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Issue 109 - Matching skills

Whisky Magazine Issue 109
February 2013


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Matching skills

Any combination of chocolate becomes an epicurean delight when served with whisky

When I was a student sommelier I agonised over the ins and outs of pairing wine with food, preparing a dish to complement an individual wine, and selecting just the right wine to enhance a particular meal. With my fellow apprentices we were each tested on it. Over and over. No wonder our classes so often ended with a dram!

Among these pairings I found some exquisite marriages but very few outright abominations. Although our teachers encouraged experimental, perhaps even controversial matches, generally speaking it all boiled down to a few very simple and oft-repeated rules: red wine works best with red meat, and white wine with fish, light meat, and vegetables. Spicy Asian food? Almost any Gewurztraminer will confirm your superior matching skills.

Wine has been a favoured meal-time thirst quencher for millennia because it is made to be consumed with food. What began as a crude libation developed over centuries into an art form, as delightful combinations of certain wines and foods evolved in tandem. They just tasted better together. A greasy pork chop or sausage, for example, became all the more appetising washed down with a local acidic wine.

The benefits of that slow evolution were brought home to me recently when my alma mater asked me to comment on student pairings of wine with food. Their challenge was to choose a wine to complement aloo tikki, an Indian vegetarian cutlet made of spicy potato and peas with coriander-mint chutney and tamarind sauce.

With no known Indi...

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