Matching food with the right drink may be an important part of dining well, but why on earth over-complicate matters?

My favourite advice on food and wine matching - and one I've quoted in these pages before, so apologies if it sounds familiar - appeared a few years ago on the back label of some Australian red or other. It read something like: "This wine will go well with most foods that you usually eat with red wine." I don't have the wording exact, but the spirit is intact. When you're looking for a wine to match a dish, you will usually land in the correct zone by following common sense.

My favourite advice on food and wine matching - and one I've quoted in these pages before, so apologies if it sounds familiar - appeared a few years ago on the back label of some Australian red or other. It read something like: "This wine will go well with most foods that you usually eat with red wine." I don't have the wording exact, but the spirit is intact. When you're looking for a wine to match a dish, you will usually land in the correct zone by following common sense.

But whole books about food and wine matching continue to appear, from writers possessing a more highly developed form of common sense than mine. I don't often pay them a great deal of attention. Most of the essential information about food and wine matching can be printed, in my view, on two sheets of A4 paper. Some books, however, take a different approach that calls for a good deal more paper. And a new volume by Michel Roux Jr, who has run the venerable Le Gavroche in London since 1994, is one of those books.

Matching Food and Wine (Weidenfeld Nicolson, £20) is subtitled "Classic and not so classic combinations", and this tells a lot of the story. The book is organised as a cookbook, with recipes both for fancy cooking and for humble home or bistro dishes. There's a chapter for each stage of the meal, from pre-dinner to dessert, and in the recipes for more rarefied dishes it's the wine that takes precedence. These matches are grouped under the heading "Fine wine", of which more in a moment.

Roux departs from most writers on this subject in taking an extremely latitudinarian approach. He rarely says that you must find a particular wine or style of wine to suit a particular dish, choosing instead to offer a range of choices - with some of these awesomely broad. So broad, in fact, that he doesn't even confine himself to wine. For a dish of smoked eel with beetroot and horseradish cream, he suggests Bourgogne Aligoté, Savennières or (my favourite choice) Aquavit. Cheese and ham fritters (delicious concoction) can go with pink Champagne, a Rhine Riesling Spätlese, or (wait for it) white lager. And again, I would choose the non-vinous option first.

Roux also sets out forthrightly some sound general advice, especially about the need to experiment before you decide what works best for you. On cheese, for instance, he says: "As you will soon find out, some matches are made in heaven, while others leave your mouth feeling like you have bitten into a piece of willow bark with a spoonful of washing-up liquid for good measure!" Without having tasted willow bark, I can't be sure of the specifics - but the generalities of the advice are spot on.

Strictly speaking, the "Fine wine" entries are the least practical sections of the book. Roux takes a great wine - Château Latour 1982 or Grange Hermitage 1975, for instance - and then presents a dish to go with it. The cooking isn't necessarily very elaborate, but for most of us the wines fall into the category of "things to buy when I win the Lottery". But Roux makes a good point when he places the emphasis on the wine in these situations. Even wine drinkers of limited means occasionally find themselves in the company of a really distinguished bottle. When this happens to Michel Roux, he makes the wine the star. "Don't cook something elaborate with these wines," he said to me once in conversation. "Maybe a steak and frites, or just a piece of cheese. Sit down at home with the wine, and really pay attention to it."

That's the right way forward, in my view. This book repays close study, whether you're primarily interested in cooking or in drinking. Though you should, of course, regard those two activities as inseparable. Which is certainly Roux's attitude.

Top corks: Matches for the BBQ

Innis & Gunn Oak-Aged Beer (£1.69/33cl, widely available) For barbecued fish or shellfish. Complex oaky notes and bright grassy flavours in a trailblazing brew - perfect for anything fishy.

Gulpener Korenwolf (£9.96/12 x 33cl, Majestic) For barbecued chicken. A Dutch multi-grain beer flavoured with a lifted, floral, citrussy impact on the palate. Beautiful stuff.

Palandri Pinnacle Shiraz 2002, Western Australia (£4.99, Waitrose) For anything beefy. An easy-drinking Oz Shiraz with more subtlety than many of its brethren. Nice spice, nice price.

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