Top of the list of things I want every enjoyer of wine to feel comfortable with (and that’s a pretty long list, gang) is joyfully throwing food and wine together with total happiness and abandon. Too many people approach food and wine pairing as a worrisome concept and overthink it.
The idea that food and wine can be perfectly paired to one another can, of course, be looked upon as a challenge, with anything less than achieving precise perfect balance a failure. If you really want to do that to yourself be my guest, but it sounds rubbish. In all my years working with wine and food, I’ve never seen it like that and I implore you to take the same approach. It’s simply about making two things that taste great individually, taste even better together.
There are a few food and wine matching truths that will help you create pairings that work well, without the worry. I’ll dispense more of these in articles over coming months, but there’s two key ones at play in this week’s pairing.
Truth one; chewy, tannic wines and big, chewy protein go hand in hand. Protein and Tannin bind together and both are softened. The combination of tannin in wine and protein in foods make both the dish and the wine easier to enjoy. It’s as simple as that.
Truth two is an equation; Salt + Fat + Acid. I might get that in a tattoo. On my knuckles. Salty, fatty dishes balanced with fresh acidity is the greatest thing in the world. The acidity zips through the rich fat. The salt and acidity zing together and create incredible flavour. And I’m not just talking about fresh, zippy whites here – the best rich, heavy reds have a fine balancing acid to them too and that’s often what sets them apart from the crowd for me. A case in point is this weeks’ wine and food pairing.
I have been sent a trio of reds from the brilliant Argentinian producer Rutini and I went full Argentinian stereotype and got a joint of beef to match. All three wines speak for themselves but the character running through each of these full-bodied fellas is silky-smooth, perfectly ripe, bold fruit, saddled up and harnessed by refreshing, ultra clean acidity. These are big, bold wines but with super elegant structure. I’m a certified fan – and so’s our font-of-all-things-Argentinian, Tim, I believe – the Cabernet-Malbec 2017 carries a very snazzy 91 pts sticker to prove it.
Let’s talk beef. I’m a ‘rib of’ guy, it’s my go-to home cut when we do beef, which isn’t that often to be honest – these columns make it sound like I eat and drink like Henry VIII, but that’s just half the story. It’s all about balance, kids. A well-seasoned, aged rib of beef is the best I reckon because as you roast it, the fat renders, fills the joint with flavour and keeps it – cripes, he’s going to say it, isn’t he – moist. Appalling. That’s the salt and fat part sorted. If you’re going full Argentine, you need to get a wood-fired Asado going, but the wines sing just as well with a classic roast.
Oh yeah, the wines. Rutini are a classic and important producer in Mendoza’s famous Uco Valley, right in the foothills of the Andes. Early pioneers of the region, they first planted vines in the Uco Valley in 1925 and Rutini currently look after three key vineyard areas ranging from a mere 950m above sea level to 1235m.
Malbec’s smooth-as-silk, full-body, it’s bold black cherry and blackberry fruit and soft, chewy tannins are balanced by the freshness and unique energy developed at such high altitudes. This is the key to Argentina’s unique mastery and dominance over this once classic French grape. Rutini make very good, technically brilliant wines, in my experience – a great benchmark producer for the region. I tasted the three wines below, then placed them all on the dinner table later, alongside the beef. The idea here is you can pick whichever of the trio best fits your preference… or find all three and tuck in!
Pure | Incredibly delicious fruit | Subtle cinnamon spice
This is my favourite of the bunch for sheer enjoyment. It’s about pure, chewy bold blackberry, black cherry fruit, carried along by brilliantly fresh acidity and soft, chewy tannins. There’s a subtle cinnamon note from high-quality oak here, giving a full-bodied, bold wine a fine texture and character. But, the perfectly ripe, delicious fruit is the star. This is the easy drinker of the trio – a glass while carving, then bring it to the table sort of stuff. It’s seriously good.
Rich | Woody spice | Liquorice
The high-altitude, bright fruit aromas are all here; crushed red cherry, blackberry, sloe all balanced nicely with a dry-cinnamon bark, fresh wood-smoke oak. The palate is rich and full-bodied and epically smooth. The finish brings subtle bitter liquorice, cocoa-bean character. The whole way through, the oak and rich fruit sit hand in hand in great balance. A properly foodie style, serve at the table.
Epic balance | Beautiful chewy fruit | Perfumed
A 50/50 split of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec pairs bold, dark berry fruits with perfumed green leafy herbs here. They work brilliantly well together in a classy mix, balanced by toasty, dry spice from good quality oak. This is full-bodied, slightly higher tannin wine than the other two – a bit more edge and grippy-ness – it’s fantastic. It’s got elegance and power, in total harmony. Definitely a perfect partner for beef – this was made to sit alongside a high-protein dinner table.
Plus you’ll also find them in London at:
And outside London at
17th August 2020
Tom’s body of work is extensive: he is one of the Three Wine Men, lead presenter for the Pingza wine app, Sales & Business Development Director at industry-leading English sparkling wine producer Ridgeview, a BBC Sussex wine expert and presenter of British Airways’ wine events.