DIY Food and Wine Pairing

Phew, it’s been a busy old year! What with all the tapas trailin’, the art, and distilling my own gin I have to confess I’ve been struggling to fit all of the blog posts in that I wanted to share with you. I’m kicking myself that I haven’t talked about the DIY food and wine pairing day that I hosted for my friends on my birthday, way back in May.

The birthday wine selection. I know some of them are the same, but still satisfying nonetheless.

This was the first time I’d hosted a wine and food matching event on my own, and so logically you have to make your nearest and dearest the guinea pigs! I’d been inspired by the wonderful day we had tasting and sampling at Terroir Feely in Saussignac. The biggest challenge for me is that most of my good friends don’t actually drink wine and so I had to wait for my birthday to come round, so they HAD TO DO WHAT I WANT TO DO ‘COS IT’S MY BIRTHDAY. Not that I’m a birthday diva or anything, it’s just a good way to manipulate people to do your bidding, at least for a couple of hours.

Chateau de la Jaubertie 2011

Many of these wines came to us from The Case (many thanks guys, much appreciated). They generously supported my food and wine pairing aspirations by providing me with four incredible bottles of wine for me to share with my friends, complementing the selection I had already collected from France and elsewhere. Sadly I don’t have tasting notes for all of them because of course I was busy being the dedicated hostess and it was my birthday, so sometimes you have to throw journalistic accuracy to the four winds.

However, the whole point of this point is to encourage you, nay, beg you, to host your own wine tasting. It’s so much fun and you don’t have to (necessarily) know anything about wine. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed explaining to my guests a little about the wines I had selected, where they were from and talking through the tasting process, but I think that wine is very much like art – it’s all about your opinion. You know what you like and what you don’t, so just get some mates together, enjoy some wine and marvel at how different foods affect what you are tasting.

I brought in a bunch of different cheeses, including the Echourgnac cheese that we brought back from Bergerac. This is dressed in an incredible local walnut liqueur which gives an amazingly deep nutty flavour. We also had a sharp goat’s cheese, an earthy blue and a mature Welsh rarebit cheddar. I teamed this with smoked salmon and Polish speck from Leicester Market – an attempt to give a food platter with as much variation as the wines I was providing.

I also decided to put out some avocado, because I couldn’t really recall anyone ever giving me a good idea of what avocado matches with and I love it so much that I had to do a little bit of experimentation. In the event it turned out that one of my friends, a confirmed Jack Daniels drinker, really enjoyed it with the Chateau de la Jaubertie, Bergerac 2011. This is a big, deep wine with a hefty, full and slightly peppery flavour with big black fruit that opens out later in the mouth. 

The fascinating thing was that he identified that the avocado in combination with the wine created a metallic flavour, which he really loved and I also enjoyed, but I could see would really put a load of other people off. This was the really cool thing, finding those flavour notes and interesting combinations which were respectively enjoyed and hated by various members of the party.

It has given me the idea now that you can essentially use careful balancing of food and wine to create your perfect flavours. Have a wine that’s nearly perfect, but a little heavy on the florals? Find a food that takes that note away. There must be a dream combination out there for everyone.

By the way, this is the Alain Marcadet Touraine. It’s one of the biggest sellers in the Case restaurant. Super fruity, but dry and crisp, it was one of the true hits of the day. I loved it with the smoked salmon, but that’s probably not what you’re supposed to like it with!


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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