Celebrity wine guru Olly Smith, one of P&O Cruises’ Food Heroes, shares his top 10 tips for choosing the perfect wine
1. Always pick the wine to match the most intense flavour in the recipe. A wine match with steamed chicken is very different to a wine paired with chicken in a spicy curry sauce. You can echo the flavour in the dish or contrast, for example salty Stilton cheese is stunning with sweet wine such as Tokaji from Hungary. The main thing is to have fun and enjoy it – remember everyone has their own favourite flavours so the best advice is to follow your instincts. And for an easy but joyful pairing try a glass of bubbly Prosecco with fresh Mozzarella cheese. Simple and scrumptious.
2. For veggie dishes, country reds from the south of France such as Corbières and Fitou work best. Their vineyards are surrounded with fresh herbs that give an aromatic boost to the wine. At this time of year matches for veg such as asparagus with Austrian Grüner Veltliner are simply divine.
3. If you’re going on a summer cruise then Picpoul de Pinet from France is a whistle-clean white that’s fab to sip on its own or paired with shellfish. For me the first sip at this time of year is a bit like spotting the first swallow soaring overhead – it’s a sign that summer is well and truly on the way.
4. For me Greece is still the place to watch. Local grapes create wines with unique character such as Malagousia for a peachy white and Xinomavro for a hearty red. You can find examples of both on the shelves in M&S under the Thymiopoulos label. Waitrose have Hatzidakis Santorini white and independent wine merchants carry more and more quality Greek wine. It’s not bargain basement but for an off-the-beaten-track treat Greece is hard to beat.
5. Often whites work best as a general pairing for a cheeseboard as they allow more of the flavours of the cheeses to flourish. There’s a huge difference between a Brie and a Stilton, for example, and with the ranges of textures and flavours on offer, one bottle is tough to cover all bases. For a safe bet, Tawny Port served lightly chilled is my tip.
6. For pork, light reds such as Beaujolais can work but the best pairing is a lightly-oaked white wine such as Chardonnay. It may not be fashionable but it is the best pairing in the business.
7. The most meat-friendly wines include Malbec from Argentina, which is a brilliant match with beef; but I’d also give a general shout out to Rioja from Spain. Reservas are among my favourites for their balance of bold fruit with mellow spice.
8. My favourite wine on board is the Bon Viveur range which are my brand new blends for P&O. The red, white and rosé are all wines I’m very proud of – they are only available to sip on board and packed with vibrant fruity flavours. Summery splendour in every sip.
9. If you want to get started as a wine buff, take notes whenever you sip a wine whether you like it or not, publish them on a blog and exchange views as much as you can, in person, on social media and whenever you try wine at home, in a restaurant or at a party. There’s a flavour out there for every palate and every budget and it’s the job of a wine expert to link the best bottle to the right occasion to transform a moment into sheer magic.
10. For a celebration or special occasion, I would recommend English sparkling wine every time – the best include Camel Valley, Gusbourne, Furleigh and of course Wiston’s Estate’s sparkling wine, which I picked for HM The Queen to launch Britannia.
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