Crumbs! It’s British pie week. One of the staple diets of our little group of islands, actually has a long history in terms of its origins.
Sweet or savoury, there are a thousand different recipes of this very popular dish, each as yummy and satisfying as the other.
At face value an unassuming and simple dish, it is as quintessentially British as the tart is French. With pie-ish dishes going back to the time of the ancient Egyptians, the ancient Romans developed the concept further and the current pastry- based pie came into being in Northern Europe in the 12th Century.
Once a proper pie-crust pastry was born, there was no-end to the inventiveness for the filling. Originally, the crust was purely a receptacle for cooking and keeping the ingredients, whereas nowadays we appreciate the outer almost as much as the inner contents. A pie became an extremely convenient way of transporting cooked food, be it on foot, on boats or on horseback, the early equivalent of the biscuit tin, or plastic container.
Pairing wine with pie is not that difficult, given that there are a number of different flavours in the given pie, off-set by a pastry topping or shell. The essence is to pair the wine flavours with the sauce inside the pie, or fruit perhaps, in a sweet version. If the contents of the pie are full flavoured, choose a full flavoured wine and vice versa, so that one is not over-powered by the other. Here are three suggestions you may wish to try out during British Pie Week.
A traditional game pie, with water-crust pastry, has some complex and full flavours, whether purchased form your local deli, or made in your kitchen if you still have some game in the freezer.
Juniper berries, black peppercorns and other herbs match well with red wines from the Syrah grape, which have some spicy, peppery flavours of their own. Try it with Vidal Reserve Syrah 2017 from Hawkes Bay in New Zealand. Aged for 17 months in French barriques, it is elegant and structured, with black fruit flavours mixed with spice. £17.55 from Hennings Wine Merchants.
It’s difficult to beat a well-made steak and ale pie, perhaps made with a local Sussex beer and prime chuck steak. The delicious gravy with the meat juices inside the crust, is perfect with Zalze Shiraz Mourvèdre Viognier 2017, a rich and spicy red from the Western Cape, South Africa. Forest fruit and spicy flavours, combined with a judicious touch of French oak, gives a succulent, long finish. £10.30 from Waitrose, Morrisons and Asda.
Another great British classic, almost alongside fish and chips, is Fish Pie. Crammed full of every conceivable type of seafood from cod to salmon fillet, mussels and prawns, all in a yummy white wine sauce, it can be a delectable dish in its relative simplicity, providing a wide range of flavours. Good chardonnay with a subtle touch of oak and complex aromas is the order of the day, and South Africa again comes up trumps. Cathedral Cellar Chardonnay 2017 from the KWV stable, has creamy, textured, complex flavours, with well-balanced aromas of almond, citrus and nougat. Satisfyingly long, yet crisp finish, with subtlety and elegance. Well-integrated oak lifts the flavours. Great value at £11 from the Co-op.
Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.
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