A perfect partnership

The pairing of French regional recipes with local wines is a marriage made in heaven. Make sure you don’t miss out...

One of the great things about France is the fact that it is a large country with widely diversified regions in terms of climate, soil and culture, and these factors of course contribute to the wonderful variety of food and wine it offers. If you visit France’s main wine-producing regions, it’s interesting to see how the wines they make are often matched very well to the local produce and recipes. I’m not sure whether recipes were developed to complement the wines or vice versa! For example, in Burgundy the wonderful pinot noir red grapes and chardonnay white grapes produce perfect wines to go with the classic Burgundy dishes of boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin and salmon with creamy chardonnay sauces. They complement the dishes made with cherries (found prolifically in Burgundy) and Dijon mustard (which is made using unfermented grape juice) equally well. Move further southwest to the Bordeaux region, wines are made from widely varying blends of the classic merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc grapes. Bordeaux reds seem tailor-made to pair with the locally produced beef, lamb and duck, or to use as a key ingredient in Bordelaise sauces (usually with shallots, ham and herbs), while the region’s white wines (sauvignon blanc and semillion) are ideal to complement the fish and shellfish from the Gironde estuary and Atlantic coast. In the Rh�ne Valley, you’ll find wines produced from grenache grapes such as Ch�teauneuf-du- Pape, or from syrah grapes such as Hermitage, and these again pair fabulously with the local foods and recipes. When in France, experiment with pairing local wines and recipes. It’s a great idea, when eating in a small, local French restaurant, to ask the chef which wine he recommends to go with the food you have chosen, or perhaps which food he suggests will complement your favourite wine.