The First Course

Asparagus

Asparagus

Served on its own with a little butter, this calls for a full-flavoured white. White Burgundy with some age works well or white Rioja is equally good. From further afield, a full-flavoured Chardonnay from the Antipodes would be good. In Alsace, people like to drink dry Muscat, which does go particularly well with white asparagus.

Avocado with prawns

This would go best with a light dry white such as Muscadet, or a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire (such as Menetou-Salon) or New Zealand. Italian Pinot Grigio would also work well.

Beef carpaccio

Full-bodied youthful white such as Chardonnay from just about anywhere. Alsace Riesling or good quality Soave would be good; Champagne, Dry Amontillado Sherry or, of course, a young fullish red such as Chianti Classico or Beaujolais.

Caviar

Iced vodka is traditional but so is Champagne; full-flavoured Muscadet would also work.

Charcuterie or cooked meats

The choice is really quite extensive as most things will go. For a white wine, go for something pretty big and flavoursome, ideally without too much oak, but with enough acidity to cut through fat; choices might include: Sylvaner or Pinot Blanc from Alsace or Germany, Chablis, Sancerre, dry Vouvray or Mâcon. Drier German wines and full-flavoured German Riesling would work, as would dry Sherry or dry rosé.

Reds should be vibrant, sappy, fruity and quite young. My preferred solution would include any Beaujolais or Loire red, Claret, young Pinot Noir from anywhere, French Country, northern Rhône (especially Saint-Joseph), Chianti Classico, Austrian red, Rioja, Portuguese red, Côtes-du-Rhône, Chilean Merlot…the possibilities are endless.

Chowders

Go for white wines, ideally full bodied with some sweetness, such as Montlouis (or Vouvray) demi-sec or Australian Chardonnay or maybe Alsace Pinot Gris.

Dim-sum or Chinese steamed or deep-fried dumplings

Other than Chinese tea, non-vintage Champagne goes well as does Muscadet or Riesling from anywhere as long as it is fairly dry, also Pinot Grigio.

Fish Terrine

Like charcuterie this is a good foil for wine and would go with anything white and dry and at any price so that Mâcon-Villages would work, as would Puligny-Montrachet. Top-quality Riesling, whether from Alsace, the Rhine or Austria, and White Bordeaux would also be a good match.

Foie Gras

Not terribly pc but the French love it and tend to drink sweet wine; Sauternes if you happen to come from Bordeaux, or Vendange Tardive from Alsace if your father-in-law comes from Strasbourg! Drinking heavy sweet wines will ruin anything that comes afterwards, your best bet would be a dry Pinot Gris from Alsace or New Zealand or a weighty white Rhône from Hermitage or Châteauneuf, or Burgundy, or a vintage Champagne with some age.

Gazpacho

Properly chilled Fino Sherry, bone-dry Vinho Verde or Muscadet sur lie.

Gravad lax

A shot of ice cold lemon flavoured vodka does wonders. For wine, try a light Gewürztraminer from anywhere.

Guacamole and all things Tex-Mex

Something American would be the obvious choice – big, rich-tasting Chardonnay from South America or California; failing that an Australian or South African white would do. With meats, reds would be better; failing that, beer or tequila might be the safer option!

Ham, raw or cured

Dry Amontillado Sherry, good Italian white, Alsace Pinot Gris, Austrian grüner veltliner or silvaner from Franconia.

Ham, cooked

Rheingau or Pfalz riesling – preferably Spätlese or Kabinett from a ripe vintage, mature Alsace Riesling, Premier Cru Chablis, White Bordeaux or Vouvray. For reds, try young Saint-Emilion, Burgundy, Beaujolais or Crozes-Hermitage.

Pickled Herrings

Lots of fun ideas here. Cold lager, maybe with a shot of vodka or gin is best. Avoid British brewed lager and go for proper Pilsner. A pot of strong tea also works well. Any wine ought to be fairly tart – Muscadet, Manzanilla Sherry or a bone-dry German Riesling.

Melon

Depends how it is served – plain or with ham is best – for a fruity off-dry wine; try Viognier or a viognier blend from the Languedoc, or indeed Condrieu from the northern Rhône. From Italy, try the sweeter Amabile Orvieto or something like Australia's off-dry Houghton's H.W.B would be good. If a drop of Tawny Port has been poured over the melon then that would probably be enough or, if it is essential, then serve a glass of the same Port – try Old Chandos.

Oysters

Champagne, Muscadet, young Alsace Riesling, Chablis and Sancerre are all classic partners; equally good is Picpoul de Pinet from the Languedoc, or try an English white for a change.

Cooked oysters

Good white Burgundy, good Premier Cru Chablis, Vouvray or vintage Champagne.

Pizza

Young Italian reds such as Chianti, Valpolicella, Montepulciano or Barbera are the obvious candidates, or try something equally characterful from the Languedoc or Provence. For Pizza Marinara, try a dry southern French rosé or Orvieto.

Prawns

Anything dry and white. If fried with lots of garlic and olive oil then Mediterranean white (or rosé) from Southern France, Italy or Spain. Chilled Fino Sherry is a favourite.

Stir-fried prawns

No real difference except that the Sherry goes even better. Young dry Riesling from Alsace or Australia would also go well.

Quiche Lorraine and tarte à l'oignon

Unquestionably Pinot Blanc, preferably from Alsace. As an alternative try Lugana from the shores of Lake Garda.

Salads – plain green or tomato

Water or something very light and dry.

Salads – seafood

Fino Sherry, dry rosé, Italian, Spanish or Languedoc white or Australian Semillon.

Greek salad

Can be the same but better still would be a Greek white.

Salade chêvre chaud

The once trendy but now ubiquitous goat's cheese-salad goes brilliantly with wines made from sauvignon blanc whether Loire Sauvignon, such as Menetou-Salon, New Zealand Sauvignon or indeed a ripe South African version.

NB – wine and vinegar don't usually go terribly well together.

Pâté

The choice of white or red will depend on what it's made from. Duck pâté will be better with Pinot Gris from Alsace, Riesling from Alsace or the Rhine or Pinot Noir. Game pâté would suit sturdy red wines such as those from the south west of France.

Members' Comments (1)

"Gruner Veltliner works well with asparagus"

Mr Robert Caldicott (14-Nov-2015)

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