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Wine: Crack open one of these

Consider the influence that spending time in oak barrel has on white wine. Toasty, buttery, creamy, caramelised, spicy and nutty are the sort of characteristics that a barrel may impart. Isn't that also the vocabulary of taste sensations that could be applied to roast chicken? You have heard of wine and food matching. Here it is.

I remember when roast chicken was a Sunday treat. Then, the arrival of the battery hen made the bird more available, if less desirable. We were more likely to be saucing it up or stir-frying it, the dominant flavours of cooking style dictating the wine.

Now, free-range and organic are back on the menu and there's hardly a post-modern cookery book that doesn't pay homage to this culinary classic of stuffed roast chicken. An obvious choice for the Easter dinner table, but what to pour with it, apart from the gravy? The most classic oak-influenced white of them all, Burgundy, for one. We are talking Chardonnay which enjoys soaking it up (judiciously) in the barrel.

A basic white Burgundy will be unoaked and may not have the body and complexity to flatter the roast, but from mid-range up, from villages such as St-Véran, Viré-Clessé, Pouilly-Fuissé, Pouilly-Vinzelles, it is given the oak treatment.

Burgundy is the home of this wine classic, but there's such a choice around the globe, too: California, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, Argentina and Italy.

A good white Bordeaux is another roast chicken fail-safe. At the basic level, it is usually the crisper style of 100pc Sauvignon Blanc but, up the chain, white Bordeaux becomes a rich blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, the latter bringing a creamy waxiness and affinity with oak to the union. Australia produces another classic Semillon.

A creamy, barrel-fermented white Rioja will do the job just as well.

Roast chicken won't turn its nose up at red, but prefers something light to medium bodied, such as Pinot Noir. It is the red grape of Burgundy and there's plenty of choice from around the world too.

If the chocolate is the main event this weekend, go the whole hog and enjoy it with a sweet wine such as Port, or south of France styles Banyuls or Maury.

Irish Independent

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