Bottle Apostle


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Archive for June 2011

The Fear of Oak and Sugar


We’re big on food and wine matching here at Bottle Apostle; not only is it an enjoyable challenege, in addition a large proportion of our customers come in with a particular dish on the menu and ask for a suitable bottle. So we get plenty of practice.

We do notice that two particular types of recommendation can cause looks of fear and trepidation. Firstly we have the scenario in which the customer is cooking something spicy with a bit of chilli heat. It takes some doing to convince people that a wine with a bit of sweetness is the way to go. Something like the Framingham Classic Riesling 2008 from Marlborough (£13.80) is off-dry but for many who taste it it’s the fruitiness rather than the sweetness which jumps out. But there is enough sweetness to dampen down chilli heat, and what’s more the citrusy flavour makes it a great match for not only Thai dishes, but also the legendary Tandoori pork chops from Tayyabs in Whitechapel. By the way, any Kiwi Riesling with the word “Classic” on the label is likely to be off-dry.

The other point of contention is oak. People tend to try oaked wines (most commonly Chardonnay) on their own, without food, and evaluate them as aperitifs. Then they come to one of our tastings or cheese and wine nights and get a really pleasant surprise. I promise you an oaky Chardonnay, such as Mahi Twin Valleys 2009 Marlborough (£16.90 and a belter) is the best cheese all-rounder; very good with hard cheeses such as Manchego or Cheddar, brilliant with something like a Tomme where the nuttiness of the cheese melds with the caramel of the oak, and also superb with Stilton. In fact I recommend having a pork chop with Stilton on top just to try this out. An oaked Sauvignon such as the Reyneke Estate White 2009 from Stellenbosch (£24.00) is just as good. Nuttier, waxy oaked whites such as Minervois and Cotes du Roussillon aren’t quite as flexible with cheese but come into their own when a plate of cold meats and sausage is plonked onto the table. Then there’s fish pie, scallops and pancetta, white meats in creamy sauces...

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