Food and wineJenni Bessesen shares her love of food and wine with a great recipe and some helpful suggestions about what to drink with it. Tuck in!


After a fabulous Tarot card reading by Megan Furniss on Sunday (which I thoroughly recommend), she suggested I could write about wine for Weekend Special.

I’m principally a long-time, enthusiastic supporter of our local wines.  I am an amateur with a good palate. This is my disclaimer.

And I love it when people ask what my preference is between red and white.  I love wine. The colour is completely irrelevant.  The choice all depends on the day, the food what it may accompany, the friends who are present.  And I separate my wines between “drinking” wines and “eating” wines, of course.

I thought for my first article I would include a recipe, if only to show how well food can complement wine.

Leeks agrodolce

If you’ve not heard it before, agrodolce is the Italian way of saying ‘sweet and sour’. Sweet from the buttery, slow-cooked leeks and cranberries, and sour from the vinegar, resulting in a balanced, simple dish that tastes more than a sum of its parts.

Cook 10 min

Prep 10 min

Serves 4

For the leeks

Extra virgin olive oil

4 medium leeks, trimmed, washed, halved and cut into 3cm lengths

¼ tsp dried chilli flakes

2 tbsp cranberries

1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

Salt and black pepper

1 ½ T red wine vinegar

1 small handful basil leaves

 To serve

Pasta or Crostini, toasted

Goat’s cheese, ricotta or goat’s curd

Drizzle some oil generously into a medium frying pan.

Add the leeks and the chilli, and cook for 10 minutes, until soft and sweet.

Add the raisins and pine nuts, season, with salt and pepper cook for another minute then add the vinegar.

Toss everything in the pan, tear in the basil, and cook for few minutes more.

Add a good drizzle of olive oil, take off the heat, taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

Cook 400g spaghetti according to packet instructions, taking care that it is al dente, then add to the pan of leeks with a little of the cooking water (just drag the pasta from your pan with tongs and this will happen naturally).

Toss well, adding pecorino and parmesan, if you like [but not essential].

Serve more cheese at the table, so people can help themselves.

To serve with crostini, toast the bread, top with soft goat’s cheese, ricotta or goat’s curd, then pile the warm leeks on top.

Food and wine

Wine pairing

This dish pairs exceptionally well with wooded Chenin Blanc (particularly Andy Mitchell or Stellenbosch Vineyards offerings) or a light Grenache, my favourite being Lynx in Franschhoek or Marras (found at most Woolies).  Both these red wines may be chilled slightly before opening.

These wines have great acidity, which is a good thing.  Great wines are in balance with their four fundamental traits (acidity, tannin, alcohol and sweetness) and as wines age, the acidity acts as a buffer to preserve the wine longer.

When pairing food and wine, it’s useful to first take into account the tastes found in a dish (sweet, sour, bitter, salty, fat, umami, etc). Your goal is to create a basic profile of the dish in your mind and then select a wine that compliments those fundamental traits. When working with acidity, you’ll notice that sweetness, saltiness and fat balance the sour taste of acidity. This is why Champagne and French fries pair so well together (acidity + fat and salt)…

Acidity is a perfect example of one of the fundamental taste traits that are affected by different climates as in warm vs cool. Luckily for us living in Cape Town, we are exposed to both of these.  I will write more about this in future articles.

I wish you joy and happiness.