I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s always a trend in food and drink books, be that veganism, baking or books about gin. This winter’s big idea seems to be “flavour”, and it applies to both food and wine.
There are, for instance, two new books on wine pairing. If you’re an ambitious cook, or lucky enough to live with one, polish their culinary skills with the heavyweight Wine and Food: The Perfect Match (£40) from master sommelier Ronan Sayburn and chef Marcus Verberne of the posh members’ club 67 Pall Mall. Recipes that would suit a lockdown project range from piri piri tiger prawns, which Sayburn recommends serving with alvarinho, to braised short ribs with châteauneuf-du-pape.
Wines & Recipes by Raul Diaz (£30) is along similar lines, though Diaz is Chilean, so there’s a definite Latin American slant to his recipes and pairings, such as the suggestion of Chilean sauvignon blanc for ceviche with avocado and mango, cabernet sauvignon with pastel de choclo (corn pie) and sweet riesling with dulce de leche pancakes.
The new Noble Rot book Wine from Another Galaxy (£30) also touches on food, as you’d expect from authors who run restaurants. “When in doubt, open a grower champagne,” they declare. Which is fine by me, so long as someone else is paying. Again, there are recipes to feed “six jolly imbibers”, which is nice to find in a wine book. I definitely have my eye on Henry Harris’ onglet braised in pinot noir.
If you’re of a geekier disposition, you’ll love the encyclopaedic The Art & Science of Foodpairing (£30) by Peter Coucquyt, Bernard Lahousse and Johan Langenbick, which is a real flavour bible, especially if you want to know the logic behind what goes with what or simply to expand your boundaries. Some of it is a bit bonkers, granted – dark chocolate and broccoli, or cauliflower and strawberry, anyone? – but I’m definitely intrigued by cognac and shiitake mushrooms, and basil with gin.
Harold McGee’s new book Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells (£35) is another fascinating read for the wine lover, providing a scientific basis for the idea that riesling can smell of kerosene (it contains a compound called trimethyl-dihydro-naphhalene) and syrah of black pepper or sesquiterpene.
The only quibble I’ve got with these books is that they are too expensive. OK, they’re maybe not much more than a dinner for two, and you may well be able to find them on discount, but I would have thought that there was a market for a book on food and wine combinations that comes in at less than £20. I mean, who has coffee tables these days?
Four wines to strike sparks off food
Cave de Turckheim Gewürztraminer 2018/9 £10.95 The Wine Society, £10.99 Waitrose, 13.5%. Gewürztraminer is mostly associated with curries and other spicy food, but it’s also the classic pairing for munster cheese.
Viñalba Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 £10 Tesco, 14.5%. The blackcurrant and mint flavours of this lush, Argentinian cabernet go really well with lamb and hard cheeses such as cheddar and parmesan, but also with Raoul Diaz’s corn pie.
Atzar Priorat 2018 £8.99 Aldi, 14.5%. Like châteauneuf, this is a grenache blend that’s tailor-made for drinking with a pile of hearty beef ribs or any other rich, rib-sticking stew, but at a fraction of the price.
Seifried Sweet Agnes Riesling 2018 £15.99 a half-bottle Roberts & Speight, £16.29 Waitrose, 11.5%. Gloriously lush, Kiwi dessert wine that you should try with dulce de leche or maybe a passionfruit pav.
And a wine that goes with everything
Larmandier Bernier ‘Longtitude’ Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut 1er Cru £41.95 Lea & Sandeman (or £39.50 if you buy a case of six), 12.5%. Elegant fresh growers’ champagne that would hit the spot with any kind of seafood.
• For more by Fiona Beckett, go to matchingfoodandwine.com