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Cooking 101: Which food, which wine?

Food and wine can both give us pleasure, but is this pleasure heightened when the two are in harmony? This 90's dilemma is still hanging around food and wine clubs, seminars and tastings, and continues to be discussed avidly around the dining table.

Which should dominate, or dictate - what's in the glass or what's on the plate - is a fascinating concept, but it is one we should not become a slave to. There are certain foods and wines that bring out the best in each other, and which together are more fabulous than when served alone. And there are some atrocious combinations where no wine can hold its own against the food, for instance, a very vinegary dish will kill any wine. But most wines work with most foods - it's as simple as that.

The only guide I use is the weight or heaviness of the wine and food. A heavy full-bodied wine would swamp a delicate dish, and a gutsy strong-flavoured or seasoned dish would make it difficult to detect any nuances in a subtle or light wine. The other point is this; if you like the food, or the wine, or both, they will taste good to you. Choosing a 'house' wine (an affordable wine which all wine-drinking family or housemates enjoy) and serving it with every meal is common in Europe, and eliminates the problem of having to decide daily what to drink. However, it is predictable, you know what to expect and you get it, and you probably won't reach any new heights.

If I'm given a very special bottle of wine, I give it special treatment, and plan food to complement it. Likewise, if I have some epicurean delights, I'll put work into finding a wine which I think will make a good match. Otherwise, and I'm probably typical of food and wine lovers, I enjoy most everything I eat and drink and don't beat myself up when I occasionally make a mistake. Life' just too short for that sort of silliness.

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