Many years ago, way back before I joined Majestic, some friends managed to coerce me into entering Masterchef. This was in the days when Loyd Grossman hosted and you had two and a half hours to put together a three course meal. (None of this two-courses-in-one-hour stuff they go in for now.)
James Hurd, Manager, Majestic Farnham
To my amazement, I made it to the televised stages. In preparation, I tried out my menus every week on the aforementioned friends. They owned a small restaurant in Dorset with a sensational wine list, meaning it was their job to match wines to my dishes. Thus my eyes were truly opened to the possibilities of food and wine matching – a passion I’ve pursued ever since.
Today at Chez Hurd, choosing a wine to accompany a home-cooked meal is something I always relish, be it a lively Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc with my wife’s excellent Vietnamese grilled beef salad or an elegantly aged red Burgundy for a Sunday roast guinea fowl.
These are pretty easy meals but still deserve nothing less than a good wine to be served with them. And I’ve put together some more brilliant matches for a few other home-cooked favourites – wines that not only work really well but also offer outstanding value for money. After all, while it’s great to open a special bottle for guests or a celebration, you can still treat yourself to fantastic, affordable everyday wines with fantastic, affordable everyday food.
Château Marquis de la Grange 2007/09, France
￡6.99 or ￡5.49 when you buy 2 bottles*
Splash out on some really good sausages and a potato ricer to elevate this dish to gastropub fare. The soft blackcurrant fruit and gentle tannins of this eminently gluggable Bordeaux, from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, make it a great match for lightly seasoned sausages.
Plan de Dieu, Côtes du Rhône Villages 2008, Charmasson, France
￡7.99 or ￡6.49 when you buy 2 bottles*
For sausages with more punch, like Toulouse, try this slightly firmer, darker red. Its spicy black fruit, from the Syrah and Grenache grapes, marry up perfectly with those stronger flavours.
I Monili Primitivo del Tarantino 2009, Racemi, Italy
￡7.49 or ￡5.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
I always add wine to my lasagne, plus a few minced chicken livers for depth of flavour. This ripe, sunny, southern Italian red has wonderful dark fruits mingling with gentle violet aromas – qualities that come together superbly with this dish.
Costero Syrah 2009, Viña Leyda, Chile
£8.99 or ￡6.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
This excellent Syrah has been a favourite of mine since it first arrived at Majestic. With its red berry flavours and lick of spice, it disappears with consummate ease when poured with a lasagne!
La Grille Vouvray 2009, Paul Buisse, France
£6.99 or ￡6.49 when you buy 2 bottles*
As we head towards the cooler nights of autumn, thoughts inevitably turn to home-made pies. I add a little cider and some thyme to mine, and the gentle apple and citrus flavours in this great demi-sec Loire white, made from 100% Chenin Blanc, make it the ideal partner.
Domaine de Guiot Chardonnay 2009, PGI Pays d’Oc, France
£6.99 or ￡5.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
A fine choice for a pie with a creamier sauce (and a wine that’s all too easy to drink while you’re cooking it…). The grapes are grown in the slightly cooler climate of the hills above Nîmes, giving fine acidity coupled with gentle tropical fruit and an elegant finish.
Sauvignon de Touraine 2009, Joël Delaunay, France
￡7.99 or ￡6.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
From an area of the Loire that offers some excellent alternatives to its more expensive and famous neighbours, the zippy green flavours of this crisp white Touraine are the perfect foil for such a delicate dish.
Sistina Pecorino 2009, Terre di Chieti, Italy
￡8.99 or ￡6.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
The scarce Pecorino grape has been close to extinction in recent times, but this charming wine from the Abruzzo region will make you glad it’s still with us. Leave out the mint and finish your risotto with some fresh cockles, and the lush tropical fruit and touch of honey on show here will go down brilliantly.
*All prices valid until 1st November 2010 unless otherwise stated