You say tomato, I say Chablis
Published 14/08/2010 | 05:00
Tomatoes may seem an unusual starting point for a column such as this, but then all roads lead to wine, don't they?
If sales in garden centres earlier this year are anything to go by, allotments, grow bags, patios, porches and kitchen windows must be starting to groan with them.
It would be a shame not to enjoy the fruit of all that labour with the optimum wine choice.
Here's the rub though: tomatoes are one of those tricky foods when it comes to wine. They are high in acidity, the level of which needs to be matched in the accompanying wine.
Acidity is a natural and essential component in grapes and it's what gives wine its crispy bite. Where it's lacking, the drink is dull and flabby.
It varies from wine to wine and, generally, it is higher in white grapes and grapes grown in cooler climates. Acidity levels will be somewhat mellowed in a wine that has aged in an oak barrel.
White grapes noted for their high acidity include the ubiquitous Sauvignon Blanc, as well as Riesling and Chenin Blanc. The latter two can have a sweet tinge that may be picked up in tomatoes that have been caramelised or sun-dried.
Chardonnay has more moderate levels of acidity, so a Chablis, a crisper style from northern France, or perhaps a bottle from New Zealand or cool-climate Australia would be the safer bets.
If acidity in food likes acidity in wine, what it doesn't like is too much tannin, so big, muscular reds should be saved for another day.
The better reds for uncooked tomato-based dishes would be young, tangy and unoaked, and more obvious choices include reds from the Loire and some of the northern Italians, such as Barbera or Bardolino.
Cooking changes the nature of tomatoes and when other flavours and textures, such as herbs or meats, are thrown into the pot, it opens up a much wider family of wines from which to choose.
Tomatoes are also rich in umami, a savoury, meaty quality associated with certain foods, such as soy sauce and mushrooms, and regarded as the fifth taste after bitter, sweet, salty and sour.
It is probably why that summer lunch classic gazpacho, a cold tomato soup, is good with crisp, dry sherry such as fino or manzanilla, which shares some of the umami qualities.
STAR WINE Guerrieri Rizzardi Tacchetto Bardolino 2009 — a tangy, unoaked Italian red from a single vineyard; a perfect summer red, Bardolino could be described as Valpolicella-lite. Don't be put off if it appears a little thin on the palate, as it goes on to deliver intense and vibrant cherry flavours, with a touch of liquorice, and slides down seamlessly with fresh tomato, light pasta or fish dishes. 12.5pc alc. €12.99. Available from O'Brien's.
Take Two Wines
Domaine Bailly Quincy 2008 - Quincy is one of the lesserknown Loire regions for Sauvignon Blanc. It may not deliver the complexity of Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé, but it’s cheaper and has plenty of zest, with classic green, grassy and herby flavours, combined with zingy lemon and grapefruit; worth a try for those hooked on New Zealand Sauvignon. 12.5pc. €9.99 Available from Marks & Spencer.
Pfeiffer Rutherglen Muscat - deliciously different. A fortified Australian wine, which, although not a sherry, is also a great match with gazpacho. It’s also super on its own or with chocolate truffles. It has a complexity developed over five years in oak, but is lively and light on the palate, with flavoursome layers of butterscotch, honey, fresh figs, raisins, aniseed and spice, ending with a lip-smacking finish. Serve chilled. 18pc alc. €20.55 (50cl) Available from Eugene’s of Kenmare; Cinnamon Cottage, Rochestown, Cork; Karwig Wines, Carrigaline; www.karwigwines.ie; Cases Wine Warehouse, Galway.