Sunday, January 01, 2006

Top Wine and Food Matches

As wine freaks we tend to overlook that wine is the accessory, not the raison d’être. If there ever was a damning reason for ending the age of the Übertasters, sending them over the cliff with their pockets filled with 88’s, 91’s and the occasional 96, it is the principle that the best wines show their true colors when in harmony with the right plate. Yes, there are those who believe that it is a lifestyle beverage, and some wines are. But the majority of wine was made for the table, and should be judged in that context. This is niether snobbish nor elitist, simply the next step and the ultimate appreciation of a drink that we love. Here are some of my faves from recent memory and happy 2006 to all.

Raw Oysters and Muscadet
God made muscadet for this simple, yet perfect harmony. The Domaine de L'Ecu has the intense minerality necessary to follow the natural iodine character of the oyster, and dry enough not to get in the way of the subtle, salty flavor. Yes, sometimes less is more.

Deer Tournedos and a Loire Red
Surprise, Cabernet Franc can be great. On the table were Deer tournedos, resting on a purée of roasted onion and ratte potato, and accompanied by caramelized cauliflower. The Anjou 2002 from Réné Mosse was an inspired choice, bringing home just enough maturity to bring an impression of sweetness to accompany the roasted and caramelized vegetables, power for the deer, but with the necessary subtlety and hint of green pepper for the cauliflower.

Braised Lamb Ravioli and Wild Mushroom with a Napa Merlot
Fresh made ravioli filled with braised lamb, sitting atop king erige and shitake mushrooms and swimming in it’s jus. Neyer’s Merlot 2000, Napa Valley is for me the summit of California winemaking. The mix of ripe plums and earth notes harken well- aged St. Emilion, but it remains true to it’s roots. Nothing feels fake here, just a perfect harmony between the mushrooms, the earth, the sun, the textures; all with a dash of ripe fruit.

Pan Seared Sable fish with a Pinot Blanc from Burgundy
What? Burgundy? Not Chardonnay? Marsannay is the sole AOC in Burgundy which allows for blending it’s beloved Chardonnay. The 100% Pinot Blanc 2002 from Fougeraie de Beauclair is an extraordinary blend of fruit and richness, anchored by a soft, well integrated oakiness. Sable fish combines the texture of halibut with the finesse of sea bass. Served on a bed of fork mashed ratte potatoes with a salted herb and olive oil sauce, the fish took the heady pear aromas of the Fougeraie like, well, it was Queen Charlotte water.

Boiled Lobster and a Dry Bonnezeaux
It was the end of a long quest to find the perfect match. Corsican winemaker Marc Angeli has installed himself in this central Loire AOC and has set new standards for great winemaking. The review tells all. The harmonies were as complex and beautiful as a grand symphony, the extravagant amplitude and minerality of this great Chenin matched perfectly with the salty, slightly iodined meat of the sea bug. So rich was the wine that I couldn’t remember wether or not I had dipped in the melted butter. But alas, I have only 1 bottle left. Anjou Blanc 2001, La Lune, Ferme de la Sansonnière.... get it, try it, revel in it.

Braised Pork Shoulder with Fennel and a Morey St. Denis
The greatness in Burgundy lies in it’s capacity to morph with respect to what is on the plate. Never the star, but usually an Oscar winning supporting actor, this Morey 1er Cru 1999, La Riotte from Taupenot-Merme handled the cinnamon, star-anise and fennel with fluidity and ease. Earthy, delicate and profound, Burgundy once again proved to me why it is still the paradigm of Pinot Noir.


beau said...

Hey Bill,
Happy '06 to you. Enjoy your R&R.

I've got an '02 Chinon that I've been afraid to open - as I wasn't sure what would work w/it. I'll give your suggested deer tournedos a try (not that I'll be able to do 'em as you do in your resto; but hey I'll try). I also have a Long Island Cab Franc, which I'll add into the mix for comparison's sake.

Cheers, beau

g58 said...

The New York Times wrote about the classic oyster-muscadet pairing this week. What made me bring it up here is the part about muscadet being as good at ageing as Riesling. That really piqued my interest. Except nothing would seem to support the claim that Muscadet ages well if you look at the SAQ catalog -- 2000 is the earliest vintage you can buy. You might have some idea why or where to get other earlier vintages?