What wine can you drink with Marmite on toast?
- Credit: The Wine Society
There's one essential rule in matching wine and food: there are no rules. Plenty may be suggested, but what's right and what's wrong comes down to individual taste. My match-in-heaven of grilled salmon with cool-climate pinot noir, for example, may affront your never-red-with-fish determination. Or your love of sauternes with even richer Christmas pud may make my stomach revolt at sweetness overload.
But let's not get embroiled in arguments. The fun with matching wine and food lies in experimenting, and the next couple of weeks should be an excellent time for that – there just might be a few more bottles open due to the festive season.
I'll tempt you with some recent experience, courtesy of this winter's Eat Spain, Drink Spain campaign. The planned face-to-face workshops in London and beyond were, of course, cancelled. Instead, signed-up virtual participants received a box containing little samples of wine and all kinds of tempting delicacies, plus a Zoom link.
Some pairings were greeted with near-unanimous approval – think fruity young rioja with salty blue cheese or dry, sea-breeze-scented manzanilla sherry with chorizo or Iberico ham.
But others drew totally clashing opinions. I loved a fresh, fruity-savoury mencía (Valdesil Valdeorra, £12, winebuyers.com) with creamy canned sturgeon (flesh, not roe, El Capricho, £9.25 from galleriabygfg.co.uk). Those proved the star wine and star food of the session, though a number of participants certainly did not enjoy them together.
For many people, unsuccessful pairings are those where the food gives an unpleasant metallic tang to the drink. Sadly, that happened for me with delicious gently grilled and oiled artichoke hearts (notoriously wine-tricky) alongside a fine, complex Basque white; instead the manzanilla was again a happy partner. I could continue...
If aperitif or mealtime conversation falters during the holiday, suggest that adults in your bubble pour small servings of whatever wines you have open and try them against available foods. Successes might be sweet wine (preferably with some acidity) with pâté, citrussy fizz and chips, fortified red with chocolate. Or set some truly tricky challenges: what can you happily drink with Marmite on toast? Or kimchi? Or tomato ketchup?
If you would like advice, there's plenty around. The Wine Society has lots on its website, thewinesociety.com, and writer Fiona Beckett offers the experience of her very well-honed palate on matchingfoodandwine.com.
One bit of advice: recorked half-finished bottles should keep well for several days in the fridge (obviously, let reds warm up before serving). That works even better if you decant the leftovers to fill smaller bottles.