rules were broken, it would almost certainly lead to you being banished from the dinner party invite list for good! As the wind of change has swept through the drinks world however, thankfully peoples’ perception of what to drink and when has evolved.

A new breed of young and adventurous winemakers, brewers and distillers are blazing a trail in the drinks industry today, teaching us to not be afraid of throwing caution to the wind. Consequently, wine and other delicious beverages are now part of many peoples’ daily consciousness rather than being just reserved for special occasions.

Also, as more and more varied cuisines influence what we are eating it’s no wonder that we’ve had to get creative when throwing around drinks to match what is on our dinner plates. When experimenting with matches it’s still best to try matching lighter drinks with lighter dishes and fuller flavoured meals with drinks that have a bit more weight and texture. Beyond that, live life on the edge, get creative and experiment and you’ll no doubt end up pleasantly surprised with the results.

The bold and the brave

Fortune really does favour the brave and one of the most unusual but fascinating food and wine matches that gets people in something of a twist is one that dates right back to the 19th century.

A few freshly shucked natural oysters is without doubt one of the finest ways to kick off any meal and these days people tend to pit their oysters against a crisp clean white (think Chablis or Muscadet) and wouldn’t even think about throwing a sweet wine into the mix!

Yet classic Sauternes (from the Bordeaux region in South West France) have been matched up to Oysters by those in the know for centuries. Briny, tangy oysters come alive when matched with a lighter, fresher expression of Sauternes such as Chateau Guiraud, whose wines are usually fresh and pure. The racy acidity of the wine keeps things wonderfully clean. Slightly plumper, sweeter oysters can stand up to some more luscious expressions of dessert wine (that still have acidity in spades). Sadly, we all don’t have access to a cellar full of old Chateau d’Yquem, however the local icon that is De Bortoli Noble One always delivers the goods whilst not breaking the bank at the same time. It’s a great place to kick start your food and wine matching mystery tour.

Raw fish and raw flavour

Once you’ve devoured a few delicious oysters what about moving onto some sushi or sashimi? Conventionally, Japanese cuisine is matched up with some amazing sake that the country is so famous for but thinking outside the box can also deliver some great results! Whisky has had sommeliers and amateur fans alike scratching their head for years trying to match it up to food and not many people would have predicted that sushi could be the saviour.

You would be forgiven for thinking that you might want to avoid some stronger peatier whiskies when trying to match whisky with food, but you might be surprised once you give something like the smokey, briny, saline tinged Ardbeg 10yo a whirl when matched up with nigari. If you’re just tucking into some simple sashimi maybe stick to something a little lighter and more fragrant like Glenkinchie 12yo which has a lovely soft fruitiness that won’t over power the delicate raw fish.

Ten years ago you’d be forgiven for not having a clue what a ‘slider’ was but they are now a mainstay on many a café, restaurant or bar menu. Pork belly seems to be the flavour of the month just now and when loaded up with some Asian inspired slaw there’s no better bar snack. There’s nothing better to cleanse the palate and cut through the fattiness of the pork belly than a glass of off dry Riesling. No one does juicy pork quite like the Germans and conveniently nobody does Riesling quite like the Germans either. Ernst Loosen is rightly regarded as one of the worlds’ greatest Riesling producers and his Bernkasteler Lay Riesling Kabinett is a stunning example of this incredible grape variety. The retention of a touch of residual sugar helps balance out the racy acidity and will cut through the fatty pork and the slightly spicy slaw beautifully.

Friday night frivolity

And finally there is Champagne which goes well with…well just about everything. The high natural acidity found in Champagne cleanses the palate amazingly and sets up your taste buds for the next mouthful. One of the most surprising, yet fulfilling Champagne matches is the delectable treat that is fish and chips. The oily fish and the freshly fried chips are perfectly lifted up by a glass of something bubbly. There’s no need to dust off your finest bottle of vintage fizz for your Friday night fish supper so grab a bottle of the devilishly pure, fresh Billecart Salmon Brut NV and let the good times and diverse food matches roll!