The odd couple
Wine and crisps? Surely not.
Wednesday 13 October 2021
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It is a truth saltily acknowledged that every crisp—in possession of whichever flavour—must be in want of a drink.
The question then, is which wine pairs best with which crisp? Whilst the possible combinations are infinite, it’s thankfully not enough to prevent me from determining, once and for all, which pairings would be best.
Ready Salted and a Campari Spritz
I know what you’re thinking, and you would be partially correct.
Yes, a Campari Spritz is not technically A Wine, but it is made up of one. Also, these are my pairings, and I say that one part Prosecco is more than enough wine to make it count.
Champagne tends to be declared the perfect pairing for a plain crisp. Salt meets acid, oil meets carbonation: a marriage in heaven is made.
Except I don’t always want celestial matrimony in my pairings. Sometimes what I desperately want is a holiday. Nothing screams “I’m on holiday!” more than a drink as bitter as it is bright, ice clinking against glass and citrus half moons brilliant enough to eclipse the beating sun. Add a bowl of ready salted crisps - humble in their majesty - and life really is a beach.
Sweet Chilli and Rosé
Sweet chilli is a complex flavour. Those layers of sugar and spice are warm enough to invite you in, but they’ll catch you at the back of your throat if you’re not careful.
Thoughtful complexity requires bold simplicity. Enter rosé, the brighter the better. I’m talking about a hue that shines watermelon pink, like a particularly good grapefruit or shade of lipstick you can’t help but describe as “sassy”.
Armed with ripe, amicable sweetness and a heavily-fruited backbone there are very few flavours a good rosé refuses to get along with. The perfect companion then to the synthesised sensation of the sweet chilli crisp.
Oregano and Agiorgitiko
I used to associate oregano with heavily seasoned Italian food
until I was briefly involved with a very handsome Greek chef who, appalled at the state of UK oregano, would insist on importing his in from Greece.
So in loving memory of him—not dead, but mostly forgotten—I’ve chosen a Greek red to pair with our oregano crisps today.
Indigenous to the Nemea region of Greece, Agiorgitiko is a remarkably versatile grape. Tasting of confected raspberry, tart blackberry and peppered plums, it provides a lightly spiced and perfectly jammy home to the bold and earthy oregano. Like the role of juicy ripe figs on a pizza, star anise bringing out the best of a fleshy roasted pear or teeth seductively cracking the chocolate shell of a violet cream.
Flame Grilled Steak and Bonarda
There’s no “and how would you like that cooked” about a steak flavoured crisp; you just get the savoury crunch. It’s important to respect that.
With that in mind, no traditional steak wine is gonna cut it; this is neither the time nor the place for a Rioja or a Malbec.
Instead, I propose a Bonarda. Swiss in origin, but now predominantly planted in Argentina, Bonarda makes for a cassis-rippled, dried fig delight, with enough depth, acidity and blotted ink colour to make it a pairing worthy of both the crunch and the smoke of this flame grilled snack.
Lemon and Pinot Grigio
The best example I have come across that conveys the alchemy of a good food and drink pairing involves Pinot Grigio.
The blandest of wines, Pinot Grigio’s popularity can be pinned to it’s neutrality. However, if you apply acidity to whatever you’re eating alongside it, then suddenly a Pinot Grigio is transformed into something almost unrecognisable. A wine that can dazzle and delight in equal measure.
Lemon flavoured crisps are a magic I encountered on holiday many moons ago. A magic that can be deftly recreated with the addition of lemon zest to a packet of plain crisps on the days I’m in need of escapism. Let its acidity shine so bright it cannot help but let Pinot Grigio shine bright too.
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