Anyone who’s seen Come Dine With Me will understand – knowledgably pairing wine with food is a skill worth having, and some feel under considerable pressure to get it right.
Some are happy with ‘the basics’ – a lemony white wine to accompany sea bass perhaps, a deep red for a big of hunk of roast beef.
Others might go a touch further, elevating themselves to the realms of understanding the differences between grape varieties and regions, knowing that it’d most likely be harmonious to serve a light and crisp Muscadet with fish, a spicy, bold Shiraz with steak.
But let’s face it, most are relatively useless at discerning anything past that. Mention appellations, vintages, or what French villages are most acclaimed, and there’ll be panic in even some of the more seasoned dinner party hosts.
Thankfully experts like Susy Atkins, of Saturday Kitchen fame, are on hand to show us what to do. I went along to Blackheath’s Chapters on Monday to find out more about what’s on trend this summer.
Beginning with prosecco, it was unsurprising to hear the Italian fizz has now overtaken champagne in sales. It came with an avocado and pea puree on a crunchy crostini. It was like being at a posh picnic.
Next we headed to Galacia in Spain to sample a refreshing Albarino, offering nice acidity next to teacups (yes) full of sea bass cerviche (cured in citrus) and herbs.
Moving on, we had a South African Riesling. Some weren’t convinced but to me it was refreshing and hinted apples, which cut through juicy chorizo and white beans. I needed more beans to balance the fatty pork, but with none, I had more wine.
A surprisingly good, if expensive, rose blush came next. I’m disinclined to order rose (because I’m macho, right?) but this was refined and subtle. What’s more, it came with my favourite dish of the night – a delicate bresaola with apple and celeriac remoulade. It all echoed southern France majestically, while dipping into Italy with the addition of some pecorino.
Onto the reds, the first of which was a light, fruity Beaujolais (Fleurie). On its own it was nice enough, but seemed a bit lost against a rich rabbit terrine that encased foie gras as buttery as a Lurpak factory.
The Chilean Carmenere afterwards had no danger of being overawed, however – all spicy with cloves and cinnamon. But in reverse, I wasn’t all that bothered by the grilled slider paired with it. The beef was tender, the match worked – I’m just really quite bored of burgers.
What I’m not bored of is apple tart. As buttery as the earlier pate, it was offset by an apple sorbet that tasted like a summer walk through a frozen orchard. It was a sweet and refreshing end, and with our Moscato d’Asti, a grapey, low alcohol Italian dessert wine, the evening finished on a sugary high.