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Five minutes with Charlie Stein, Rick Stein Group

Published:  05 December, 2023

As he rolls out a new series of wine dinners with group head chef and brother Jack across their restaurants, Charlie Stein, director, Rick Stein Group, talks Andrew Catchpole through his approach to wine and food pairing.

Jack and I have been doing these for a while now, but we’ll sit down and if I’ve got a passion for an area – say, Alsace or South Africa – I’ll lead with the wine then we’ll slot the food in. Or, if Jack is particularly passionate about something, he’ll lead with the food. This year we’ve been doing dishes we love and wines I love. We’ve gone through the repertoire of Jack, or Dad [Rick Stein] over the years, then wines I think are tasting sensational that I’ve recently put on the list and want to show. Our 50th anniversary is coming up, so we’re thinking classic dishes through the 70s, 80s and 90s, and finding the wine pairings.

What are the key factors in ensuring a pairing works?

Don’t overpower the dish, pick wines by weight, not a big Shiraz with a Dover sole. Also, follow what the locals do, picking dishes they would eat. Then learn the classic pairings: Sancerre and goats’ cheese, fino and jamon, Muscadet and shellfish. You can’t really go wrong with those. Also, experiment. People get a bit nervous around food and wine pairing – there are guidelines, but no hard and fast rules. Just try a lot of stuff.

When Jack and I do our patter at the wine dinners, people just want to know a snippet about the wine, and what it goes with.

At the Seafood restaurant, I try to pick really versatile wines that will go with many different dishes on the table.