This county traditionally imports its wines from France, Germany and Italy. Wines are also imported from Portugal, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Austria, New Zealand, Australia, North Africa and Chile. The choice of wines available can be confusing, and the best adviser is the wine merchant. Prices of wine vary according to quality. Other factors also influence prices. Wines that are bottled at the vineyards where they are produced are at the top price range, because it is more expensive to ship wine in bottles than in casks. At the lower end of the price range, there are many palatable wines. These cheaper wines are imported in bulk, and then bottled and labelled in Great Britain.
Storing and serving wine
Wine should be kept in a dry, dark place, such as a cellar which has a temperature of 50-60F. Table wine should be stored lying down, this keeps the cork moist. A dry cork can allow organisms entry into the wine which will spoil it.
Before serving a red wine, stand it upright and leave it to reach room temperature gradually. Only young Beaujolais may be served slightly chilled. A red wine should be opened to allow it to breathe, this helps to develop and release the bouquet, taste and smell of the wine. Most young wines should be open a few hours before serving. When an older red wine is served, the cork can be removed about an hour or so before it is drunk.
A white wine should always be served chilled, although older wine needs only a minimum of chilling. Leave the wine in the refrigerator for an hour or so before serving. If it has been kept in a cellar it may not need further chilling.
The best type of glass from which to drink table wine has a large bowl and stem. With this kind of glass, it is possible to admire the colour and clarity of the wine. There should be a space at the top of the glass so that the bouquet of the wine, particularly red, can be delicately smelt. Swirl the wine round in the glass to release the bouquet.
Wine with the meal
Lots of meals are improved with wine. If the meal is informal, only one wine is usually served. However, it should be chosen with care to compliment the meal. On a special formal occasion, when a different wine is drunk with each course, there is an order of serving. A white wine should precede a red one, except in the case of sweet dessert wines, a dry wine should be served before a sweet one, and a young wine should be served before an old one
Fish should be accompanied by a medium dry or dry white wines, such as Muscadel or Alsace Riesling from France, or moselle from Germany. Other French wines like white burgundies such as Meurasault, Vouvray, Graves, Chablis, and Pouilly-fuisse are also appropriate with fish.
Poultry should be served with a medium light red wine, but a white wine is also acceptable. For example, chicken salad is best with a white Portuguese vinho verde Riesling or a light Graves.
Lamb is best served with red Bordeaux wine, or Beaujolais, and a Rioja from Spain, a Valpollicella Classico from Italy, or fine claret with veal. Claret or Burgundy is good with duck or pork.
Spicy dishes tend to overpower wine, but they can be matched by a good dry sherry, Madeira or an Alsatian wine like Gewurztaminer which has a sweet taste and pungent aroma. In the case of an Indian curry beer should be served instead of wine, and tea is the best accompaniment to Chinese food.
At the dessert course, serve the heavier, sweeter wine, a good Chateau (from Bordeaux), such as Chateau Climens or Chateau Couter, or a sweet sparkling wine from France or Italy. If you have cheeses before the dessert, it can be accompanied with any remaining red wine. But a strong cheese, such as stilton, demands a fortified wine, Port for first choice, or Madeira or sherry.
Cooking with wine
It is the flavour of the wine not its alcoholic content that improves the taste of food. When wine is added to a dish or a sauce, the cooking drives off the alcohol. Never drown a dish with wine. When cooking fish, veal, chicken, sweetbreads and similar delicate foods, use a medium dry white wine, such as Entre deux-mers. Red meats such as lamb, beef and game, are prepared with red wines. However, certain classic fish and poultry dishes such as Filet do sale, and Coq au vin should be prepared with red rather than white.
Apart from adding flavour to food, wine can be used to make it moist and tender. Meat marinated in red wine or fish marinated in white wine, are enhanced in both texture and taste. Fish need not be marinated for more than an hour, but dry meats, such as hare, venison, or beef, may be left for up to two days. A useful marinade consists of one part olive oil or three parts dry red or white. Wine left over after a meal can be used in cooking or as a marinade. Pour the wine into a small bottle and cork it to keep out the air. White wine can be kept the same way in a refrigerator. Fortified and dessert wines, such as Madeira, Marsal, port, sherry, and vermouth can be used to enhance simple dishes. Masarla is an ingredient of the Italian dessert zabaglious, and sherry can be added to trifle.
Wine is not the only alcoholic drink that improves a dish. Beer and cider can also be used in cooking, although they do not have as many uses as wine. Beer is an essential ingredient of classic dishes, such as Welsh rarebit and Carbonade a la Flamande.
Spirits such as brandy, whisky or gin, can be used to flame kebabs, shellfish, steaks, veal and escalopes, and other dishes that do not require long cooking. Before flaming a dish, warm the spirits slightly in a ladle then set it alight with a match and pour it over the hot food. Spirits can be used to flavour dishes, for example, apricot brandy can be used to flame pancakes, Calvados, an apple based brandy from France, can be added to bakes apples. Framboise, a French eau-de-vie or clear spirit can be poured over raspberries. And Kirsch is an excellent marinade for pineapple.
Drinks served before and after a meal.
An aperitif served before a meal should stimulate the appetite without numbing the palate. A light dry sherry, such as fino or manzanillo, is a popular aperitif. Serve it slightly chilled, but not too cold. Hapasne can be served at the beginning of a meal. However if this is too costly, a dry sparkling wine or a well chilled wine or rose wine can be served in its place. Vin blanc cassis, which is a dry white wine flavoured with blackcurrant juice, is also a suitable aperitif.
One of the best ways to end a meal which has been accompanied by fine wines is to serve a refreshing glass of mineral water. However, there is a wide choice of after dinner wines and spirits available, brandies, liqueurs, and eaux-de-vie.