Match makers: beer and Mediterranean food

By Jo Bruce

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Birra moretti, Wine, Italian cuisine

Fiesta food: ideal for matching
Fiesta food: ideal for matching
In this month's focus on how to drive drink sales around food, Jo Bruce looks at ideas for wines and beers to match with Mediterranean food. There...

In this month's focus on how to drive drink sales around food, Jo Bruce looks at ideas for wines and beers to match with Mediterranean food.

There are many ways in which wines and beers can be paired with Mediterranean cuisine.

Below, we have picked a handful of experts to recommend some magical matches.

Fiona Sims, wine writer, advises: "Look to punchy New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, and to northern Italy's more flavourful whites. Young, robust reds that France turns out by the bucket-load are also a perfect match for Med dishes.

"They cope admirably with typical dried bean stews, and if they are fruity enough, with garlic-laden fish stews, too. Look to Corbières, Fitou and Minervois in the Languedoc, and the other Provence appellations, with Bandol the best of all, thanks to its impressive herby, fruity reds.

Making classier choices

"For something classier still, look to the southern Rhône, home to warm, spicy, red Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas, plus peppery, plummy Côtes du Rhône. New World alternatives include Australian Shiraz — great with slow-cooked daubes, while a plummy, spicy Californinan Zinfandel works surprisingly well with ratatouille.

"Nowhere is the concept of local wine with local food as rigorously adhered to as in Italy. A Piedmontese would never consider washing brasato al Barolo down with anything else than the wines from that region — and preferably the Barolo you've cooked the famous stew with. But a Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany also works a treat — come to that, so does Barossa Shiraz.

Dealing with soups and stews

"Every Med coastal area has its own seafood soup or stew, and wine to match. In Italy, Liguria has its Vermentino, and the Veneto has Soave and Pinot Grigio et al. In southern Spain, Fino and Manzanilla sherry is quaffed throughout the meal. But there's plenty from elsewhere to suit, from Bourgogne Aligoté to a limey Clare Valley Riesling."

Now you just have to sell it, says Sims. Once you've ensured that your wine list suits your Med food offering, try suggesting a wine by the glass with each dish either on the menu itself, or chalked up on a blackboard.

Getting the message across

Try grouping together a few white, Med-friendly bottles in an ice bucket on the bar so customers can see the labels and get the message. And remember, there is no such thing as a right and wrong food and wine match — just combinations that are more likely to wow than others.

John Grieveson, wine supplier Enotria's marketing director, says: "Food and wine-matching can be complicated, but it doesn't have to be. The key to matching food and wine is balance. You should be able to taste the wine and food at the same time, with neither overpowering the other.

"As part of our new Serving Wine with Confidence training programme, aimed at bar staff with little or no previous knowledge of wine, we recommend these principles of food and wine matching to enhance a customer's experience.

"Lighter Mediterranean dishes, such as plain white meat or fish works well when matched with a delicate and dry white to ensure it doesn't overpower the food: seared tuna salad goes well with Bertani Soave from Italy's Veneto region.

"Heavy or rich Med dishes such as game, roast meats and casseroles match well with big and bold reds, or full and fruity whites. For example, roast lamb with seasonal vegetables and potatoes matches well with a big and bold Spanish red, such as the 1860 Rioja Marqués de Riscal.

"Acidic food such as tomato-based sauces, foods with citric fruits, apples or vinegar, work well with a light and lively red, which balances the acidic nature of the food. A dish of grilled fish and tomato salsa works beautifully with a French St Chinian Domaine Du Barres, which is packed with fresh berry flavours balancing the tomato and complementing the grilled flavour of the dish.

"Spiced food, such as curries and chillies, works really well with a full and fruity white or big and bold red. For example, a dish of spicy couscous goes hand-in-hand with an Italian MandraRossa Sauvignon Blanc."

Fish for the right combo

Sam Capron, wine development manager at Constellation Wines, recommends Nobilo Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc as an ideal partner for shellfish and delicate fish such as plaice, sole and skate, and also goes well with asparagus and avocado. Houghton The Bandit Sauvignon/Pinot Gris pairs perfectly with Italian cured meats. For reds, Ravenswood Lodi Zinfandel is great with creamy pasta.

Seek a Rioja Campo Viejo

Lee James, commercial director for wines at Pernod Ricard UK, recommends Rioja Campo Viejo as a great match for Mediterranean and Spanish food, including tapas. He says: "The Crianza is an ideal accompaniment to red and white meat and cheese, while the Reserva is perfect for all kinds of meat, game and wild mushrooms. Campo Viejo's Cava Brut Rosé can be enjoyed as an apéritif and to accompany a wide range of dishes, such as rice and pasta, cheeses, sausages, smoked products, white meat, spicy dishes and fish."

Ideas include Campo Viejo Crianza 2006 matched with pork belly, mango and black olive powder or with deep-fried Brie, tomato marmalade and paella. Campo Viejo Reserva 2004 goes with hanger steak and paprika aïoli, or broad beans, ham and egg. Campo Viejo Rosé 2008 goes well with seafood salad.

Get authentic — try beer

Jason Wills, senior brand manager for Heineken brand Birra Moretti, says: "We are on a mission to encourage Italian food-lovers to experience more of the authentic Italian experience through matching our premium Birra Moretti imported beer with Italian food. Birra Moretti is an excellent fit for gastropubs offering great food and can also be found predominantly in Italian restaurants.

"Birra Moretti is an ideal accompaniment or enhancement to a number of classic Italian dishes, such as risottos and pasta, white meat main courses and delicately-flavoured cheese.

"In Italy the brand has a long association of working with top Italian cookery schools and chefs, leading to the creation of recipes in which beer is a dish ingredient."

This year Birra Moretti has teamed up with Italian restaurateurs Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi as the faces of Birra Moretti in the UK.

The Caldesis have been running pizza-making evenings, which show how Birra Moretti can be used as a key ingredient to create a lighter and crispier dough to form a pizza base.

The Caldesis have created 11 authentic Italian recipes using Birra Moretti, such as focaccia alla Birra Moretti, which is great with Parma ham and rocket or with sun-dried tomatoes or filled with steak and onions, or Ragù Genovese, which uses half a bottle of Birra Moretti in the sauce.

Beer and food

At Bay Restaurant brand La Tasca, drink is used to add theatre and drive sales around special nights.

La Tasca hosts popular fiesta nights on the last Thursday of each month. Each one has a different focus, whether on regional tastes of Spain, or a paella-making or sangria-making masterclass.

One of the brand's most popular fiestas was in April when it hosted a Spanish wine-tasting evening, matching wines with tasters of dishes on the menu.

Wine matches at the events included Torres San Valentin matched with Spanish salmon & melon with Parma ham, and Raimat Chardonnay with seafood paella.

Match of the day

• Carlsberg's San Miguel is ideal for serving with dishes such as tapas.

• Estrella Damm is one of Spain's most popular beers, and distributed by Wells and Young's.

• Miller Brands Italian beer Peroni is ideal for serving as "aperitivo" with small plates of food early evening as they do in Italy. The brand teamed up with chef Giorgio Locatelli to come up with some "aperitivo" recipes. For ideas visit​.

Related topics: Food trends, Beer

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