Don’t cook just eat is the simple and hugely successful message from the biggest player in the UK takeaway market. It’s a call to inaction that’s never really resonated with me but it has, rather amusingly, recently been endorsed by the fire brigade. Apparently, the incidence of household fires increases dramatically during big sporting events as sozzled supporters try and fail to feed themselves. So, with public safety in mind, here are a few wines to drink with a takeaway whilst watching Wimbledon or the World Cup.
First off, it’s got to be fish and chips, even though it’s now been superseded in the nation’s affections by offerings from the Orient. Sparkling wine is excellent with this classic dish – Champagne if you’re feeling extravagant, Cava if you’re rooting for Rafa Nadal and Prosecco if it’s lunch time. If you like tartar sauce with your fish I’d recommend a crisp, citrussy white from the Rueda region of Spain. If, like me, you’re a fan of mushy peas then try an unoaked Chardonnay (especially Chablis) or a Chenin Blanc from South Africa.
Curry isn’t the easiest match for wine because spicy food numbs the palate to wine’s subtleties. This results in an inability to taste the wine’s flavour whilst still, unfortunately, being able to detect the acidity (in whites) and tannin (in reds) – very unpleasant. However, if you avoid the eye-wateringly hot dishes there are wines that complement curry. Reds need to be soft and fruity, so try Beaujolais or Valpolicella from Europe. From the New World try Pinot Noir or Grenache. Whites are a much better bet and grapes such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris have the necessary flamboyance to cope with curry’s exotic nature.
German Riesling is especially good with spicy Chinese dishes but it’s deeply unfashionable and may not find favour with your dining companions. If that’s the case, go for something on the ‘helpful side of dry’ such as a demi sec Vouvray or a Gewürztraminer from Alsace. For richer, sweeter dishes such as Peking duck or Char Siu Pork try rich and bold Cabernet Sauvignons from California or Grenaches from the Languedoc Roussillon region of France.
Pizza is a rustic classic and needs a red wine with the same characteristics. There’s no call for a shrinking violet when there’s the richness of melted cheese and tomato sauce to cope with. So, you should be looking for a wine that packs a punch, from Puglia or Sicily in the south of Italy. My favourites are made from the Primitivo grape as they have the backbone of acidity and tannin required to show pizza to its best effect. If you’re looking for alternatives to Italy try Tempranillo from Spain, spicy Shiraz from Australia or Pinotage from South Africa.
Chocolate is the obvious dessert of choice for indolent sports fans but is by far the most difficult match for wine. Don’t be fooled into thinking that because chocolate is sweet it will go well with dessert wines. Chocolate coats the taste buds so effectively that hardly anything else gets through. Port can pierce this chocolate barrier because of its sweetness and high alcohol but only the biggest of dry reds will cope with the challenge. Blockbusting reds with overpowering flavours and alcohol levels topping 15% can be found in California or Southern Australia but for a really indulgent finale it’s got to be the legendarily massive Amarone wine from North East Italy.
Alexandre Dumas, the author of The Three Musketeers, famously said, “Wine is the intellectual part of the meal.” No doubt, he was watching a big game of boules and chewing on a baguette from the local boulangerie at the time!