A Match Made IN HEAVEN

A beginner's guide to food and wine pairing, featuring Constancia's perfect steak dinner by Joe Campbell

Wine Glasses Red White Steak Food Pairing

we all know our favourite wines: red, white or fizz. We all have our favourite foods too. But what foods and wines fit together the best, and why? For those of us starting an exploration of food and wine, knowing where to begin can seem daunting, but understanding how they are paired is not as complicated as we might think.

The basic concept behind pairing food and wine together is that elements of both, such as texture or flavour, interact with each other, and a good combination can enhance the taste and make the overall meal more enjoyable. The process is not an exact science, as taste and enjoyment are wildly subjective, but there are certain guidelines that can lead you in the right direction.

The first thing to be familiar with is the idea of ‘weight’ (or ‘body’) of wine and food. The weight of the food or wine isn’t a quantifiable value, but can be thought of as lighter or heavier.

Heavy foods are dishes that contain strong and hearty flavours, such as stews or pasta dishes made with rich sauces or red meats. Light foods are dishes with elements such as fresh fish or salad, for example. Heavy wines, on the other hand, have a robust taste, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Port, whereas lighter wines, such as a Pinot Blanc or even Champagne, have a crisper and more refreshing taste. Generally speaking, Red wines tend to be heavier, whereas White wines tend to be lighter, but not always.

The weight of the wine is primarily determined by the alcohol level – the higher the alcohol level, the heavier it tastes – but this can also be affected by other factors, such as the climate the ingredients are grown in. The point to remember is that heavy foods should be eaten with heavy wines, and light foods should be eaten with light wines. Not matching the weight of the food and wine will likely cause one to be overwhelmed by the other, masking the flavours rather than enhancing them.

The second thing to consider when pairing food and wine is the flavour. Here, experimentation and personal preference is encouraged. First, it is important to identify the flavour of the wine, is it acidic, sweet, earthy, bitter? Then, either complement the food, by using similar flavours, or contrast it, by using different flavours. Each method can work equally well so it is a good idea to try different combinations! There are many more aspects to flavours that are worth further research; For example, did you know that sweet wines can balance spicy foods and help to quell the burn from chilli peppers?

Constancia Tower Bridge London Steak Chips Dinner

Whilst investigating food and wine pairings, I spoke to Sebastian Harguindey, owner of Argentine steak restaurant, Constancia:

In your opinion, what is main difference between Argentine beef and other countries?
I find the main difference is the flavour and tenderness of the beef. Beef quality is dependent on the diet and living conditions of the cattle. In Argentina, the cattle are allowed to roam the flat, fertile pampas, and feed on high quality pastures resulting from a good level of rainfall and a largely temperate climate. The Pampa Húmeda is the most well-known cattle-producing region, as it has vast and open pastures. Grass-fed beef like ours is also believed to be healthier, as it contains more Omega 3 fatty acids. Although you can find great beef from other countries, it normally requires a longer period of maturation for it to become tender.

In your opinion, what is main difference between Argentine wine to traditional French/Italian wines?
The main difference is the body. It’s easier to find wine from Argentina with a medium or full body that’s not too expensive. I believe they also have richer flavours. To get the same sort of French or Italian wine, you must spend more money. Having said this, I have started to notice a change in European wines, with some of them resembling the New World wines.

“If you are willing to spend a bit more the Laborum Torrontes is close to perfection

What wine do you think goes well with each of your rib-eye, sirloin or fillet steaks?
Being from Argentina, any Malbec would be the obvious and correct answer. But they can be also enjoyed with a Cabernet Sauvignon from Patagonia or a Tannat from Salta. These are grapes which have developed their own personality from the different regions of Argentina. My personal recommendation for first time customers would be a Malbec, like the Finca Domingo, to go with any of the steaks. To be more specific, I would pair a Sirloin with the Luigi Bosca Malbec, a Rib-Eye with the Alpataco Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Fillet with the Laborum Tannat. We have great wines starting from £19.95, and they have all been carefully selected, so I would encourage customers to try different options.

Constancia Tower Bridge London Argentine Food Empanada

Do you think the way a steak is cooked affects the wine pairing?
It does to a certain extent, as the flavour and texture of the steak is affected by how long it is cooked. But I wouldn’t worry too much about it. At a table you’ll have people ordering different steaks done different ways, but they are all sharing the same wine. It is important for our wine list to be well thought and flexible so that customers don’t make a mistake by choosing any of the wines.

Are there any White wines that stand up well/contrast with the rich beef?
Yes there are. I recommend our Finca La Linda Viognier, which has a great body and freshness that pairs really well with beef. If you are willing to spend a bit more the Laborum Torrontes is close to perfection.

Apart from steak, what else do you serve that complements any particular wine?
One of our specialities are the Empanadas (traditional Argentine Pasties). We have them in four different flavours: Beef, Spinach & Cheese, Sweetcorn and Chicken & Chorizo. The recipe of the Chicken & Chorizo Empanada we learnt from Paul Hollywood when we took part in his programme ‘Pies & Puds’. Empanadas go perfectly with any wine, depending on your preference. Another good pairing would be the Iberico Pork Chops with the Tapiz Malbec Rosé or the Lorca ‘Opalo’ Syrah, both from Mendoza.

What is your personal favourite combination?
My favourites are all of the above, with two more to finish the meal: The Home Made Chocolate Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream, Milk Toffee and Chocolate Sauce paired with the Late Harvest Malbec; or the Traditional Home Made Creme Caramel served with cream, paired with the Late Harvest Laborum Torrontes.

52 Tanner Street
t: 020 7234 0676
w: www.constancia.co.uk

Constancia Dessert Tower Bridge London Ice Cream Chocolate Brownie

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