Saturday, 1 August 2009

Drinking with take-aways

Just because you're having a take-away doesn't mean you can't have something decent to drink with it. Here are a few suggestions.

Classic choice: beer – thirst quenching, refreshing and versatile. Good wine options include ripe, fruity, moderately tannic reds (eg Chilean Merlot, South African Pinotage, Californian Zinfandel). These wines have enough flavour to stand up to strongly flavoured food, but are still fairly gentle on the palate; for some reason, heavy, dry tannins really accentuate spiciness (and not in a good way). Fruity whites or rosés also work well: refreshing, easy to drink and able to cope with a range of flavours and textures. Off-dry or slightly sweet wines can be surprisingly good with spicy food to offset the heat. 

Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese
I've grouped these together as often they all include a combination of sweet, sour and spicy flavours, although Chinese can be a bit more fatty. Some delicate Chinese cuisine and dim sum could warrant some decent Champagne (see Japanese below) but, otherwise, refreshing, dry, aromatic, unoaked white wines such as Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Austrian Grüner Veltliner fit the bill. Off-dry Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris also work, but might get a bit cloying with rich or fried food. There's always chilled lager for spicier dishes, and China tea as a non-alcoholic option. If I'm not drinking wine, I really enjoy ginger and lemongrass cordial with Oriental food.

Classic choice: sake (rice wine), although it’s a bit of an acquired taste. For delicately flavoured dishes eg sashimi and sushi equally subtle wines: blanc de blancs Champagne (as it’s only made from white grapes ie Chardonnay). Unoaked, neutral, restrained whites: Muscadet, Chablis, northern Italian whites (eg Soave, Gavi) and modern Spanish whites (eg Rias Baixas) should also help enhance the purity of the food. For more oomph to counter wasabi, try Australian or New Zealand dry Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc. Soft, round, fruity reds (see above) are a good choice for spicier dishes such as anything with a teriyaki marinade.

Classic choice: Italian reds eg Chianti, Valpolicella, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. If these aren’t available, try something that also has good acidity and a slight rustic touch, such as red Loire (Saumur, Chinon), Pinot Noir (ideally lower level or inexpensive Burgundy) and Portuguese reds would all help tackle the oiliness of the melted cheese (and meat/sausage).

Fish and chips
At times I consider fish and chips such a treat that I’ll happily have it with a bottle of something sparkling which, being refreshingly acidic, cuts through the fat beautifully (Cava, Prosecco and beyond according to your budget). Unoaked, crisp, citrussy white wines perform a similar role (eg lean Loire Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc; northern Italian or even English whites). A delicious choice of beer would be a fresh, lemony weissbier/wheat-beer such as Hoegaarden.

Yes, I know these are generally consumed AFTER drinking, but if you’re calmly enjoying kebabs at home, why not try to get some tasty, characterful Greek wine to continue the Mediterranean mood (Oddbins and Waitrose)? If not, southern Italy and Spain would do the trick – reds and whites. Rosé might also help remind you of holidays. Otherwise, you could always get the beers in…

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