Italian wines for British cuisine? All the best pairings
Wine and Italy have been intertwined since the 8th Century BC, when ancient Greeks arrived in the south of the country.
Seeing the immense potential of the grapes there, the Greeks called the country Oenotria – “The Land of Wine.” Today, Italy is the largest producer of wine by some margin, and Italians also export more wine than anyone else on the planet! Not only are they the biggest players in the wine world, but they’ve got the most varieties of grapes: some estimate there are around 2,000 grape varietals in the country. With wines being produced in every region of the nation, it’s no surprise there is an Italian wine for every person’s taste. The sheer diversity and quality of her wines means that they can be easily matched with any cuisine across the globe. If you’re looking for great Italian wine to pair with classic British cuisine, then read on for all the best pairings.
Start with Aperitifs
All the best meals start out with an aperitif – an alcoholic drink to relax you, get your appetite working and your palate open, ready for the meal to follow. Works brilliantly whether it’s just you and your family, or for a gathering. Guests will always appreciate a good aperitif as a welcoming gesture. There are many aperitifs, but they should be light in body, lively and always served cool.
Look no further than Prosecco, a sparkling white wine from northern Italy. Wonderfully bubbly (but not too much, it’s usually less effervescent than Champagne), fun to drink and a great ice-breaker too. The perfect preparation for the meal to follow.
English starters and Italian wine
What could be more British than the good old Prawn Cocktail – popularised by the old Berni Inns that rode the UK culinary landscape like a colossus back in the day! It’s a timeless classic, and now has retro chic too. Pair it with a Frascati – a crisp white produced in the Lazio region. It’s got lovely flowery aromas with a slight lemon-lime flavour.
An Italian Riesling is dry and refreshing and is also a great match for any prawn or shrimp-based starter. Welsh Rarebit – cheese on toast with a premium twist is another wonderful starter. A full-bodied white will sit well with the buttery bread and cheese. Try a Vermentino with this dish. Soups make for great starters and are very popular in the UK. Serve the famous Italian red Barolo with oxtail soup – the richness complements the dish beautifully.
Classic British Mains
The Roast: Which wine to choose
All the traditional British mains have something in common; they’re filling and hearty. Delicious comfort food! The ultimate British main is without doubt, the roast dinner. Meat (beef, lamb, pork or chicken mainly), roast spuds, carrots, sprouts, Yorkshire Pudding and lashings of gravy. For beef, you can’t go wrong with an Italian Cabernet Sauvignon, a full-bodied red. Meanwhile, pair lamb with a Pinot Noir from Italy – the light crispness matches well with the fatty flavour of the meat. Switch to a white Chardonnay from Chieti for roast chicken and stay with white for pork. Of course, many roasts these days don’t involve meat – but nut roasts dovetail with the same full-bodied reds as beef.
Fish & Chips: A sparkling wine
No discussion of classic British cuisine is possible without the mentioning the ubiquitous fish and chips! Prosecco is an excellent choice of wine. The sparkling bubbles cut through the grease and cleanse the palate, while its mineral qualities combine superbly with the flavour of the fish. If sparkle isn’t your thing, then a white with good citrus notes pairs well too!
Curry: white or red?
In modern Britain, many dishes from afar have become established staples. None more so than the curry, incredibly popular in the UK, especially since the 1970s. The drink many people associate with curry is a cool, crisp lager – but wines can be an excellent pairing too. Acidity is important as it makes the mouth water, which helps to counteract the spiciness. Go for dry and crisp Italian whites such as Pecorino or light reds. Sicilian Frappato is a great choice.
Sweet wines for desserts
Brits have a sweet tooth – so it’s no surprise that there are hundreds of classic desserts in the UK. Apple crumble, served with custard, is possibly the most famous. Pair this with a Moscato d’Asti, light in alcohol and sweet enough to stand up to the sweetness of the dessert. Eton Mess is a wonderful British dessert – strawberries, meringue and whipped cream combine to create this classic. A sweet wine would work well but try an Italian Riesling too.
End of meal: Digestifs
Don’t forget your after-dinner drinks – not only are they delicious, but they are also lower in calories than most desserts you can think of (at least ones that taste of anything!). Although the science behind the claim that they aid digestion is a little thin, who cares, they taste great! Passito wines, where grapes are allowed to wither a little to concentrate the juice, round off any meal in the best possible way.
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