All Peter Ranscombe‘s beige dreams came true when he paired wines with takeaways*.
SOMETHING really special happens when the right wine is matched to the right food – the two components harmonise and the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
As we’ve seen again and again with the Wine to Dine column in the printed Scottish Field magazine, the right food and wine matching can make a recipe sing or elevate a romantic meal to a whole new level or ensure a dinner party is the talk of the town for years to come.
But – let’s face it – for most of us, a big dinner party is a rare thing, and a definite no-no during our current stage of lockdown, unless you happen to #stayathome or shield with a cast of characters.
Instead, food and wine matching for many will consist of flopping down in front of the gogglebox on a Friday night and cracking open a bottle of vino.
So, hats off to Virgin Wines for spotting a gap in the market.
The online retailer has created a webpage to match your takeaway selection to its wines.
Whether you’ve chosen chicken, selected sushi or plumped for pizza, the online tool will match your munchies to one of its wines.
Being the selfless junk food junkie that I am, I decided to put the site through its paces…
The takeaway: Munchy box
The match: Sparkling wine
Champagne and other sparkling wines are a classic match for fish and chips, with the acidity in the fizz cutting through the greasy batter. So why shouldn’t the humble munchy box get the same five-star treatment? The truly excellent Hambledon Vineyards Classic Cuvee Brut Rosé (£36) – with its aromatic mix of rich red plum and red cherry and fresher redcurrant and cranberry – does the job admirably in this cross-border crossover. All the acidity you could want, but balanced by concentrated fruit flavours and surrounded by an army of lively bubbles.
The takeaway: Gourmet bacon cheeseburger
The match: Rioja or syrah
Salty bacon, cheese and beef paired with the sweet vanilla from the combination of American and French oak barrels used to age Rioja? What’s not to like? Virgin’s Finca Manzaons wines are a staple of its line-up in all their various forms, and here the 2014 Finca Manzanos Rioja Reserva Especial (£13.49) boasts telltale aromas of heavy wood smoke, milk chocolate, coffee, vanilla, bramble and black pepper. The tannins have plenty of grip to handle a good-quality burger, while the black cherry fruit is sweeter on the palate.
The takeaway: Crispy duck pancakes
The match: Pinot noir
Duck and point noir form a classy classic combination – although don’t rule out gamay or grenache – and I was excited to try the 2018 Mr Noir Pinot Noir (£11.99) from South Australia. I’d probably struggle to enjoy it on its own because I think the acidity needs longer to integrate, but that same freshness made it a great option for slicing through the hoisin sauce that smothered the duck pancakes. It’s a very savoury style of pinot with lots of blackcurrant notes that deserves a second look further down the line.
The takeaway: Loaded nachos
The match: Zinfandel
Zin is – indeed – my sin, and the 2017 Eberle Paso Robles Zinfandel (£31.99) is an awesome example, with pronounced black cherry, cedar and wood smoke on the nose and tonnes of inviting milk chocolate, liquorice and blackcurrant flavours. Its suitability for nachos depends on how you load ’em: if you’re opting for jalapenos then this zin’s 14.5% alcohol by volume is going to be too much and will inflame the heat from the chili; instead, I’d opt for its stablemate, the 2018 Eberle Paso Robles Mill Road Viognier, which is also an excellent option for haggis nachos. With the pulled pork in barbecue sauce that was loaded onto my nachos though, it was a sweet and silky dream come true.
The takeaway: Fried chicken
The match: Sancerre or other old world sauvignon blanc
A great call here from Virgin; eschew the guava-laced sauvignon of New Zealand and head straight for the more savoury elements from the Loire valley and other parts of the old world. Sauvignon blanc works in a similar fashion to the fizz with the munchy box; its acidity cuts through the crispy coating on the goujons, tenders or strips… depending on the fanciness and ambitions of your local takeaway. I was really impressed with the 2018 Les Arbousiers d’Oc Sauvignon Blanc (£9.99), hailing from the south of France and crackling with fresh acidity, matched nicely by bright lemon, grapefruit and green pepper flavours.
The takeaway: Thai green curry
The match: Riesling
If the winery tells you on its back label that its produce pairs with Thai green curry then who am I – or Virgin – to argue? Rieslings, and especially slightly off-dry rieslings like this one, are a textbook pairing with Thai cuisine and the 2019 Hiestand Asia de Cuba Cosmopolitan Riesling (£12.99) from the Rheinland in Germany didn’t disappoint, with that classic combination of high acidity, lemon, lime and lemon sherbet flavours and an ever-so-slightly oily mouthfeel. The curry brought out the zingier lemon juice and grapefruit elements in the wine, which in return emphasised the floral notes in the food.
*No wine columnists were harmed in the making of this article… although one of them is a wee bit rounder around the belly than he was before…
Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s wine, beer and spirits reviews in his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.