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The gourmand bird catches the worm

There comes a point in every gourmand's life when she must face the awful truth: she is out of synch with the world. Most people do not start fretting about their premium coffee supply with a week's worth of grounds left in the packet. Or choose their friends on the basis of their tastebuds. Or find cause to agree, far too frequently, with that capacious gourmand Brillat-Savarin, that only those unfortunates "to whom Nature has refused an aptitude for the pleasures of taste" could possibly have invented trousers.

I am guilty of all the virtues listed, but that dread moment arrived for me last week, at an unusual lunch party, marred only by the accompanying wines. The curried worms were not enhanced by English sparkling rosé. Chapel Down's non-vintage brut is lovely, but its light strawberry flavours were drowned by the sauce's tang. Anton Bauer's 2009 Berg - a gorgeous dry Riesling, redolent of peaches - cried out for something spicy; the tempura crickets I was eating went delightfully with elegant dots of horseradish cream, but they did not go with my wine.

Insects, it turns out, are never going to be delicacies, not because they look nasty (well, perhaps because they look nasty) but because they don't possess a huge amount of flavour. This gives a talented chef a lot of leeway to create, for example, a "soil" from dehydrated mushroom and Douglas-fir, decorate it with worms and serve it alongside Jerusalem artichokes cooked with tarragon oil. Delicious - and witty. But it needed a deeper, creamier red than Aurélien Verdet's 2007 Le Prieuré, a supple, light, raspberryish burgundy.

You see my problem, don't you? The rest of the world appears to have its priorities mixed up. In the steppe, say the Russians, even a beetle is meat. Well, we were a long way from Siberia, in London restaurant Roganic, where the young chef Ben Spalding had risen magnificently to my challenge to make a gourmet meal out of insects. Even the scarediest cat would have savoured veal breast with parsnip and smoked redcurrants, as long as nobody told him that the glaze was a maple and bug syrup. And the Masi Paso Doble 2009 offered with it was lovely: an intriguing melange from a legendary northern Italian producer's Argentinian outpost.

Malbec (the grape Argentina has made its own) and Italy's Corvina had been allowed to dry before vinification: a process that in Italy makes Amarones, which are some of my favourite red wines in the world, powerful yet flirting with bitterness, like a cardinal who came second in the vote for pope. This was more of a match for the sweet veal than, say, the burgundy, but an actual northern Italian red would probably have worked better still.

Call me old-fashioned

We rounded off our-eight course extravaganza with an Old-Fashioned made from Woodford Reserve bourbon, at which point I discovered that I prefer my worms crisp: the marinaded fellows in my cocktail tasted nice - of bourbon, not coincidentally - but felt just a little too . . . wormy. My hedonism, you see, is broad as well as deep.

I am grateful that Spalding was willing to put so much effort into a journalist's whim, and however many insects I eat in future, I'm prepared to bet that none will arrive in such clever, tasty and aesthetically pleasing combinations. Still, next time I have a worm supper, I want to choose the wines. I'm an epicure happy to work, a little, for my pleasures; in fact, I find they taste better when I do. As the Swedes say: God gives every bird his worm, but he does not throw it into the nest.

Nina Caplan is the 2014 Fortnum & Mason Drink Writer of the Year and 2014 Louis Roederer International Wine Columnist of the Year for her columns on drink in the New Statesman. She tweets as @NinaCaplan.

This article first appeared in the 26 March 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Mission impossible