Choosing a great bottle of wine to have with food shouldn’t be a bugbear, particularly if that food happens to be a bug. Thankfully, help is on hand as the buying team at Laithwaite’s has undergone a bush tucker trial of its own, to prepare the first ever tasting notes matching wine with insects.
High in protein and inexpensive, edible insects are being touted as the new superfood with popularity soaring around the globe: Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant ranked number one in the world, is incorporating them into its menus; they are available to buy in exclusive London department stores; a recent UN report even described edible insects as a ‘sustainable food source for the future‘. Indeed, two billion people worldwide already supplement their diet with them.
That’s why we have taken our taste buds to the extreme, exploring new territories in wine pairing and discovering the perfect wines to accompany a whole range of insects. Each sustainably sourced bug was rigorously tasted and paired with one of our 1,000 wines. We are now looking into including the tasting notes in selected cases of Laithwaite’s wines.
Mealworms – Commonly enjoyed as a taco topping or standalone snack. Match their nutty taste and light, crunchy texture with a crisp Clare Valley Viognier wine that has just the right combination of fruit and richness (Prospector’s Riesling Viognier 2013, Clare Valley, £9.99).
Zebra Tarantula – The body and legs have slightly different flavours, although both taste similar to fish. Tarantulas are normally eaten deep fried, so think cod and chips. A lively full-bodied Chardonnay will stand up to the complex fishy flavours of the Tarantula. (Collovray & Terrier Chardonnay 2013, £8.99).
BBQ Locusts – Locusts taste a bit like an exotic bar snack and with the BBQ flavour you’ll need a wine with a hint of sweetness, which could easily work at any time of the year. The Hacienda de Lluna Moscatel is a gorgeous, lightly bubbly pink that works well as an aperitif (Hacienda de Lluna Moscatel Rosado 2013, £3.99).
Sago Worms – These worms have a distinct taste similar to bacon so you need a big, meaty red with loads of punch to match that savoury flavour. McLaren Vale Shiraz is fresh, with red fruit and spice (RedHeads Tomahawk Shiraz 2013, McLaren Vale, £10.99).
Giant Waterbugs – The meat inside the waterbug’s body tastes like a sweet scallop, while the head has hints of anise, so you’ll need a wine that matches well with seafood and stronger flavours. A dry sherry, and a Fino at that, is the only choice here. The crisp citrus and nutty flavours will complement the complex flavours of the waterbugs (Bodegas Gutierrez Colosia Fino NV, £7.49).
Queen Weaver Ants – A crunchy ingredient in stir fries. Their slightly sour taste, quite lemony, means they go really well with an aromatic white with pretty fruit and floral notes. A Gewürztraminer provides the perfect balance to Asian style meals, especially their crunchy textures. (Hunter’s Gewürztraminer 2013, £14.99).
Asian Forest Scorpion – Scorpions have a strong, bitter flavour and are normally eaten with sweet chili sauce. Paris Street Rose is full of rich sweet fruit made from full-bodied Transylvanian Pinot Noir, so it has enough body to cut through the combination of sweet and sour: an exotic wine for a more exotic insect (Paris Street Rose 2013, Dealu Mare, Romania, £7.49).
Chocolate-dipped locusts – These locusts are essentially a savoury dish as they taste a bit like sunflower seeds, but gain sweetness from the chocolatey coating. We’ve gone for a rich and robust wine with loads of sweet fruit to stand up to these flavours, made in a style which has endured for centuries. Locusts, too, have been enjoyed for centuries so there is a synergy with the insect’s heritage and this particular wine (Cabalié 2013, Côtes Catalanes IGP, £8.99).
Crickets – The flavours are difficult to distinguish in crickets so they are often prepared with garlic and salt. Nevertheless, the nutty flavour that comes through means a perfect fit is a rich full-bodied white wine like Albariño. This wine comes from the seaside of Galicia in North West Spain so is laden with the salty sea air: perfect to cut through these little critters (Sendero des Santos Albariño 2013, DO Rías Baixas, £8.99).
Garlic Chapulines – Chapulines have an earthy, grassy flavour and a very crunchy texture, so we recommend a creamy dry Champagne. It will match well with the crunch and the earthy, mushroom-like flavours (Comtesse de Bellefleur Grande Réserve Champagne NV, £14.99).
Beth Willard, one of our Wine Buyers here at Laithwaite’s, says: “On average each buyer will try over 10,000 bottles of wine a year across the world, but we never envisaged making our final selection with insects in mind. There’s clearly a growing appetite for them.”
“When you consider that many of the words used to describe the aroma of wine – earthy, grassy, floral – can also be used to describe the bugs’ habitats, it’s no surprise that wine can really complement the distinctive tastes of insects. The word ‘full bodied’ will never be the same!”