It's currently very fashionable to say there are no rules when it comes to food and wine pairing. If one isn't openly encouraged to be adventurous and try matching, say, malbec with oysters then the mantra goes something like, simply eat and drink what you like. The fact is it's not that simple.
I know, when it comes to wine we're supposed to simplify things but pairing food with wine isn't nearly as obvious as some would have you believe.
The good news is that acquiring basic food-and-wine pairing skills isn't as difficult as it sounds. If you're willing to experiment and, in this case, listen to someone who's attended thousands of wine dinners, you'll come to know that some pairings work better than others. And while the reasons may not be readily apparent, the pairing often is.
My inspiration for food-friendly wine matches doesn't come from cookbooks but rather from an almost unexplainable camaraderie between ingredients in classic food dishes.
Is there a better match than bacon and eggs, or fish and chips? Why do we crave macaroni and cheese, cookies and milk, or even peanut butter and bananas? I haven't even mentioned my favourite, spaghetti and meatballs but you get the point.
I'm betting most of you will have experienced many of these time honoured matches and know, for some reason or another, that the combination of ingredients simply tastes better.
Most great food and wine matches begin with wines that naturally lend themselves to being paired perfectly. In my mind, wines of balance, where the sugar, acid and tannin coexist and feed each other, are the perfect platform to elevate most dishes to another level of enjoyment.
What follows is a look at some of the most food-friendly wine types on the planet. Each comes with a number of suggestions, gathered over three decades, on what best to serve them with and, of course, as always, a wine pick you can find in the local market that you shouldn't miss.
Champagne is the quintessential food wine, thanks to its superb acidity levels. Complex, effervescent and dry it can easily tame the wild flavours of game or simply set off the classic gougère before the dinner starts. Some of my most memorable meals began, continued and finished with champagne. It's a sure bet with oysters on the half shell, but is equally at home with rich soft cheeses.
The Match: Charles Heidsieck N/V Brut Reserve $61
Heidsieck is on a roll with this fragrant bubble with its nutty, brioche, baked apple nose. The palate is a subtle mix of toasted nuts and citrus and juicy baked apple, pear and cherry flavours. This one over-delivers.