Anthony Rose: 'Food and wine matching can be taken with a decent pinch of salt'

 

Food and wine matching is neither an art nor a science and much of the time it can be taken with a decent pinch of salt. It was brought home to me having recently returned from China where restaurant customers knocked back wines that Western sommeliers would demand marriages for in heaven. No one dish resembles another. Our own likes and dislikes apart, the quality of the raw materials, the seasoning, saucing and spicing, are simply too varied to suit a one-wine-fits-all formula.

Why bother then with the adage that red wine goes with meat, white wine with fish, port with stilton, chablis with oysters, sancerre with goat's cheese and nothing with asparagus or chocolate? We bother because there's a grain of truth behind the classic pairings, because we want to get the most from the wine we choose with our cooking, because we don't want to lose face, and because sometimes guidelines, as distinct from rigid rules, can be useful. In grain-of-truth spirit then, here are some white wines for this Christmas.

When the compass points to Chablis, you know you're heading in the right direction. With scallops, prawns, smoked salmon and white fish, you can't hope for much more than the gorgeously nutty, mineral concentration of a Brocard 2010 Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu, £16.99, Sainsburys, or his equally taut and steely-crisp 2011 Chablis Vaillons, £16, The Wine Society.

Turn the compass south towards Beaune and you'll find a superb white burgundy in Domaine Carillon's richly concentrated, apple-crunchy 2010 Bourgogne Chardonnay, £18.85, Corney & Barrow (020-7265 2400), or the superbly exotic, rich and nutty dry 2010 Domaine Cordier Pouilly Fuissé, £19.80, Domaine Direct (020- 7837 1142). Even Aldi, yes Aldi, is getting in on the act with an opulently peachy, 2011 Puligny Montrachet, £16.99. Poor person's fish white? Guillauma Cabrol's spicy, rich and characterfully crisp 2011 Picpoul de Pinet Prestige, £7.99, buy two = £6.99, Majestic.

Speaking of versatility, riesling can often trump chardonnay, especially with wines with the refreshingly crisp, dry lemon and lime zest of Booths 2008 Riesling Vieilles Vignes, Alsace, £9.99 or Josmeyer's headily scented and tangy dry 2011 The Society's Exhibition Riesling, £11.95, or for a mouthwatering glass of zing, Stephanie Toole's intensely zesty, 2011 Mount Horrocks Watervale Riesling, around £17.99, The Leamington Wine Company (01926 888994), Wimbledon Wine Cellar (020-7736 2191).

A no less excellent option is chenin blanc when it's as great as the superb appley 2011 Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Montlouis, £15.99, Waitrose. For a left-field version, try the crisp and juicy 2011 Domaine Les Yeuses Vermentino, £6.50, Lea & Sandeman (020-7244 0522).

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