The topic of English Fizz and Chips has been a frequent one of recent years with more and more experts advising us that it is not only Champagne bubbles that should accompany one of our country’s best loved meals.
So exactly which drinks do pair well with fish and chips? Beer and ales are popular, a good old cuppa also, maybe a cola or fizzy orange? As a child I can always remember the Corona truck doing its weekly rounds on the streets of London and then picking out from the open back trailer something like cream soda or some weird new fizzy fruit drink which is what would have gone with the family Friday night usual fish and chip takeaway dinner.
Photo credit: https://www.doyouremember.co.uk
Certainly it is known that white wine pairs well with fish dishes, top sommeliers and wine critics would strongly recommend this and suggest both still and sparkling wines. What about fish and chips though? Does this traditional dish, served up at many places in yesterdays newspapers, deserve a fine wine to accompany it?
Well, I decided to collide two great English inventions by way of a dedicated lunchtime tasting and I invited sparkling wine author, the respected Michael Edwards to join me – I wanted to see if indeed English Bubbly and fish and chips were a match made in heaven.
A quick message out on Twitter that we were looking for a suitable fish and chip restaurant brought many replies and due to it’s ideal and very convenient location, we held the tasting at The Mayfair Chippy in London W1. If we were to put to taste some great English sparkling wine then we needed to make sure we were tasting the very best fish and chips! The co-owners Jamie Jones and Peter Taylor whose highly popular venue serves thousands of people in London monthly, made us very welcome and set out a complete table for us with such care and consideration – Thank you gentleman!
Photo: The Mayfair Chippy co-owners Jamie Jones (left) and Peter Taylor
So, venue tick, great respected company tick, now the wines! We reached out to varied English sparkling wine producers with our idea and eight sent us through samples to taste. These were (tasting notes on the day provided too):
Langham – Classic Cuvée 2013 Brut
Michael Edwards notes: “Orchid fruits, pear, plum on the nose. Round and full in the mouth.”
Exton Park Vineyard – Blanc de Noirs
Michael Edwards notes: “Colour is not over extracted, lovely mousse of fine bubbles. Nose is a sensation of peach and apricot. Taste is energetic and rich, not at all heavy. Very classy.”
Bolney Estate – NV Brut
Michael Edwards notes: “Nose is ripe pear, apricot and exotic fruits tones. Mouth is rounded, refreshing and well balanced. This is an extremely good all purpose English bubbly to always have a bottle of in the fridge.”
Chapel Down – Three Graces 2011
Michael Edwards notes: “Nice colour. Smooth, silky palate, difficult to dislike. Excellent ripeness. A wide appeal sparkling.”
Fox and Fox – Tradition Blanc de Noirs 2013
Michael Edwards notes: “Interesting colour of bright yellow and gold tones suggesting good ripe fruit. Nose is fresh fruits and fruit compote. Nice in the mouth giving sensation of favourite orchid fruits including yellow plum.”
Denbies – Whitedowns
Michael Edwards notes: “Deep golden colour. More orchid fruits than citrus with pears, cherry and plum. Taste is full and rounded. I suggest great for strongly flavoured dishes like those with garlic.”
Davenport – Auxerrois 2014
Michael Edwards notes: “Decent colour of bright and fresh looking with hints of gold. Nose gives a friendly smooth bouquet of citrus fruits, cherry and peach. Taste is rounded, but not too sweet nor dry.”
Wiston Estate – Blanc de Blancs
Michael Edwards notes: “Pale yellow colour with lovely fine bubbles. Nose is lemon/lime, grapefruit and is elegant and fine. Terrific in the mouth, energetic and complex. A fine English bubbly.”
Photos: Christopher Walkey (left) and Michael Edwards
So, how does English sparkling wine in deed pair with fish and chips?
Well to be honest, myself and Michael were well entertained with food from The Mayfair Chippy and our menu we paired the wines with included Colchester oysters, Cornish crab and avocado on toast, crispy Cornish squid and more as well as the main fish and chip course which was fried cod with a selection of sauces. As we both sat down with a table full of wonderful sea food and numerous ice buckets and popping corks from eight bottles of bubbly, the other guests that were dining must have assumed we were celebrating some kind of financial windfall as it was a table set for kings. I am sure many will agree, fine food is always a pleasurable experience and not far behind is the anticipation heightened from the opening of a bottle (or two) of wine to accompany the dinner and for myself and Michael, we both agreed that opening a bottle of bubbly even further adds to the occasion.
The way in which English sparkling wines paired with the fish and chips was perfect we both felt, “They are (English sparkling wines) appropriate for fish and chips because they have high acidity which is a good balance for the oils of the dish and the fatty parts of batter and the chips” Michael Edwards added.
Each of the English sparkling wines expressed varied tasting experiences and performed differently with the battered fish dish “the chardonnay is a natural pairing, the blanc de noirs are richer, but not over extractive” and “English sparkling wines are all about ‘sense of place’, they are all unique tasting experiences for each region they represent” Michael shared.
I felt that the wines, on top of taste, made the main dish even more exciting. You are in fact pairing a great English traditional with another and this makes for such a great feeling, adds a patriotic mood to the meal that it makes the dining experience even more satisfying and pleasurable. People may not see fish and chips as fine dining, but this very much depends on the location that they are served in and quality of preparation and ingredients in my mind and why shouldn’t this very popular dish have with it wines served, ice buckets at the ready and popping corks to further improve what is a popular dish? Each wine paired tremendously with the battered fish and chips, changing the tasting experiences of each yet not effecting the desired wholesome fish and chips we enjoyed.
Michael concluded things, before we both went off to another tasting that afternoon together, by saying: “The English sparkling wines on show today were stunning. Alternative vision of sparkling wine production and different to Champagne, but just as interesting.”
Photo: The Mayfair Chippy, London W1K 6WE. Tel: 0207 741 2233
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