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Home News > July 2019 > Food Match Winners 2019

Food matching is what restaurants are all about. And so each year our judges pick 30 or so wines (under £13) from the Gold List and try them against a range of dishes. If you serve this food, you should stock these wines...

AVOCADO ON TOAST 

Château Du Cleray, Muscadet Sevre et Maine 2014, Loire, France

Introduced last year, this food match is a recognition of the importance of brunch. And while Martin Lam drily remarked that most people would probably be ‘drinking cappuccino with it’ our tasters felt that this Loire Chenin was a great caffeine-free substitute.

‘Its got quite green flavours, and it’s quite savoury,’ remarked Gymkhana’s Valentin Radosav. ‘It brings a soft, citrussy note that works really well. Neither the food nor the wine overpowers the other.’

CEVICHE 

Tokara, Reserve Collection, Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Elgin, South Africa

The ceviche spectrum runs from super-limey (and heavily marinated) to what we had here – a heavily flavoured piece of fish that was low on external elements.

While our panel felt that the Schieferkopf German Riesling would have worked for the former style, for this version we went for the bigger flavours of the South African Sauvignon. ‘It’s a full-flavoured wine, and it does a good job of cleaning off the pungent character of the fish,’ said Chris Cooper.

ROAST SALMON 


Villa Mattielli, Campolungo, Soave Classico Superiore 2017, Veneto, Italy 

A straight roast salmon without complicating factors, such as sauces or garnish, our panel quickly found a wonderful match here. ‘This is a rich, creamy style of Soave, with a softness to the palate,’ said team leader Andres Ituarte.

‘It matches the fatty, oily texture you get from the fish, and balances that out without ever running over the top of it.’ As Martin Lam pointed out, you don’t get a lot of salmon in Italian restaurants, so perhaps this could be a great way to introduce Soave to a wider audience. It was a truly effortless match.

FISH & CHIPS 

Viña Requingua, Toro De Piedra, Chardonnay 2017, Maule, Chile

The fish and chips we were served here was a pretty well-mannered version of the British classic, not least because the fish was breadcrumbed rather than battered. The less oily nature of this dish meant that our initial guess of the Fernando de Castilla Classic Fino was rather too much (it needed batter) but the Chilean Chardonnay proved a winner.

‘The potatoes have a creamy texture, then you get the fish, then at the end the Chardonnay brings you back to creamy. It’s a circular journey,’ explained Valentin Radosav of Gymkhana Restaurant. ‘And the food calms down some of the oak,’ added Martin Lam.

ROAST CHICKEN

Domaine Pierre Sourdais, Chinon Tradition Organic 2017, Loire, France

A particularly juicy chicken, with a salty, crunchy skin, our panel had no problems at all finding a match with this. some might be surprised that it was a red, but in fact this lifted, crunchy Loire red acted slightly like a spoonful of cranberry sauce.

‘This was a really positive match,’ said Martin Lam. ‘There’s a lovely warm herby fruit and a sappiness to the wine. It really embraces the strength of the roast flavours. It isn’t a battle at all – it’s a really good blend. And refreshing.’

MARGHERITA PIZZA 

Doluca, Tugra, Bogazkere 2016, Aegean, Turkey

This is often our toughest category to match. And in absence of any cheap sparklers our team ended up tasting a large number of wines, both red and white. In the end, salvation came from an unlikely quarter: a Turkish red made from the indigenous Bogazkere.

‘I think it’s the toasted note of the pizza that works with the dryness of the wine,’ mused team leader Chris Cooper, while for Andreas Ituarte it was that there was ‘enough acidity to work with the cheese – and there’s a good core of sweet fruit, too, that balances the tomato sauce.’

VEGETARIAN RISOTTO 

Mezzacorona, Castel Firmian, Chardonnay 2018, Trentino, Italy

The ‘vegetarian risotto’ match can cover everything from umami mushrooms to sweet root veg. This year, we had probably the easiest style – mostly lifted green vegetables – peas, broad beens and courgettes, backed up by mushrooms for weight. Wine wise, this should have been easy, and it was.

This delicious Trentino Chardonnay from Mezzacorona really chimed with the food, with Gymkhana Restaurant's Valentin Radosav describing it as ‘like rain after a hot day. After the creaminess of the dish it comes in with lovely freshness and makes you want to come back for more. The flavours of the wine are quite delicate and add subtly to the dish.’

BEEF BURGER

Santadi, Cannonau di Sardegna 2015, Sardinia, Italy

With so many flavours and textures going on in a burger, wine matches can be surprisingly difficult, and our tasters had to cast around a bit here this year. They needed something structured and refreshing, but not austere, and easy-drinking but not over-simple. Step forward the Santadi Cannonau.

‘In the food you have sweet, salty, meaty and bready, and that solid core of ripe fruit rounds out everything nicely,’ said Chris Cooper. ‘It’s a big wine but – in a good way – not overly complex,’ added fellow team leader Andres Ituarte. ‘And that simplicity and freshness complement the different elements of the burger. There’s an honesty to it.’

PULLED PORK

Spice Route, Pinotage 2017, Swartland, South Africa

Another slightly awkward dish that’s caused our tasters problems in the past, this year we had pork that had been cooked right down and was sweet and salty, but had no fattiness left. Our tasters tried everything from Nero d’Avola to fino sherry (!) but found their best match somewhere in between the two, with the Spice Route Pinotage.

‘The high fruit content and spiciness really chimes with the way the pork has been cooked,’ said Martin. ‘For a dish with quite concentrated flavours, the wine brings a note of freshness.’ ‘That spiciness in the wine really adds some lift to the richness of the pork,’ added competition director Chris Losh.

RACK OF LAMB 

Villa Cerna, Primocolle, Chianti Classico 2015, Tuscany, Italy

After a run of challenging dishes it was good to get back to something more straightforward, and our tasters quickly found an effortlessly superlative match for this classic rack of lamb. ‘The fruit flavour in this Chianti is not too overwhelming for the delicacy of the meat, but the tannin cuts nicely through the fat in a harmonious way,’ said Chris Cooper.

Fellow team leader Martin Lam, meanwhile, enjoyed the ‘slightly herbal, black olive note that lifts the flavour of the meat.’

STEAK 

Amalaya, Gran Corte, Malbec 2017, Calchaquí Valley,  Salta, Argentina 

Domaine de la Janasse, Terre de Bussiere, Principaute d'Orange 2016, Rhone, France 

We often get two winners in the ‘steak match’ section, and so it was again this year. ‘This Malbec is a very inclusive wine,’ said Martin Lam. ‘It has alcohol and depth of flavour, but it doesn’t overwhelm the meat, it enhances it, bringing out all the characteristics of a piece of grilled beef and making more of it. Malbec might be an obvious match, but it’s obvious for a reason…’

‘There’s more acidity and structure in the Rhone,’ mused Andres Ituarte, ‘and you’d need that to cut through the fat of a sirloin, for instance. But it works perfectly well with this flatiron steak, too.’ Valentin, meanwhile, loved the ‘herb and spice element that it brings to the table.’

THAI GREEN CURRY 

Eschenhof Holzer, Zero-G, Gruner Veltliner 2018, Wagram, Austria

This is never an easy dish to match – particularly if, as this year, you don’t have any aromatic wines with residual sugar to draw on (all the aromatics that got through onto the Gold List were too expensive for the Food Match round).

Our tasters soon narrowed the contenders down to Germany Riesling, Piedmontese Muscat and Austrian Gruner Veltliner, and, perhaps surprisingly, in the end, the latter came out unanimously on top. While the (Italian) was the best flavour match, it left the chilli on the finish, whereas because the Gruner was quite a fruity style it helped take some of the heat out of the wine.

‘The food changes the wine and it comes off a little waxier, but the wine caps the spice on the finish,’ said Andres Ituarte. ‘It’s not an easy match, but it does a good job.’

CHOCOLATE FONDANT 

Chaffey Bros. Wine Co. Synonymous, Shiraz 2016, Barossa Valley, South Australia

Can you have a dry red wine with chocolate? Absolutely! It might not be a traditional pairing, but it can really work – particularly if you’ve got plenty of fruit ripeness in the wine.

‘This acts rather like a spoonful of raspberry coulis with the chocolate,’ mused competition director Chris Losh, while Valentin Radosav said that it had ‘the ripeness and texture to work. Plus the nature of the fruit complements the flavours on the chocolate.’

‘The weight of the wine carries through with the dish,’ said team leader Chris Cooper. ‘If you are going to have a standard wine rather than a dessert wine, this is the kind of thing you need.’

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