Tuesday, 21, November 2017
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- The Westbury
An Easy Guide to Wine Pairing
How to match your festive dishes
There seems to be a constant air of celebration at this time year. Whether it’s friends catching up over a glass of Champagne, or colleagues toasting the end of the year, there’s always a sense of festivity.
It’s also the time when you’re entertaining more at home, be it a long dinner or a few canapés. Catering for guests can be a little intimidating, particularly when it comes to choosing wine. When you’re accommodating different tastes, palates and courses, it can be a challenge to choose a wine that will complement your choices.
At times like this, it’s best to consult the experts. Patrick McArdle is the General Manager of WILDE, the hottest new restaurant to breathe life into the Dublin scene. With a luxurious 1930s interior, a modern menu of much-loved dishes, an extensive wine list (featuring over 40 wines by the glass) and an exclusive partnership with Krug, WILDE is the place to be seen.
We spoke to Patrick to get some tips about wine pairing at this time of year, and some tips for easy dishes you can whip up in a flash.
When you’re pairing wines, are you looking for elements that complement each other or match flavours?
“You’re looking at how the food sits – if it’s acidic or if it’s light in acid. You’re looking to balance and match the acidity. Acidity in wine does different jobs depending on each dish. If there’s a dish that’s high in cream, you would choose a wine high in acid that will cut the cream and balance out the richness.
“For example, the apples in our delicious apple tart are acidic, but there’s lots of sweetness in there too. So because there’s a sweetness in there, and homemade vanilla ice cream on the side, there is a creaminess to the dish. You have to match that as well, which is why we put a Sauternes beside it. A Sauternes is quite a cloying dessert wine, but it still has hidden acidity that’s not immediately apparent, and that will help clean out the richness of the dish. The Château Graves Sauternes (2012) works very well.”
A great cheese plate is always a favourite at Christmas, and an easy thing for people to prepare for guests. How do you go about pairing wines with cheeses?
“You can go in depth, and focus on different wines with different cheeses. Again, things like hard cheeses, like a manchego or parmesan, are quite acidic and that needs to be matched with something like Champagne. Champagne is really high in acid but also really high in sugar. That’s a really good match.
“With blue cheese, there’s such a strong flavour. You can’t really enhance it, so you have to complement it, which is why red wines work very well… maybe something medium bodied, with good flavour made in a low climate temperature, so the acid will come forward and help cleanse the palate - but nothing overly tannic, ports also work well here, they have good depth of spice, dark fruit and richness to match the flavour profile of blue cheese.”
Are there any quick and easy canapés you would recommend for the festive season? Something that can be prepared easily?
Maybe something classic, at this time of year, like smoked or cured salmon with crème fraiche, on a larger crouton or slice of crunchy bread. It’s really easy to do, and super simple - it’s very much an Irish thing to do at Christmas. That can be matched up with a really good Chardonnay.
“Another canapé I love at this time of year is confit duck legs. They can be simply roasted in the oven for a few hours with a bit of duck fat and spice, bringing in the Christmas element. Some sliced orange, cloves and star anise work with that. Then match that with something like caramelised onion. That’s a bit more of a cheffy, drawn out procedure but it’s a relatively easy thing to do. You don’t need to be worried about it overcooking - you can make it as soft as you want so it just pulls apart. That’d be a very rustic canapé, in my eyes. I would pair that with a medium bodied red wine, oak aged with a good spice, like an aged Rioja.”
Do you find wine orders change seasonally? Do people favour certain wines at this time of year?
“They definitely do. Things like wines from the south of France, the southern Rhone, and Bordeaux. You’re also matching with food, and menus at this time of year are going more back towards root vegetables and game, so you are going back to heavy hitting red wines.
“People are also looking for something a little more special at Christmas, so they’re moving towards the Bordeaux and the old world - they’re eating out and enjoying the evening so they’re going to go the extra step up the list to celebrate a special time of year. Champagne is more popular, definitely. Oysters are in season too, and they go really well with Champagne.
“Sherry, too, is well worth checking out at the moment. Manzanilla sherry is dry with lots of salinity, and it really pairs well with the oysters, it’s amazing. Be sure not to mix this with sweet sherries - not the stuff the grandmother would have in the cupboard!”
For more information on WILDE including the menus, wine lists and booking information, see the website...