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Wine: When matching wine with food, don't stick with what you hear

PUBLISHED: 12:22 16 August 2011

Liz Sagues finds a perfect match for camembert

There are plenty of challenges as well as pleasures in matching wine with food, and finding a happy companion for camembert is one of the hardest.

Too many wines acquire an unpleasant metallic edge alongside the ripe creaminess of the cheese, and the Normans themselves often suggest the local cider if there isn’t a decent red bordeaux to hand.

But I’ve discovered an alternative. It’s a wine I’m reluctant to recommend too generously, as when I first poured it the lightly golden colour warned of oxidation and there wasn’t much to smell. But after some minutes in the glass there were scents which reminded me of cold-remedy lemon and honey and the camembert brought out similar flavours, which made a very enjoyable pairing.

So here’s the quandary. Chateau le Bourdillot 2006 Graves (£9.50, www.laithwaites.co.uk) is a mature white bordeaux which can delight – camembert apart, it was good with olives and almond nibbles, probably because age has given it almost a touch of sherry character. But it was also a disappointment with the rest of a vegetarian supper. If you buy it, be selective in what you eat with it.

Experiences like these are part of the pleasure, and the peril, of food and wine matching. At the simplest level, choose wine you like and food you enjoy and hope that together they will still delight: very often they do.

There are some principles worth following: avoid drowning delicate food with massively powerful wine, or vice-versa; serve lighter wines early in the meal, more robust ones later; for desserts, choose a wine which is sweeter than the pudding.

But don’t worry too much about some accepted rules. There are plenty of lighter red wines which work well with fish, and often white wine is better with cheese than red: which brings us full circle to that white Graves and camembert.

Here’s a more conventional food matching. Joel Delaunay Sauvignon de Touraine 2010 (Majestic, £7.50 if you buy at least two bottles) is a classic sauvignon blanc from France’s Loire Valley, fresh, perfumed and flavoured with grassy green fruits, with an attractive clean finish. No wonder it’s one of the 2011 Loire sauvignon blanc “ambassadors” – a selection of wines chosen to represent the best of the region where there’s an excellent initiative to improve the quality of both sauvignon blanc and cabernet franc wines.

Happy memories

The Delaunay wine is a lovely partner to Sainte Maure, one of the best of Touraine’s many goats’ cheeses. But it is also a surprisingly good partner to mackerel, cooked in the Greek way with tomato, garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs and plenty of olive oil.

And here’s another white which falls very firmly into what I describe as the “lovely summer wine” category: Paul Mas vermentino 2010 (Majestic, two-bottles-plus £6.50). I’ve happy memories of fragrant vermentino from Sardinia – the grape loves sea air.

This southern French wine may not have quite that vibrant scent, especially when newly out of the fridge, but it more than makes up with stylish flavours, fresh, dry with an almost salty/mineral edge which is very appealing. Let it stand in the glass a little, and it becomes more aromatic, fruiter and more rounded, and it has attractive, lingering length.

Paul Mas has done a lot to improve the image of his region’s wines, and this is a very impressive example, at a bargain price.



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