Let's Eat

Red is not always the perfect match


Everyone knows two things about food and wine matching. One is that white wine goes with fish. The other is that red wine goes with cheese. Unfortunately for true believers in the received wisdom, neither assertion is correct.

And the second is often horrendously incorrect. Some cheeses will either destroy a good red or be destroyed by them. Can you imagine a beefy Côtes du Rhône with Camembert or goats cheese?

I take a fairly relaxed attitude towards food and wine matching. But I hate to see two wonderful things served together when they’re incompatible. My personal theory: we believe the red-and-cheese malarkey because we’re drinking red at the end of the meal, which is when the cheese comes out. And if we’ve had enough to drink, we don’t notice the clash.

There is a way out of this. Your soundest bet with cheese is sweet wine.

Not perfect with everything, of course; if you’re rolling out a cheeseboard, some of its inhabitants may not be perfectly served. But you get more winners than losers, I’m willing to wager.

And the wine doesn’t even need to be expensive. Consider an old friend of this column, now in a new vintage:
Tesco Finest Dessert Sémillon 2009, made by the estimable De Bortoli winery in New South Wales. At £6.79 for 37.5cl, this glowingly honeyed beauty is almost certainly the best low-priced sweet wine in the country.

And consider Martinez Marsala Superiore Riserve Dolce (M&S, £6.49/37.5cl), a good entry-level example of Sicily’s unique wine. Zesty, fresh acidity lifts the intense flavours of dried fruits.

And finally, Domaine des Forges 2010, Côteaux du Layon. Chenin Blanc produces fabulous sweet wines in the Loire Valley, and this one has a fine balance of lush sweetness and fine acidity at a low price. From 53 branches of Waitrose and online at £8.49/37.5 – and on special offer at £6.99 till June 10th.

As I say, none of these will match every single cheese on your cheeseboard. But they’ll do a lot better than most reds. Whatever the received wisdom might say.

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