Modern bistro-style cooking, with its frequent use of spices, vinegars and the juxtaposition of sweet and savoury elements, can be quite a challenge for wine matching. Trendy fusion dishes, mixing asian and western ingredients, are equally problematic. This is where new world whites, with their bold, fresh flavours and crisp acidity, can often prove useful partners to equally boldly flavoured foods.
Riesling is an undervalued grape worldwide, and nowhere more so than in Australia. Although there has been a recent rekindling of interest in this variety, the best examples are still inexpensive, especially when compared with the increasing prices of Aussie reds. In addition, the fact that Riesling is not highly valued means that producers are not tempted to smother the intrinsic flavours of the grape in new oak. With its intense, crisp, citrus-laden flavours, good Australian Rieslings can stand up to all but the most heavily spiced dishes. Their acidty cuts through and refreshes the palate nicely.
Most of the best examples come from the Clare and Eden Valleys in South Australia, but there are also good Rieslings coming from Western Australia and Tasmania. Good producers include Grosset (Oddbins Fine wine stock these from time to time), Tim Adams (Tesco £7.99), Jim Barry (Oddbins, £5.49), Pewsey Vale (£5.99 widely available), Tim Knappstein (£5.99, Oddbins), Wynns (£4.99, widely available) and Chapel Hill.
New Zealand Sauvignon blanc
Almost becoming New Zealand's 'own' variety: nowhere else manages to consistently get such bold flavours out of this grape. Although they can be a little over the top when drunk alone, with strongly flavoured foods they provide adequate competition. Also useful for matching with foods that have traditionally been a challenge, such as asparagus. Nowadays producers are getting more sophisticated and not all going after the big gooseberry and elderflower whammy; different regions are also developing their own interpretation of this grape. Top examples include Cloudy Bay (if you can find it), Palliser Estate, Vavasour, Montana (Reserve and single vineyard bottlings; basic wine is a little plain these days), Hunters, Lawsons and Villa Maria Reserve wines. Some of the better Chilean Sauvignons offer the same sorts of flavours for less money: one fine example is the Vina Casablanca Sauvignon, from the Casablanca valley (£4.99 Oddbins).
Often touted as a match for Asian foods, good examples of wines made from this spicy, litchee-flavoured grape are useful wines to have on the table. Good examples from Alsace tend to be pricey but worth the money. From the new world, Chile is doing good things with this grape (e.g. Canepa's worthy effort, stocked by Tesco, or the more expensive VIna Casablanca), New Zealand has some good examples (Lawsons Dry Hills, stocked by larger Tesco stores, and Montana Reserve), but my favourite is the spicy, bold Dry Gewürztraminer from Fetzer (£6.99 Oddbins, Tesco).