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Wine: Marrying wine with a wedding dinner

In a slight twist on the more familiar beef or salmon, guests at one wedding in Ireland later this year will be treated to a choice of fillet steak or monkfish.

The bride-to-be has been in touch, seeking some wine-pairing ideas for the nuptials. She wants to pour French, which gives plenty of choice. It made me wonder what shelves I would peruse if I was serving either of these up this weekend. France yes, but a bit of wanderlust set in too.

In the unlikely event (for a wedding) that the monkfish will be served in a tomato-based sauce -- in which case a light, fruity red could be considered -- the best bet is a pretty full-bodied white.

Monkfish has a meaty texture that begs a certain weight in the accompanying glass, so a touch of oak is needed to add an extra dimension. Bear in mind, too, that there will be spuds and veg on the side.

Top of the wish list from France would be a swanky Puligny-Montrachet, oaked Chardonnay in one of its most elegant forms, from the grape's heartland, Burgundy. It has a steely backbone, a deep fruity vein and spends the right amount of time in an oak barrel to be endowed with creamy spice and richness, without any vulgarity.

But it's pricey, so I'm thinking more mid-range Burgundies (basic Bourgogne or Mâcon are generally unoaked), such as Pouilly-Fuissé, Pouilly-Vinzelles and Macon-Uchizy. Or cast the net wider in search of trusted Chardonnays from, say, Australia, California, Chile and South Africa.

I might consider the often overlooked whites from the Rhône Valley, a good Bordeaux white, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and the weightier Semillon, or a Barossa Semillon from Australia.

It takes a vinous beast of a different kind to tackle a fillet steak: something red and assertive, with plenty of tannins to tame all that protein.

That's easy in France, home of tannic-rich grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, which soak up oak with gusto, taking on even more tannic nuances from the barrel. Most famously in France, it is part of the classic Bordeaux blend (with Merlot to soften it out).

Consider Syrah too, from its Rhône home, disguised under AC names such as Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, St Joseph and Cornas, or maybe a decent Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas.

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Budget may dictate that I look to the south of France, where both these grapes feature.

The possibilities are endless if you think that Syrah translates as Shiraz around the world, while Cabernet Sauvignon is equally well-travelled.

Closer to home, Portuguese reds are well known for their firm structure; from Italy, a Chianti perhaps; or from Spain, a Ribera del Duero, a more rugged version of Rioja.

W


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Take three wines

Marks & Spencer St Romain Les Senteurs 2007 -- not Puligny-Montrachet, but from Burgundy's Côte de Beaune all the same; medium-bodied, floral spice and apple nuttiness wrapped in soft biscuity flavours, added complexity from 11 months spent maturing, gently unfolding. 13pc. €14.99. Available from Marks & Spencer. Fiuza 3 Castas 2008 -- a great-value trinity of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Portugal's top red, Touriga Nacional; combining structure, piercing black fruit and a touch of earth, with a sunny spiciness derived from grapes grown in Portugal's southerly Alentejo region and given six months to mature in oak. 12.5pc. A versatile partner at the dinner table, steak included. €9.99. Available from Donnybrook Fair; Fallon & Byrne, Exchequer Street; Corkscrew, Chatham Street; Red Island, Skerries; Mitchell's, Rathfarnham; Terrace Wines, Galway; Cheers, Delgany; Deveneys, Rathmines; Fresh Outlets; Gourmet Bank, Churchtown; The Vintage, Cabinteely; Sweeney's, Glasnevin; Nectar, Sandyford; The Wine Shop, Perrystown. Château Magnol Haut Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2007 -- happy days, the price has been reduced by several euro since the autumn. Bring on the steak for this Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, its parent, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. Plenty of brambly fruit, with an invigorating streak of redcurrants, a touch of mint and firm, but well integrated, tannins. 12.5pc. €19.99. Available from Donnybrook Fair; O'Briens; Molloys; Cellars Big Wine Warehouse, Naas Road; Worldwide Wines, Waterford; Harvest Off-Licence, Galway; McCambridges, Galway; Higgins Off-Licence, Clonskeagh.

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