The Swig team are a devout foodie bunch and nothing makes us happier than cooking up a storm in the kitchen, and discovering delicious pairings. We all know how much a well-matched pairing can elevate both the dish and the wine, and if you're a keen foodie, there's few greater pleasures than enjoying a fancy Michelin star tasting menu with the corresponding wine pairings as picked by the sommelier. It can open your eyes to new combinations and styles of wine you may have never thought of.
But what about those famously tricky dishes that we're all aware of? For some of them, there's science or logic behind it, but once you're aware of those challenges, one can think out of the box and think differently about pairing. Here's some of the most famous hard-to-pair foods with some snappy ideas from us!
Asparagus: the most famously tricky pairing of all, and yet so delicious when in season! The most popular pairing of all is Sauvignon Blanc, particularly from New Zealand, like Mike Eaton's Awatere Sauvignon from Marlborough. A good rose like Le Grand Cros' L'Esprit is a good match too, and when served with melted butter or hollandaise, asparagus can take something a little richer - try Chateau de Messey's Pierres Rouges.
Sweet-sour Asian dishes cooked with soy sauce or miso: by no means straightforward, but we love pairing these with light, sappy, and juicy reds. Try Weather report's Atlas Cabernet Franc with the umami flavours of soy braised chicken, or Reverte La Carbonela which is 100% Garnacha, and a perfect pair with something that has some sweetness, like teriyaki sauce or miso roasted aubergine or cod.
Eggs: eggs might have the reputation as being tricky to pair, but we're not so sure! With light quiches and fluffy souffles, or even eggs benedict, we've had great luck. Keermont's Terrasse white blend is a lovely pairing with quiche lorraine and it would be fab with a cheese souffle too, or try a richer Chardonnay, like Au Bon Climat's.
Tinned Sardines: Hector is adamant that Portugal Boutique Winery's Gorro Loureiro makes the best pairing for tinned sardines he's tried for a long time. And he should know, he even brings them to work! The Portuguese are masters of tinned fish after all.
Globe artichokes: another seasonal veggie with the reputation of being a total wine-killer, as they contain cynarin, a compound that has the peculiar property of making dry wine taste slightly sweet. But fear not, there are options. When simply steamed or boiled and served with melted butter, it can be harder, although not impossible. Try with a Verdichhio, like La Calcinara's Clochard or the Nai Albarino. When slow braised or deep fried, things become slightly easier and you could even try a red, like a juicy Barbera.
Brussel sprouts: They might not be in season right now, but my word can they be a tricky pairing when available. When served with pancetta, try a Languedoc red, like Domaine Brunet's Cuvee de Mazet, or sauteed or roasted, try an orange wine like Fitapreta's A Laranja Mecanica.
Anything with a vinaigrette dressing: high acid vinaigrettes tend to either thin out wines, making them seem mean and tart, or, if the dressing is more acidic than the wine, make the wine seem flabby too. However, a good Gruner Veltiner, like Christoph Bauer's Spezial makes a great pairing, or try a Picpoul de Pinet too. Both make great matches with zingy vinaigrettes.
Very spicy food: here is where many would say "forget the wine, pass the beer!" But we're not so sure - there's rose and red wines to match too, as well as the predictably always recommended Riesling or Gewuztraminer. We love Jessica Saurwein's Chi Riesling as a white, served properly cold, or Le Grand Cros Cuvee Aurelia as a fuller-bodied, textured and gastronomic rose. With reds, what's important is to keep an eye on alcohol, and ensure you've got a good amount of fruit, a plush body, smooth tannins and well-balanced acidity. Try Ian Brand's medium-bodied Cabernet, or Antonio Macanita's A Touriga Vai Nua.
Time to get cooking!