Okay, so last week we discussed some general guidelines for pairing food and wine, now let’s move on to some specifics. The guidelines that we discussed last week will be the base that we work from. The best reference to use when paring food and wines is geography. Traditionally, in Europe, indigenous wines were made to go with the foods of that particular region, so let’s take a look at some of the more classic ones. Let’s start at the top;
Light, Unoaked wines – The first thing that comes to mind is the oyster/Muscadet match. The mouth of the Loire River starts at Nantes, where the Atlantic Ocean flows inland and feeds the Loire River. The area of Muscadet and its tributaries, the Sevre and Maine is an area rich with gorgeous, briny oysters that are a large part of the local cuisine. Centuries ago, the vignerons of the region discovered that the Melon de Bourgogne grape, with its racy acidity and mild flavors was a wonderful match for the local Mollusks. The bright, clean flavors of the wine match the ocean freshness and sweet flavor of the delicacies of water harvested here. To sit at a Café and gulp down fresh oysters and swill Muscadet is a sublime delight. The best Muscadets are labeled ‘Sur Lie’, meaning that the wine was left in contact with the lees after fermentation to create a creamier profile.
Champagne and salty foods – The region of Champagne is in the far northern reaches of the country and has been fought upon more times throughout history than almost any other part of France. The wines are like the region it comes from; long lasting, resilient and beautiful. Champagne is the closet wine producing region to the city of Paris and shares many of the same gastronomic delights. The most common style of Champagne is Brut. Brut Champagne contains less than 12 grams of residual sugar (though usually between 4 and 8 grams). I really love pairing this effervescent delight with either Gravlax, the salty combination of smoked salmon, boiled eggs, red onions, capers and crème fraiche or Eggs Benedict (especially with smoked salmon). The salty and fatty richness of these dishes match perfectly with the generous apple, brioche, citrus and nutty flavors of this ethereal libation.
Dry Roses – Though most of the world produces dry Roses, the best of them are made in the Mediterranean area of France, particularly Provence and Tavel. Provencal Roses are pale and crisp with bright, tart red berries and fresh acidity. Think of the Mediterranean diet when pairing these wines; lots of fresh fish, olive oil, olives, tomatoes and fresh herbs. Tavel, made mostly from grapes that stay in contact with the skins for a longer period of time prefers a bit richer style of fish and goes very well with ripe chesses and Charcuterie.
Next week, we will complete the list. Then I urge all of you to get into the kitchen and roll out some delicious traditional dishes to pair with these wines using your new found knowledge. If you live in the Washington D.C, region, I urge you to share them with me!
Most people regard a Sommelier’s ability to perfectly pair food and wine as complex task that requires considerable skill. The main advantage that a Som has is an intricate knowledge of the food and wine within his or hers given setting, the restaurant. This is something that a person who has an interest in being able to able to do at home (and therefore being able to do at a restaurant without the help of a wine steward or waiter who may have a different agenda), could do there with a few helpful suggestions.
The theory behind pairing lies mostly in “Balance”. Much like a chef strives for balance of flavors in his/her dishes or a winemaker tries to balance the different varietals and components of wine, the art of pairing is dependent on balancing the flavors, acidity, and structure of the wine with the components of the dish.
Some basic guidelines regarding pairing are a great foundation to start with, here are some:
Unoaked, lighter, higher acid wines pair well with shellfish, lighter fish dishes and salads. Some of the varietals that fall in this category are Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Albarino.
Champagne (which is amazingly versatile wine and much underused) with foods with a high salt content. Dry Champagne, along with Cava, Cremant, and New world sparkling wines actually have some inherent sweetness, which beautifully off sets the salinity of certain dishes.
Dry Roses are your friend. No other category of wine has such a broad array of foods that it will pair with. It is an amazing catch all wine for cheeses, charcuterie, salads, fattier fish, light poultry and even barbeque foods.
Rich, full bodied whites like Chardonnay, because of the presence of oak and the buttery, creaminess, matches wonderfully with richer fish and poultry dishes that are accompanied by a sauce.
Full bodied, high tannin wines with fatty steaks and game. The tannins in the wine are calmed down by the high protein content of these meats and drastically change the perception of the wines, allowing the silky, dark fruits to shine.
Sweet with heat. Spicier cuisines, such as Thai, Indian, Vietnamese and Spicy Barbeque work fantastically with wines that have residual sugar. The heat of the dishes benefits from the cooling aspect of the racy sweetness of grapes like Riesling and Gewürztraminer. The bold spicy sauces that cook chicken and pork in traditional BBQ melds wonderfully with fruity, low tannin reds like Zinfandel and Zweigelt.
The dessert wine should be sweeter than the dessert itself. Dessert wines I like best with stinky cheeses, but can be great partners to desserts, just try to pair with fruit tarts as opposed to very sugary items.
I hope this helps you become more comfortable with pairing wine and food. Tune in next week, I will get into specific pairings.
I love Duck Confit. Let me say that again, I love Duck Confit. I would love to kiss the genius who invented the delicious concept of cooking something in its own fat. As we all know, Duck fat is liquid gold. I have many, many quarts of it in my kitchen. Sometimes, I just look at it with a big, goofy grin on my face. I feel wealthier because of it. Cooking things in Duck fat is akin to wrapping something in bacon. It’s the culinary equivalent of an athlete on steroids, it creates an unfair advantage. Ok, now onto the recipe, I use a pretty standard recipe with a few alterations. Here is a list of ingredients that will be required;
4 duck legs
2 bulbs garlic
Fresh ground pepper
If you already have duck fat, you are ahead of the game, if not don’t worry. You can render your own duck fat easily. I purchase my duck at Eastern Market, every Sunday, along with my duck legs; my butcher also saves me the trimmings of the ducks, nice fatty bits! In a deep sauté pan, I render the fat at a medium temperature, then pour into a container and let cool. If this does not give you enough fat, you may simply augment this with the cooking oil (something neutral and inexpensive such as rapeseed oil will do just fine). If you don’t have any duck fat, you will simply use the cooking oil. Make sure to reserve all of the oil when you’re finished (thereby slowly transforming your cooking oil into duck fat!).
Next, place your duck legs into a shallow, wide container. Liberally salt the duck legs, this dish require a lot of salt, so don’t be shy. Next peel your garlic, cut into medium sized chunks, spread evenly over the legs, now place whole thyme, rosemary and a few bay leaves on top of the legs. Finally grate a good amount of pepper over it all. Cover the dish and refrigerate overnight.
When your duck legs are cured, take then out of the fridge, wash and rinse them, then pat them dry. Take a roasting pan or casserole dish and place the duck legs inside. Pour in fat/oil mixture till it completely covers the duck. Cover the dish in clear wrap and then with foil. Insert the pan into the oven, which you have pre-heated to 200 degrees. Forget about the duck for 6-8 hours. Go to sleep, go shopping, something like that. If you don’t have that much time, you can cook at a higher temperature, although I would not recommend any more than 300 degrees (about 3 hours).
When the duck is finished, pull out the legs gently (they are now falling apart tender).
Strain out your fat slowly, put in storage containers and put away for next time. When you are ready to serve the duck, simply place into a medium hot cast iron skillet and crisp the skin and heat all the way through (if you had refrigerated before final preparation).
Suggested accompaniments; white beans, flageolets, root vegetables, sautéed greens, such as swiss chard, spinach, collard greens, mustard green or kale. I would also recommend using some of the duck fat to braise the greens in. That is it, not too hard to do, as you can see. Just remember to have your cardiologist on speed dial if you do this on a regular basis…..or just eat it in the emergency room waiting room perhaps.
Stir up a pot of mulled wine, snuggle up with the dogs, and settle in for another viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life. You can sip along with Clarence the Angel who, as he tells the barkeep, likes his mulled wine “heavy on the cinnamon and easy on the cloves.” Happy Holidays!
A Quick History
The history of mulled wine can be traced back to Medieval Europe. When wine went bad, it was often sweetened with honey or sugar, and flavored with spices to make it consumable again. They were thought to be very healthy, and indeed, with wine at the time being far more sanitary than water, these heated drinks probably did keep people healthy through the cold winters. Bonus! In Sweden it’s known by Glog, in Finland it’s Glogi in Finland, and in Germany it’s Gluhwein; but whatever you want to call it, it’s delicious!
Mulled Wine with Bourbon
1 lemon peel
1 cinnamon stick
1 bottle red wine
1/4 c brandy
Simmer all but wine and brandy in a cooking pot for 10 minutes. Add in the wine and heat back up until warm to the touch. Do not boil. Add in brandy and let sit for a while to absorb the flavors. Serve warm.
Glogg with Vodka
1 bottle red wine
3 Tbsp Madeira
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup raisins
2 sticks cinnamon
6 whole cloves
1 orange peel
1/4 cup blanched, slivered almonds
1/4 cup vodka
Combine everything but vodka in a large pot. Simmer for 2-3 hours. Just before serving, add in vodka.
All day cooking, nieces, nephews, grandkids, football blaring from the TV and a small kitchen that will inevitably reach temperatures in the triple digits.
These are the conditions under which decisions are made for most party givers. You are forced to deal with all this when someone asks “What do you have for wine?”.
Most of us just direct the offending family member to a sideboard stocked with Harvey’s Bristol Cream and some cheap flashy Australian wine with an obscure marsupial on the label that was purchased long ago for an unusually low price……and it tastes like it. Well, fear not, we can help.
Now, there are a fair number of people out there who want to advice you to buy specific “turkey” wines, that’s all well and good, unless, like most people, there are roughly 862 different items on the table for this meal. Stuffing’s, Chutneys, Jams, 11 different kinds of bread and biscuits, mac’n’cheese, green salad, ham, turkey, a standing rib roast, and something unidentifiable but obviously overcooked are pretty standard fare. Not to mention the mandatory “cranberry sauce shaped like a can”.
While it’s true that Pinot Noir is very versatile and Gewürztraminer can match with many high salt and weird food items, they are not the end all/be all. It’s much more economical to stick with simple, bright, fresh, unoaked wines that are tasty and uncomplicated. This is a day that only becomes tolerable once everyone has sat down to enjoy massive amounts of food in quantities large enough to choke Chris Christie (sorry, I couldn’t help that one) then follow that up with “just a small sliver” of 41 different kinds of pie.
This is a holiday that NEEDS wine, for dietetic reasons as well as providing some semblance of emotional stability. It is also the kind of holiday that can wipe you out of booze, usually by some of the more peripheral members of your family who only make appearances when free food and wine are available. So, don’t go crazy with matching wine and food, it’s an exercise in futility. Here are some suggestions for Turkey Day:
White Knight Viognier $13.99 – Juicy and fruit forward with nectarine, peach and melon notes and a nice honeyed richness that should stand up to some of the more aggressive flavors on the table.
Chateau Montaud Rose Cote de Provence $12.99 – Pretty orange and light strawberry characteristics with fresh herbs and racy acidity. Smokin good with Ham.
Sulin Barbera de Monferrato $12.99 – A perfectly juicy amalgamation of crushed berries and fresh clean acidity. So versatile it could go with a significant portion of the 862 items on the table.
Let’s face it, pairing wine and food has been done to death. There are only so many times one can extol the virtues of Foie Gras and Sauternes. I’m actually getting bored of this subject, let’s move on shall we?
Why do this you ask? That’s easy, both wine and music are visceral, hedonistic pastimes. This needs to be done, plus I get to merge the teenaged/twentysomething existence of myself with the current flawed version of me. Both versions of me are obsessive and wine and music have played integral parts of my Id driven personality.
So, kick back and enjoy some completely unimportant, irreverent dialogue.
The Talking Heads and Alsatian Riesling
Both of these things are funky and intelligent and they also make me wanna dance! I firmly believe that enjoying both of these things together makes you a smarter person; in fact, it makes you a better person. If you are currently listening to “Life During Wartime” and guzzling Marc Tempier Riesling, I would like to hang out with you. My email is email@example.com, please get in touch with me ASAP.
Brahms and Harlan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Both of these things are monolithic, monochromatic and make me feel like I have mononucleosis. Boring.
The Band and Hermitage Blanc
Every time I listen to/drink these beauties I think the same thing….”Why don’t I do this more often?” Classic, timeless and the best at what they do. I mean, come on, The Band was so good THEY LEFT BOB DYLAN! 1996 Chapoutier Hermitage Blanc “ De L’Oree” makes reconsider what greatness is.
Dee-Lite and Bandol Rose
Deeply infectious and groove driven with depth and technical appeal…..and that’s the wine! Lady Miss Kir is the sexiest thing ever to come out of either Silver Spring Maryland or the Cote D’Azur.
Priorat and The Black Crowes
Rock and Roll personified. Everytime I drink this wine I crave singing along loudly to “Jealous Again”. Priorat is the sleek dark beauty that you occasionally in life get to make out with in a crowded bar then she disappears leaving you with a warm gooey feeling that lingers on and on.
Portishead and German Riesling
Ethereal and heart wrenchingly poignant, this wine/music combo just makes sense. Silky and razor sharp with layers and textures that go on and on. They also get better with age.
Jack White and Grand Cru Burgundy
No direct correlation here but they are two things that I will seriously consider committing major felonies to acquire.
James Brown and Champagne
No explanation necessary. I would drink/listen to this continually; twenty-four seven if not for the fact that my head would explode from the booster rocket levels of serotonin this would induce.
Its one of those weird things, for some unearthly reason, years ending in the number nine have profound effects on wine made in Burgundy.
Let’s start way back in 1959. The fact that the wines are still drinking beautifully is enough to go on but these wines continue to evolve and are showing very few signs of slowing down. The wines were austere and tight in their youth with masculine tannins and deep fruit cores. Over the decades, these wines have slowly morphed and aged into one of the most classic vintages in Burgundy’s storied history.
Next up is 1969 (the year my parents were married and so the seminal beginnings of my obsessive attachment to wines from this region), the ‘69’s were gorgeous in their youth, vibrant, racy, seductive wines that are starting to get a bit tired later in their life ( we are strikingly similar, those wines and myself).
1979 provided a great crop of wines that get lost because they came directly after the legendary ‘78’s, although, I must point out that the 1970’s were very much a decade that occasionally gets lost in many aspects.
When I first tasted the ‘89’s I remember saying to my self, ”these wines are going to develop into something otherworldly”, the last time I tasted one, I remember thinking “when?”. Although they still need sometime to fully come around they are still blockbusters.
1999, how I love these wines, every time I crack one open I am reminded that I didn’t buy enough of them.
Last year I started tasting the 2009’s at a few select pre-release tastings from Vintage 59 and Vineyard Brands. These wines are supple and delicious now. I don’t see the ageing potential of the ’59 or ’89 here but I stocked up as much as I could afford (ok, lets be honest, much more than I could afford). These wines are fantastic now and should continue to develop for the short term. They also provide the perfect wines to stock your cellar with while you wait for the massive ‘05’s to come around (roughly the same time as a hovercraft will be released for commercial sale) and the seemingly equally impressive 2010’s.
I strongly suggest grabbing some of these “once a decade” wines as soon as you can, the press on these wines will ensure them selling through very quickly……….or you could just wait for the 2019’s…………
Wondering what to do with the wild card bottles of wine you got on sale? Or the half dozen host & hostess gifts from every dinner you’re throwing this year?
You’re not going to sauté anything in your favorite vintage, but those stragglers collecting dust in your pantry…why not?
So, if you aren’t going to drink it and re-gifting it is out of the question (put down the bow and tissue paper, it’s just not nice!) then pop the cork on your favorite bottle and breathe deeply: cooking with wine is more than a witty slogan on an apron.
Add ¼ cup of wine to your usual sauté oil (I’m a fan of olive oil) when cooking veggies.
Make a marinade by decreasing the oil from ½ to ¼ cup and add ¼ cup wine.
Instead of adding ¾ cup of oil to a cake mix recipe, add ¾ cup of white or dessert wine to the batter.
Here are some of the subtle food-like flavors that can come through in wine — which you may want to capitalize on by adding some vino to dishes containing these foods:
White wine: melon, apple, pineapple, pear, citrus, vanilla, caramel, olives, and mushrooms
White wine is a great addition to dishes containing chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, ham, and veal. It also adds a great dimension to white and light sauces, chicken and vegetable soups and stews.
Red wine: berries, peaches, currants, plums, cherries, oranges, chocolate, and coffee
Red wine works incredibly well with beef, pork, game, duck, goose, and pasta dishes. It adds richness and moisture to heavily seasoned foods and warmth to traditionally autumnal and winter dishes.
So, just to get you moving in the right direction, here are a few recipes to play with and some fantastic wine pairing ideas from the shop!
Merlot & Onion Roast (pair with Domaine Belle Les Pierrelles Crozes- Hermitage 2009)
2 pounds beef top round roast, or similar (this roast is usually already trimmed of all visible fat)
Salt and pepper
8-10 garlic cloves
1 ½ teaspoons canola or olive oil
¾ cup French onion soup, condensed, from a can (such as Campbell’s)
¾ cup Merlot (or other mellow red wine)
If your roast is the rolled-up type, remove mesh or ties from surface and unroll the roast. Arrange garlic cloves evenly on top, and then sprinkle freshly ground salt and pepper over the top. Roll the roast up (but don’t put any mesh or ties back on).
Start heating the canola or olive oil in a medium nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the rolled-up roast to the pan and let the bottom brown for a couple of minutes. Flip and brown the other side (a couple minutes more). Carefully place browned roast in slow cooker so that it remains rolled up.
Pour onion soup concentrate and wine over the top. Cover and cook on LOW for about four hours.
Chardonnay Spice Cake (pair with Chateau Aydie Pacherenc Du Vic Bilh 2007)
1 box (18.25 oz) white cake mix
1 package (5 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ cup fat-free sour cream
¾ cup chardonnay (or other white wine)
2 large eggs
½ cup egg substitute
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the inside of a bundt pan with canola cooking spray, then dust with about 2 tablespoons of flour.
Add cake mix, vanilla pudding mix, and nutmeg to mixing bowl and beat with electric mixer on LOW speed to blend well.
Add the sour cream, wine, eggs, and egg substitute to mixing bowl and beat with mixer on medium speed for five minutes (scraping sides and bottom of bowl after a minute).
Pour into prepared bundt pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cake cool on rack in pan for 10 minutes. Invert pan on serving plate carefully to release the cake. Serve.