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...the Brave New World
of Food & Wine

A relentless tide of fusion foods and ethnic cuisines continues to make an impact on the dining scene and sets a real wine and food matching challenge. What wine do you drink with food that comes from a culture where wine is practically unknown? We now live in a culinary landscape where dishes from Thailand or Japan rub shoulders with ingredients from Mexico and Malawi. Often the flavours of such meals are radically different from European cuisine, which was developed in tandem with the drinking of wine and so has evolved in sympathy with it. When the dish contains pungent, powerful and often spicy ingredients, few text book solutions apply. As a very general rule of thumb, for most ethnic cuisines go for wines - both red and white - that steer a middle-path with neither too much acidity, sweetness or oak. The same goes for tannin in the case of reds. This is not to suggest you look to boring wines - heaven forbid that anyone needs drink boring wine in this day and age - but if the flavours and textures of the dish in front of you are unfamiliar, then fruity, balanced and moderate wines will hopefully avoid clashes, and will complement key ingredients. This month's specific recommendations fall into this category, but this is also an opportunity to look at New World wines, and wines from the Old World that have broken a traditional mould. Brave new wines, for brave new food.

UK stockist are given, with prices in pounds sterling (approx £5=$8US)

Whites

Carta Vieja Sauvignon Blanc 1999
Chilean wines were more or less unknown in the UK ten years ago, yet their juicy, fresh, vibrantly fruity flavours and moderate prices have won them a place as real national favourites. This is a cracking Sauvignon. Chill it well and enjoy the essence of crunchy gooseberry and tropical fruit flavours. Oddbins £3.99

Kendermanns Dry Riesling 1999
The modern face of German winemaking. The bottle is a comfy Bordeaux shape instead of the traditional "flute" that to many consumers spells danger. Bone dry, it has a nose is like acid drops and lemon peel. On the palate it is dry and sharp, with bags of lemony fruit and cutting acidity. For fans of crisp whites. Thresher/Safeway/Sainsbury £3.99

Domaine de Raissac "C.V.M." 1998
A very untraditional wine from the go-ahead Vin de Pays d'Oc in the South of France. A blend of Chardonnay, Viognier and Muscat, it is aged in oak barrels and combines a nose of cinnamon, cloves and ginger with vanilla and peach. On the palate it is savoury and spicy with powerful fruit, a nicely sour edge and good acidity. This would be great with the Smoked foods. Majestic £4.99

Reds

Andino Malbec/Bonarda 1999
A lovely, juicy, savoury and intriguingly fruited wine from Mendoza in Argentina. The warm, spice-laden aromas give way to earthy and berry-scented fruit with a little tobacco note. On the palate it is full of soft, gluggable bramble fruit, little bitter cherry notes and plenty of dark, earthy, spice and cedarwood. Lovely stuff at this price level. Thresher/Victoria Wine £3.99

Los Robles Carmenère 1999
Across the Andes to Chile again for a new style wine, based on an ancient grape of Bordeaux. The Carmenère was recently rediscovered in Chile where it had been mislabelled as Merlot for many years. Wonderfully soft, plummy and spicy, with liquorice and black olive savouriness against terrifically sweet fruit. Sainsbury £4.99

Deakin Estate Shiraz 1999
Sumptuous, with dark chocolate, spice and ripe plum notes on the nose, this Ozzy wine has highlights of pepper and much jammier raspberry fruit too. On the palate loads of juicy blackcurrant and plum, a slick of vanillin oak and lots of fireworks from pepper, spice, nutmeg and charcoal. Yummy. Oddbins £5.49