Have you got that festive feeling? An urge to eat, drink, and be merry?
Prepare for your seasonal celebrations with our food and wine pairing tool with a difference. Not only can you discover what you should be scoffing to complement your quaffing but you can also learn a fascinating food or wine language fact to impress your friends.
As you casually sip a glass of Champagne you can remark upon its linguistic tie to the Campania region of Italy, or exclaim your surprise that the etymological link between a Dover sole and the sole of your foot is not common knowledge.
Simply click on the tabs of red, rosé, or white wine below to reveal the matching food and language fact.
Many of these fun facts are taken from The Diner’s Dictionary, The Oxford Companion to Food, and The Oxford Companion to Wine – the perfect gifts for wine buffs and foodies.
Fuller Red Burgundy pairs well with coq au vin. ‘Coq au vin’, French for ‘cockerel with wine’, was originally made with aging cockerels, rather than the more tender young female chickens.
Light Burgundy pairs well with grilled portobello mushrooms. Portobello mushrooms are not a distinct variety, merely the mature form of the common white mushroom. They were given this fashionable-sounding name in the second half of the twentieth century in an attempt to encourage sales.
Merlot pairs well with quesadillas. The name ‘Merlot’ is possibly derived from the French merle for ‘blackbird’, in allusion to the colour of the grape.
Pinot Noir pairs well with turkey. ‘Pinot’, the first word of many French grape varieties, refers to the pine-cone-like shape of the bunches of this type of grape.
Port pairs well with Stilton. Port derives its name from Porto, in Portugal, whence the wine has been shipped for over 300 years.
Red Bordeaux pairs well with lamb. ‘Rosemary’ is apparently a folk-etymological alteration of the Latin ‘ros marinus’ (literal meaning: ‘sea-dew’, a reference perhaps to the herb thriving near the sea), after ‘rose’ and the female name ‘Mary’ (perhaps with allusion to the Virgin Mary).
Rioja pairs well with manchego cheese. ‘Rioja’ is named after the river (rio) Oja which flows through Northern Spain.
Shiraz pairs well with chilli con carne. ‘Shiraz’ shares its name with the medieval capital of Persia.
Dry rosé pairs well with jambalaya. The English word ‘blush’ has been adopted to denote particularly pale rosés.
Chablis pairs well with grilled Dover sole. Both senses of sole (the fish and the foot) are linked; the Ancient Greeks are said to have so named the fish because they thought that it would form an excellent sandal for an ocean nymph.
Champagne pairs well with sushi. The Champagne region takes its name from the Latin Campania, which describes the countryside just north of Rome.
Chardonnay pairs well with crab cakes. The name ‘Chardonnay’ actually refers to a white grape variety which is responsible for all of the finest white Burgundy wines.
Pinot Blanc pairs well with chicken Caesar salad. The Caesar salad is said to have been invented in 1924 by Caesar Cardini, who ran a restaurant called Caesar’s Palace in Tijuana, northern Mexico.
Pinot Grigio, or Pinot Gris, pairs well with tomato and mozzarella salad. Mozzarella in Italian means literally ‘little slice’, and is derived from the verb mozzare ‘to chop up’ (the cheese is shaped into a bundle and then chopped up).
Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with asparagus. The medieval Latin name for asparagus was simply ‘sparagus’ which became corrupted to ‘sparrow-grass’ to the extent that in 1791 it was written ‘Sparrow-grass is so general that asparagus has an air of stiffness and pedantry’.
Coq au vin
Grilled portobello mushrooms
Turkey & stuffing with cranberry sauce
Rack of lamb with rosemary
Chili con carne
Grilled Dover sole
Crab cakes with spicy tartar sauce
Chicken caesar salad
Tomato and mozzarella salad
If our festive food and wine pairing tool has whetted your appetite for holiday treats, why not enter our competition to win The Oxford Companion to Food, The Oxford Companion to Wine, and a Marks and Spencer Christmas food hamper?