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Home News > July 2018 > Food Match winners for 2018

Unless you’re a wine bar, the central point of your wine list is to showcase wines that are great with food. So every year, after the medal round of tasting, we pick out 25-30 wines from our Gold List to test off with a dozen classic dishes. Yes, it’s a tough day at the office, but we do it so that you don’t have to. And the winners are awesome.

AVOCADO ON TOAST

RW Buckingham & Son, Double Hedges, Solaris 2015, Bedfordshire, England

This dish was a new addition to our food match category this year, and a recognition that brunch is bigger than ever before. There were a couple of close contenders here, but in the end our panel went for a well-priced English white.

‘I’ve liked this wine since the start,’ said Diana Rollan of More than Wines Academy. ‘I thought the aromatic character would work and it did – it carried right the way through the palate, running beautifully alongside the richness of the avocado and gentle spicy and herb-garnish notes.’

MARGARITA PIZZA

Dezzani, Le Lune e Le Stelle, Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2015, Piedmont, Italy

Our tasters have often gone for a red and a white match here, but the Dezzani Barbera absolutely smashed this match out of the park. It was so good that once our panel had tasted it, they simply stopped looking.

‘It’s more than just a glugging red to have with pizza,’ said team leader Martin Lam, ‘it’s savoury and elegant – it brings out the herbs and spices in both the pizza and the wine. It’s properly Italian… it really couldn’t come from anywhere else.’

CEVICHE

Quinta das Arcas, Conde Vilar, Alvarinho 2016, Vinho Verde, Portugal

We tried a range of aromatic whites here before settling on this one – and it remained perhaps the star match of the day. The ceviche was quite an elegant, delicate style – not over-hot or over-limey and with good quality sea bass – and the panel were unanimous about the winning match.

‘It doesn’t challenge the acidity of the ceviche – it wraps itself around it and deals easily with the small amount of spice and salt in the fish,’ said Diana Rollan of More than Wines Academy. ‘It lifts the aromas, there’s a synergy and it carries right through to the finish. It’s beautifully complementary.’

FISH AND CHIPS

Paco & Lola, Albariño 2017, Rías Baixas, Spain

We often go for a sparkling wine here, but none made the judges’ cut from the Gold List, and with the English white (another classic go-to match) also accounted for, our panel were forced to improvise. Fortunately, the Paco & Lola Albariño was at hand.

‘The acidity in the wine really cuts through the fat of the dish,’ said Diana Rollan of More than Wines Academy, ‘while the flavours mean you won’t need to squeeze any lemon on the fish.’ ‘There’s a saline note to the Albariño and a dusting of pepper,’ added team leader Tom Forrest. ‘It acts almost like a seasoning mix for the food.’

ROAST SALMON

Endeavour Wines, Catalina Sounds, Pinot Noir 2016, Marlborough, New Zealand

There was no shortage of potential matches here. We found an eminently acceptable Provence rosé, for instance. But once the beurre blanc was added, it struggled to cope with the extra creaminess and acidity. The Endeavour Vineyards Pinot Noir, however, laughed in the face of the disruptive efforts posed by the sauce, and waltzed off into the sunset with the fish quite happily.

‘Pinot and salmon are friends,’ observed team leader Martin Lam, gnomically. ‘You see it with Oregon Pinot – they use it a lot with fish – but the Marlborough is great here. The minimum use of oak is important.’

THAI GREEN CURRY


Moko Black, Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Marlborough, New Zealand

This can be an awkward dish to match, particularly if the curry is on the fiery side. Fortunately, this year’s was beautifully made, and very well balanced, with plenty of interesting flavours but no disorientating heat.

Team leader Tom Forrest put the ‘heat finish’ at about 20 seconds, but all gentle. Our team toyed with a New Zealand Riesling, before settling on a classic Marlborough Sauvignon from the same country. ‘It really brings out the ingredients of the curry,’ said team leader Martin Lam, ‘the galangal, the lime leaf, the coconut. It lifts all of those flavours, but isn’t overwhelmed by them – you still end up with the herbal and tropical Kiwi Sauvignon palate. And the touch of residual sugar helps to counteract the spice.’

PUMPKIN AND TOMATO RISOTTO

Direct Wines France, La Voûte, Sélection Terroir 2016, Vin de France, France

What is it about vegetarian food? Year after year, this is the element of the Food Match Trophies that gives our tasters the greatest trouble, and so it was again this year. Probably two-thirds of the available bottles – of all colours and styles - were tried before our tasters settled on this Limoux Chardonnay.

‘It’s about the weight of the risotto being matched by the weight of the wine,’ explained team leader Tom Forrest. ‘At the same time, the acidity cuts through the richness of the cheese, tomato and pumpkin. Most of the wines we tried failed on either the “weight” or the “cut-through” elements, but there’s some real harmony in the mouth here.’

STEAK

DFJ Vinhos, Reserva, Touriga Nacional 2015, Lisbon, Portugal
San Silvestro, Brumo, Nebbiolo d’Alba 2015, Piedmont, Italy

As always our tasters looked for a couple of potential winners here – one for fillet and one for sirloin.  For fillet, our team went for the San Silvestro Nebbiolo d’Alba – a superbly well-priced example of the grape with extraordinarily good balance into the bargain, and it was the lack of rough edges that saw it take this award. ‘It has that earthy, savoury character that complements the flavours of the meat,’ said team leader Tom Forrest.

For sirloin, our tasters ended up in Portugal with a lovely, exuberant Touriga Nacional from DFJ Vinhos. ‘Sirloin is more meaty than fillet,’ said Coq d’Argent’s Andrés Ituarte, ‘and there’s a chunkiness and slight smokiness to the wine that really works with the richness, fattiness and chargrill in the meat.’

PULLED PORK

Luzon, Altos de Luzon 2013, Jumilla, Spain

A relatively recent addition to the food match options, pulled pork has given our tasters problems in the past, but this year we found a good match. ‘Pulled pork is a brash dish,’ said Coq d’Argent’s Andrés Ituarte. ‘It’s big and in your face, usually with a sweet bun and big sauce. The Jumilla has a rich oaky character and supple fruit. It balances out the food weight-wise, but there’s a zippy acidity, too.’ 

ROAST CHICKEN

Uggiano, Fagiano, Chianti Riserva 2015, Tuscany Italy

We often look for a red and a white match here, but price rises in Australia and South Africa meant a lack of rich, oaky Chardonnays to play with. However, our tasters were very happy with this incredibly well-priced Chianti Riserva. ‘All restaurants will have a wine like this,’ said team leader Martin Lam, ‘but this is a brilliant example for the money. It has both savoury and sweet elements so it’s refreshing but also fulfilling. It has complexity, with sweet, savoury and herbal notes that will work with however you decide to cook the chicken.’

RACK OF LAMB

Domaine des Carabiniers, Lirac 2016, Rhône, France

Strangely, no Riojas made it on to our food match shortlist here this year, but this superb Lirac proved that you really can expand your lamb-matching horizons a little beyond the obvious without scaring the horses. ‘I liked the acidity in the wine, but also, it really has that herbes de Provence note as well,’ said Coq d’Argent’s Andrés Ituarte.

BURGERS

Origin Wine, Bantry Bay, Pinotage 2015, Western Cape, South Africa
Langmeil, Hangin’ Snakes, Shiraz/Viognier 2015, Barossa, South Australia

You’re as likely to find burgers in your £50-a-head neighbourhood restaurant as in your local pub nowadays, and our team picked two wines to account for the different job required of the wine.

For a pub you really couldn’t do better than Origin Wines’ Pinotage. It’s spectacularly well-priced and has a good character for chargrilled burgers. ‘There’s a slight smoky element to the wine that will work with those charred elements in the meat,’ said team leader Tom Forrest.

If you’re looking for a restaurant match, then the Langmeil was a knockout winner. ‘It’s big and bold, plummy, toasty and rich,’ said Diana Rollan of More than Wines Academy.

CHOCOLATE FONDANT

Bogle, Petite Sirah 2015, California, USA

Think you might be missing out on matching opportunities at the end of the meal, but unwilling to break out the port? Well this match is totally for you.

‘It’s not about sugar when you’re matching wine with chocolate,’ said team leader Tom Forrest, ‘it’s about ripeness, and this wine has super ripe fruit. It’s not over-ripe, but it’s right on point.’

‘The savoury element of the wine goes really well with the savoury flavours in the chocolate,’ added Diana Rollan of More than Wines Academy. ‘It’s proof that dry wine can go with dessert. There’s a good freshness to the finish – it’s not porty at all.’

See all Food Match Trophy winners here, and where to find them.