There’s a reason organisations like the Court of Master Sommeliers exist. For most of us, the world of wine pairings doesn’t extend beyond ‘red with meat, white with fish’. After that it’s a case of checking if the label is in a language we understand and hoping for the best!
For the uninitiated, complex dishes with layers of flavour and spice (sound familiar?) are particularly tricky to match with wine. Rather than blunder in the dark any longer, we’ve asked our resident wine expert and chef, Anisa, to give us some advice on which wines to serve with some of our most popular springtime dishes.
Moqueca de Peixe
This light tasting but filling dish is a spiced fish stew from Brazil. The creaminess of the coconut milk blends with the heat of the jalapeño peppers, garlic, cumin and turmeric and is lightened with the sweet fruitiness of tomatoes and peppers. This dish lends itself to a variety of fish species. Salmon would be worth considering as it comes back into season in March. Or you might want to splash out on some beautiful turbot or try some grey mullet for something a little different.
Pair it with: If you’re not having a caprinha or a cold beer with this aromatic fish stew, go for a crisp white with citrus and floral notes to complement the fish and match the acidity of the tomatoes and to cut through the creaminess of the coconut milk. Stay in South America and live it up with a lively Torrontes from Argentina. This grape offers the ripe fruit flavours of sweet apricot and peach, whilst remaining perfectly dry with mouth watering acidity.
Korean Lamb Chops
Cooking spiced lamb chops at this time of year makes you feel that barbeque weather can’t be too far away. The smell of meat charring on a grill evokes memories of sunshine, even when it is pouring with rain. The combination of the umami miso coated lamb, spicy sriracha sauce and bitingly fresh ginger salad mean it’s rewarding to eat even when the weather’s cold. With lettuce and spring onions coming into season now, this is worth checking out.
Pair it with: The sweet, spicy and salty miso glaze on these more-ish chops requires something bold and complex to match up to the flavours. For red, go for a light fruity Beaujolais Cru. It will be smooth enough to let the ginger, spring onions and miso glaze take centre stage, whilst refreshing the palate with every sip. Alternatively try a Pinot Gris from Alsace – the same grape variety as Pinot Grigio, the Alsatians make theirs in a richer style with more tropical notes of melon and mango, and a little spiced dried fruit on the finish.
Spinach and Paneer Curry
The metallic tang of spinach makes a great partner for the milky mozzarella-like taste of paneer, neither one overwhelms the other. Paneer cheese is brilliant at picking up other flavours but it doesn’t get lost in this dish. The creamy tomato sauce, mixed with the garlicy korma paste, balances the acidity of the nigella seed yoghurt on the side. Scooping it all up with some good breads adds some great textural contrast.
Pair it with: For white, you’ll need a medium bodied wine to take on the creaminess of the curry and the richness of the paneer cheese. An unoaked chardonnay, like Chablis, will add searing acidity and subtle green apple and citrus flavours. A perfectly refreshing canvas for the complex flavours of nigella seeds paired with the paneer curry paste.
Thai Basil Pork
Thai food is all about layering flavours but retaining the four-way balance of sour, salt, sweet and bitter. And always with a good smack of chilli heat. This dish combines the fruitiness of a chilli and garlic sauce with Thai 7-spice seasoning. You can add as much or as little spicy Pad Kra Prao Sauce as you like, and balance it to your own taste with salt, sour lime juice and sugar. This isn’t a creamy dish but instead highlights the texture of the peppers and stir fried pork mince. If they catch and slightly caramelise in the pan, the sweet-savoury edges are all to the good.
Pair it with: For this fragrant dish, choose a Riesling or Gewurztraminer from Alsace, France. The Riesling is perfect if you love the sweet acidity of lime, or the Gewurztraminer for a more aromatic, floral wine with ripe lychee flavours and tropical fruit. The sweet ripeness of the fruit flavours will perfectly complement the complexity of the spices in this aromatic, classic Thai street food delight.
Ca Kho To
A spiced fish dish is the ideal spring-time meal. We’re all craving something slightly lighter after the heaviness of winter cooking, but it’s definitely not warm enough for gazpacho and salad yet. The caramelised fish in Ca Kho To is balanced with plenty of lime juice, with a spicy savoury underpinning of ginger, garlic, galangal and chilli. Combined with a hearty helping of rice and some soy sprinkled greens, it’s a winner. It’s great with cod but, if you fancy a show stopper, try it with halibut to really knock your guests socks off.
Pair it with: Go for a dry Sauvignon Blanc from a New World country, like Chile for fruitier elderflower flavours with savoury asparagus notes coming through to balance it out. These aromatics will perfectly match the sweet shallots and cut through the caramelised fish, keeping the palate fresh.