Food and Wine Matching in Context

I had a lunch the other day which was very enjoyable – great food, good wine, stunning location, nice views and pleasant company – and it set me thinking about the pairing of food and wine. There is a lot written about the importance of matching food and wine and there are many web sites to help you – Natalie Maclean’s for example and here in the UK, we have Fiona Beckett’s site. I’m not for a moment suggesting to ignore the matching of food and wine, but rather saying how important I think it is that other factors, such as location and service, matter plus, of course, company, when you are eating and drinking.

I met up with a colleague from the International Wine Challenge for lunch the other day. He had booked a table at the new Skylon restaurant in the refurbished Royal Festival Hall in London. It’s a great situation for a restaurant, overlooking the Thames right in the heart of London.

The restaurant is themed around the Festival of Britain, which was held on London’s South Bank in 1951. The style of the decorations, furniture and staff uniforms were all very retro. They even have a set menu priced at £19.51 to tie in with the date of the Festival. I can’t imagine they will be able to stick to that price for a while so take advantage of it while you can and visit.

The food and the wine was great. As we started our get-together with a spirited discussion about customer service at English vineyards, we had a glass of Nyetimber’s 2000 classic cuvee. It was a lovely golden colour with aromas of yeast and lemon. On the palate it had a bit of body, great acidity and a wonderful mouthfilling taste that seemed to go on and on. No wonder it’s a medal winner.

We then had a half bottle of the 2004 1er cru Chablis from the Les Vaillons vineyard in Chablis produced by Louis Michel. It had a very pleasant balance of acidity and flavours of lemon with some minerals. It complemented my white crab meat with avocado and mild salsa very well. As I was having roasted halibut with artichokes and potatoes, I tried a glass of Cline Cellar’s 2005 Viognier from the Napa Valley. It had a lovely weight in the mouth with great flavours of apricots. I ended up with a glass of Muscat de Frontignan. I wasn’t having any dessert but it just seemed a nice way to end a pleasant meal. By that time I didn’t take in the producer or the vintage. Now that’s why I always write down what I drink – blame my age!

Now although I thought the wine and food went together pretty well, what mattered to me was the whole package - the ambience, service, company, setting and just the whole feeling you get when you have a good lunch with some interesting wine. What I am saying therefore is, of course it’s right to make sure that you enjoy particular combinations of food and wine even if it’s not the traditional pairings of white wine and fish say, but that everything else around you in your environment matters too.

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Reader Comments

Glad you like my food-and-wine matcher Colin! I’m with on your point about other factors, such as location, service and the people you’re with being just as important to enjoying wine.


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