It’s fair to say that Victoria Moore has my dream job. Paid to eat in the nicest restaurants and sample the best wines, she is who I would like to return as in my next life.
Today, she was at Waterstones Islington for one of its ‘Islington Eats’ foodie events. Having written wine columns for publications including the Guardian, The Telegraph and the New Statesman, Victoria has now turned her attention to food and wine pairings and has just published a book entitled ‘The Wine Dine Dictionary: Good Food and Good Wine: An A-Z of Suggestions for Happy Eating and Drinking’.
An entertaining speaker, with an approachable manner – so important in the world of wine, which can often appear intimidating – Victoria happily chatted away to us about her reasons for writing the book (“it fills a void”), the element of research she enjoyed the most (asking winemakers what they choose to eat with their own wines) – and the lessons she will pass on to her daughter.
I really enjoyed listening to Victoria talk – and so am sharing some of her wise words here:
Be realistic about your wine and food pairings.
Some pairings work better than others and it is often lower-alcohol wines – which tend to be more refreshing – which are the most successful. Look for acidity, salt, tannin and bitterness – and for wines with a higher-than-usual sugar content, like an off-dry Riesling or a Muscat. White wine with ham is a particular favourite of Victoria’s.
Salt, in particular, impacts upon how you taste acidity – this is why, illogical as it may seem, crisps go so well with champagne.
Always treat wine as you would another ingredient upon your plate.
Food and wine no-nos.
Much modern cooking, such as that of Ottolenghi (who VM nonetheless admires) is unsuited to wine. The complexity of such food leaves no room for an alcoholic counterpart. Should you be feeling bold regardless, choose a wine which is simple and relatively refreshing.
No matter how knowledgeable you are about wine and food, there are always surprises.
Who would have thought that a fish finger sandwich, resplendent with tomato ketchup, would go so well with a supermarket red? And red wine combines beautifully with strawberries – leading to a tasty AND speedy dessert.
It’s worth seeking out the more neglected grape blends.
White wines from the Rhône tend to be good value because they’ve fallen out of fashion over the past few years. In case you were wondering, Rhône wines pair brilliantly with everyday food such as chicken casserole.
Wine snobs take note: the much-maligned rosé is always, but always, the most versatile style of wine.
Generally unobtrusive, rosé comes in a variety of off-dry forms which are perfectly suited to, for example, tagine. Victoria loves a Provence rosé – but recommends spending at least £10 upon your bottle of choice.
The game changer.
One simple ingredient, such as chilli, can change the way food tastes in your mouth. Ditto goat’s cheese – which needs a white wine to counterbalance its distinctive taste.
Soup + Wine = Madness.
Two liquids together: bleurgh. If you must persist, sherry is your best option.
British really can be best.
Once the butt of jokes across the globe, these days British wines are genuinely fantastic, not to mention multi award-winning – particularly the sparkling ones. And whatever your views on Brexit, with European wines likely to become more expensive as a consequence, their British counterparts will seem even better value.
Exploring the up & coming countries / regions will repay you handsomely.
That said, these particular wines are often found on restaurants’ wine lists rather than in supermarkets. Georgia, Tenerife, Canada and Israel are all worth seeking out; in the meantime, Chinese wines are becoming more credible (and a considerable amount of money is being invested into them).
And finally: is it true that wine always tastes better with food?
Many wines pair beautifully with aperitifs. However, if you’re serving an amazing Burgundy or Bordeaux, you don’t want food getting in the way. A Barolo or a Nebbiolo, on the other hand, works well with food – but you know what? In the end it all comes down to personal taste – and nothing ventured, nothing gained…