Let's Eat

Making the perfect match this Shabbat

There's a huge choice available of fine kosher wines. But how do you know which one works with your Friday night dinner menu?


Kosher wine has got exciting. Quality has never been so high, with fine kosher wines made at Bordeaux's top chtaeaux and throughout the worlds most famous wine regions.

No need to make kiddush with sickly sweet “boiled” mevushal wines. So where do you start when choosing wine to drink with your Friday night meal, for Yomtovs or even for a weeknight supper? Endless choice and little help on the label, however, can make choosing wine for food seem daunting and mistakes can happen.

Pair smoked salmon with a glass of tannic red and you’ll end up with an unpleasant metallic taste.But switch that red for a glass of champagne and magic happens, each making the other taste better. The rich oils in the salmon soften champagne’s searing acidity, while the bubbles render the fish less rich and allow complex flavours to unfold.
Wine is such a natural partner for food. Just like a squirt of lemon juice or a handful of herbs, it can bring a dish to life and enhance the flavours, bringing different dishes and indeed people together.

So next time you are looking for a bottle to serve for Shabbat, here are my top tips:


1. Colour

Colour is the oldest rule in the book — “white wine with white meat and fish; red wine with red meat” — and most of the time it works.

I find you can also stretch the rule to rosé, matching pink wines with salmon, duck or lamb cooked rare.

Don’t be too hung up on this rule, however, as crisp, lighter reds can be delicious with white meats like roast chicken or richer fish like salmon or mackerel. Pinot Noir or crisp Italian reds like Chianti work best.


2. Aroma

I find that harmonising aromatics can also help point you in the right direction. A classic example is herbal/grassy Sauvignon Blanc which has the same green flavours of green herbs and spring vegetables like asparagus, peas and green beans. Try New Zealand’s excellent Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc with food like classic Roman dish Carciofi alla Guidea (literally meaning Jewish-style artichokes), cured salmon or pickled herrings with dill, or fish with salsa verde.

Wines can have aromas and tastes, which act like a sauce or condiment. Borrow classic combinations from cooking and use for wine pairings. For example, swap or enhance apple sauce with an apple-fruited Viognier or Chardonnay with roast goose. A foolproof match.

3. Acidity

Think of wine as the lemon juice or vinegar in cooking that help cleanse the palate and cut through rich fats in food — like fried fish, latkes, schnitzel or smoked salmon. For wines with fresh acidity look out for cooler northerly climates — champagne, Chablis or higher altitude whites.

Acidity also works well with acidity. So a vinegary salad dressing will love a crisp, lemony white wine.


4. Bitterness

Oak ageing and the skins of red grapes add bitter tannins to wine. Rich fatty meats like lamb will soften bitter tannins. Conversely, the tannins will make the meat seem less rich. Spanish reds like Rioja or Cabernet Blends are classic choices.


5. Weight

Try and match the intensity of the wine with the intensity of the dish. So a bold wine tends to go best with a flavoursome dish, whereas a light, crisp white would be overwhelmed by a lamb tagine or juicy brisket.


6. Temperature

Match the temperature of the food with that of the wine. Chilled wines tend to go better with cold food likes salads or cold meats.

You can even experiment with chilling softer reds (15-30 minutes in the fridge) to make them seem lighter and more suited to summery foods. Don’t chill too hard though or you’ll kill fruit and fragrance, and, with reds wines, accentuate bitter tannins.


7. Age

As a general rule, younger wines go best with fresher foods and more mature wines, where the tannins and acids have softened, go with slow cooked foods, like cholent or its Sephardi cousin, adafina or nutty, savoury dishes like kasha and wild mushrooms.


8. Sweetness

The golden rule for dessert is to opt for a wine that is sweeter than the dessert, otherwise the wine will taste bitter. Take a chunk of sweet milk chocolate with a dry red wine and you will quickly see what I mean. In contrast, sweet Muscat and flourless chocolate cake make a stunning match. Honey cake or lokshen pudding require more freshness as found in Sauternes. For a match made in heaven, try one of the best — Château Guiraud, 1er Cru Classé, Sauternes.


9. Chilli

The heat from chilli can often spoil the subtle flavours in wine.However, fruity sweet or off-dry wines like Chenin Blanc or Riesling can help calm the heat brilliantly.



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