14 Aug 2006

Wine and Food

WINE AND FOOD, food and wine - some wines are so sturdy they will floor you without something to absorb the alcohol. Similarly, alcohol is antiseptic, eschewing harmful bacteria from questionable morsels. More weight to gastronomic pairing. I co-hosted six matches yesterday, results of which were:

Kim Crawford Dry Riesling '04 (Marlborough, New Zealand, £7.79) with Chicken Liver Pâté with Chilli and Lemongrass
Former winemaker of the year, Kim Crawford is considered by many in the trade as King Maverick of New Zealand wine, having conceptualised a virtual winery "over a glass of wine ... because of a couple of babies..." (full story). This wine is a blend of three Marlborough vineyards: Dog Point for grapefruit, citrus and sherbet notes; Brancott for honey and spice, and Wratts Road for weight and depth. This match drew out the chilli (slowly) and then the lemongrass and bay leaf. The garlic bevelled the Thai-derived experience.
Would also consider: Malvasia, from Bonny Doon (aromatic, new wave)
Worst match possible: Sabai Cooler (perplexing)

Brown Bros. Dry Muscat '05 (SE Australia, £5.25) with Avocado and Goats Cheese Crostini
Brown Bros make some banal stuff, although this wasn't bad, being largely liberated from aspiration. This young grape-juicy, musky wine further softened the avocado and added a citrus twist to the goats cheese. Would also work with lemon polenta. Incidentally John Charles Brown is thought to have pioneered the practice of putting the grape variety on wine labels.
Would also consider: Lambrusco from Cavicchioli (grapey, less alcohol, jubilantly frothy)
Worst match possible: Uruguayan Tannat (unbearably tannic)

Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay '02 (Aconcagua, Chile, £8.50) with Poached Salmon, Citrus Cream and Lemon-Lime Scented Cous Cous
This buttery rich, oaky, Rubenesque lady absorbed the soft poached salmon in her pineapple embrace. Chile is the only country that looks like its name, a long (5000km) chilli pepper.
Would also consider: Mondavi Fumé Blanc (oak in white wine, as above, adds body)
Worst match possible: Recioto Della Valpolicella (would overwhelm salmon with its raisin depth)

Vina AB Amontillado (Jerez, Spain) with French Onion Soup
This mellow Lyonnaise comfort food traditionally served to perk-up tired guests was pinched into action by the dry sherry. I would consider tipping this not only into the chef, but into the preparation (just after the onions caramalise, replacing brandy and white wine). The yeasty tang of the sherry effectively replaced the croutons.
Would also consider: Cuvée Concorde (a tough American grape making unusual bitter wines, its wild side might be tamed by the soup's beef stock)
Worst match possible: Pink Champagne (all subtlety would be lost)

Vina La Rosa 'La Capitana' Barrel Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon '03 (Cachapoal, Chile) with Casserole of Lamb with Raspberry Beer and Mustard Mash
This casserole felt slightly Morroccan - ideal campsite grub. The Belgian raspberry beer found a soul mate in the wine, which had a framboise underlay and a hint of wood smoke. The already supple tannins magically disappeared under the influence of sturdy protein. Don Reca, Francophile and current 'patriarch' of Vina La Rosa is known to entertain guests lavishly, drawing the services of a long-serving butler.
Would also consider: Tamada Saperavi '02 (bitter cherry notes akin to slightly unripe Sangiovese)
Worst match possible: Sauternes (too sweet, especially when subject to noble rot; might aggravate the mustard)

Banrock Station Sparkling Shiraz NV (SE Australia, £6, widely available) with Summer Pudding
Amongst all those bloody bubbles, a gurney of mulberry, blueberry, raspberry and blackcurrant titillate and confuse, acting in harmony with the big summer pudding mass, the glory of the British season. My co-host thought this the best wine for the traditional British breakfast. I think Ridgeview's Pimlico would be better.
Would also consider: Quinta do Vargellas '96 single quinta (sumptous liquid suggesting upmarket liquer chocolates)
Worst possible match: Anorexic Chablis


I thoroughly enjoyed a bottle of Concha y Toro's Winemaker's Lot 198 Carmenère '04 [£7.99, Oddbins] - a plush wine for everyday drinking, laced with mocha and a touch of mulberry. Bordeaux rid itself of this turbulent grape variety post-phylloxid, partly because of its propensity to ripen later than its claret-building cousins. Chile are increasingly keen to market itself as its new propagators however, sometimes branded Merlot. Good stuff.

Further Links: Rowan Tree Goat Farm / Wine of Uruguay