Posts Tagged ‘wine and food’
If you are looking for fine French wine and food, consider the Alsace region of northeastern France. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a local white Riesling winetasted with several meals and paired with imported cheeses.
Alsace ranks tenth out of the eleven French winemaking regions in terms of its acreage devoted vineyards. But don’t be mislead by statistics; little Alsace is a major producer of quality French wine. Its wine growing area is barely 60 miles (100 kilometers) long, and at most 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) wide tucked between the Vosges Mountains to the west and the Rhine River and Germany to the east. But this relatively tiny area is famous for its distinctive wines. Their wine bottles are also distinctive; tall and thin with labels that feature the grape variety, not the usual practice in France. Chaptalization (adding sugar to the fermenting grape mixture) is allowed for many wine categories.
About 95% of Alsace wine is white. The major white grape varieties are Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Gris, and Riesling, reviewed below. Its secondary white grape varieties include Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, and Muscat. The major red grape variety is Pinot Noir, reviewed in a companion article in this series.
The beautiful Vosges mountains are located in eastern France near the Rhine River and Black Forest of western Germany. To a large extent they are composed of granite and red sandstone. Their highest point is the Grand Ballon (also called Ballon de Guebwiller) with an elevation of about 4600 feet (slightly more than 1424 meters). The vineyards of its eastern slopes have an elevation of up to 1300 feet (400 meters).
The Vosges mountains are great for tourists. Attractions include beautiful forests, several castles in ruins, and health resorts. If you are so inclined you can hike their usually gentle slopes and are never far from vineyards and restaurants serving delicious foods and local wines. After all, you are on the Alsace Wine Route, at least for the eastern slopes. Don’t forget the winter skiing. The southern Vosges, near the village of Bussang, is home to a lovely fountain exploiting a spring that originates in the Moselle River. I hope you don’t mind that this particular area is just over the border in Lorraine.
Before reviewing the Alsatian wine and imported cheeses that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region.
Start with Schniederspaetle (Onion Ravioli).
For your second course savor Brochet d’I a la creme (Pike in White Wine and Cream Sauce).
And as dessert indulge yourself with Strudel aux Pommes (Apple Strudel).
OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.
Hattstatty Hatschbourg Riesling 2003 12.5% alcohol about $21.00
Let’s start by quoting the marketing materials.
This wine won a Gold Medal at the 2006 Concours Riesling du Monde. Established in 1998, the Concours Riesling du Monde (Rieslings of the World) competition takes place every year in Strasbourg, Alsace. Rieslings from throughout the world are submitted to an international jury of oenologists and wine critics. This hugely respected competition illustrates the diversity and brilliance of fine Riesling from around the world. And now for the review.
My first meal consisted of home made barbecued chicken in a sweet and sour Thai sauce with Portabello mushrooms and red pepper. The wine was fruity, nice and complex. It was quite a good match and I knew that this would be a quality wine.
The next shot was a commercially barbecued chicken leg (of course not as tasty as my own barbecued chicken) with its skin in a paprika sauce accompanied by, Turkish salad, and Greek olives. I started by sipping the wine alone, as I was afraid that I might have lost the bottle because the wine sat in the fridge for quite some time. No problem. This Riesling wine was fine with an appely taste but in the positive sense. In response to the food the wine got even better. It was quite long and powerful and yet delicate. While I liked the Greek olives and I liked the wine, I did not enjoy the two together. The Riesling’s acidity actually intensified in the presence of the moderately spicy Turkish salad. I finished my glass with overripe cherries. This time the wine went flat, especially with the sweet ones.
The final meal was an omelet with a local Provolone cheese and a side of Turkish salad. The wine was nice and crisp. I tasted a touch of lime. As dessert I had a high-quality chocolate-coated vanilla ice cream bar. The ice cream bar was fine but it did flatten the wine somewhat.
My first cheese was a nutty, fatty, and slightly sour Dutch Edam cheese. My German Edam was well beyond edible by humans, although the spores looked like they were having a real feast. Anyway, in the presence of this Dutch Edam the Riesling was round and fruity, with pleasant acidity. In the presence of an Italian Friulano cheese the wine became sour and flatter.
Final verdict. Great wine, I will buy it again and watch my pairings more closely. This should accompany very well the right gourmet meal.
First off let me say that I am in no way a wine snob. I do not believe that there is an ultimate right and wrong way to pair wine with food. It all boils down to your personal taste and the tastes of your guests. Most people like to pair white wines with white meats and lighter meals like fish, and red wines with red meats and pastas. You can certainly mix it up, however. Experiment and go with what you think tastes good.
That being said, some people are still uncertain and like some general guidelines to follow. Here is a listing of some wines and the foods that go well with them:
If you are serving appetizers such as crab cakes or oysters on the half shell, try pairing it with a light, fruity Chardonnay. This white wine of North America is a favorite of many people and pairs well with light seafood fare. It is also a nice wine to sip on its own before a meal.
With appetizers like chicken wings or antipasto, serve a Pinot Noir. This red spicy wine goes well with both red and white meat and is a wonderful starter to a meal.
If you are having a fish or shellfish dinner, consider serving a Pinot Grigio. This wine is also excellent enjoyed with ham, veal, or pork.
An Australian Shiraz is a nice red wine that pairs well with both white and red meat. It has a sweet flavor that complements most meals. Serve Shiraz with duck, pork tenderloin, prime, rib, or herbed chicken. Shiraz is wonderful for its versatility.
Madeira is an excellent wine to serve with less sweet desserts like soufflé or angel food cake. Port wines go well with rich chocolate desserts or cheesecakes, and serve a Sherry wine with mousse or peanut butter desserts.
So there you have it. That is my interpretation of serving wine with food. The best way to know what to serve is to taste different wines and see what you like. The taste of a Chardonnay or a Pinot Noir can vary from brand to brand and region to region, so have a try and see what you like. Experimentation is the best part – with time you will learn what flavors you like and which foods will complement them.
If you are looking for fine Italian wine and food, consider the Friuli-Venezia Giuli region of northern Italy. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour.
Friuli-Venezia Giuli is a mountainous area tucked away in the northeast corner Italy, bordering on Austria and Slovenia. Experts believe that Friuli-Venezia Giuli was first inhabited twenty thousand years ago. Like most regions of Italy, it has belonged to many nations over the years. Unlike most regions of Italy, it remains multicultural, an exceptional mixture of Italian, Austrian, and Slavic influences. To make this article easier to read, we will replace the region’s full name by its first part, Friuli. The total population is less than 1.2 million.
While Friuli is home to a wide variety of agricultural products, most farmers don’t get rich. The farms tend to be small and much of the land is infertile, suitable only for grazing and grapes. Unfortunately the Adriatic sea is in poor condition and fishing is on the decline. However, a wide variety of seafood is available. Friuli’s best-known food is San Daniele prosciutto, an uncooked ham aged in sea salt for over a year. Gourmets debate whether this ham or its cousin prosciutto di Parma from the Emilia-Romagna region in northwestern Italy is the best ham in the world.
Friuli’s administrative center is Trieste, which only became part of Italy in 1954. This city was once the principle port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Like Vienna, Austria, Trieste is filled with cafés. It is also home to the famous International Center for Theoretical Physics.
Friuli devotes about one hundred fifty thousand acres to grapevines, it ranks 14th among the 20 Italian regions. Its total annual wine production is about 27 million gallons, giving it a 13th place. Approximately 48% of its wine production is red or rosé (only a little rosé), leaving 52% for white. The region produces 9 DOC wines. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin, presumably a high-quality wine and 1 DOCG white dessert wine, Ramandolo. The G in DOCG stands for Garantita, but there is in fact no guarantee that such wines are truly superior. Over 60% of Friuli wine carries the DOC or DOCG designation. Friuli is home to almost four dozen major and secondary grape varieties, about half white and half red.
Widely grown international white grape varieties include Pinot Grigio, often called Pinot Gris outside of Italy, Pinot Bianco, often called Pinot Blanc outside of Italy, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. The best known strictly Italian white varieties are Tocai Friulano and Verduzzo Fruilano, exemplified in the DOCG wine, Ramandolo.
Widely grown international red grape varieties include Merlot, grown in Fruili for well over one hundred years, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The best-known strictly Italian red variety is Refosco. Fruili’s candidate for grape variety with the most unusual name is Tazzelenghe, which means tongue cutter in the local dialect. While I have never tasted any wines based on this grape, I can guess that they won’t be delicate.
Before we reviewing the Friuli wine and cheese that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region.
Start with Cjalzons con Ripieno di Cioccolata e Spinaci, Chocolate and Spinach Filled Pasta with Smoked Ricotta.
Then try Capesante alla Triestina, Broiled Scallops and Oysters with Watercress. And for dessert, indulge yourself with Strucolo di Ricotta, Ricotta Strudel. If you are like me, you think of Austria or Hungary, when you hear the word Strudel.
OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY While we have communicated with well over a thousand Italian wine producers and merchants to help prepare these articles, our policy is clear. All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.
Pighin Pinot Grigio 2005 Grave del Fruili 12.5% alcohol about $13.50
I’ll start by quoting the marketing materials. “Toast, white flowers and mineral on the involved nose, this light-bodied white is all about zing, verve, and refreshing citrus flavors. Some notes of pit fruit, but mainly built to match up to seafood. Try with friends and grilled scampi drizzled with lemon juice.”
I first tasted this wine with sesame seed covered filo dough stuffed with hamburger meat and accompanied by zucchini in a tomato sauce. It was pleasantly acidic and fruity providing lemon and other citrus flavors. I liked it with a chocolate cake labeled strudel which intensified the wine’s acidity. I don’t think that any Friuli residents would have called that cake strudel, but this review is about the wine, and not the cake.
My next food pairing was with whole-wheat pasta in a spicy meat sauce. The wine stepped up to the plate and handled the spice very well. It was nice and round. I finished this meal with out of season strawberries, in whose presence the wine became almost sweet.
With filet of sole poached in onions, a side of brown rice, and okra in a tomato sauce, the wine became more acidic and rounder. It was quite refreshing. It was a sweet, acidic companion to fresh pomegranates. It took on a nice acidity with pecan and caramel chocolate candy.
Montasio is a cooked, full-fat, semi-hard cheese made from cow’s milk and aged for several months. It has a pungent smell and a strong, pasty taste. The Pinot Grigio was not outmatched by this powerful cheese. Strictly speaking, Asiago cheese does not come from the Friuli region, but its neighbors Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto. Once again, the wine changed its character to match this softer cheese.
This wasn’t a great wine, but it did go well with everything. I would most likely buy it again.
To me, salmon has always been the king of fish. Wine food pairing with salmon is truly a delight. I grew up in the pacific northwest of the United States and usually once a week salmon made its way to our table in some way, shape or form.
When I was a child my father made a twice yearly trek down to the Pacific Ocean to hop on a charter fishing boat and try his luck at catching a few of these tasty sea creatures. In the fifties and sixties, fishing was still quite good and he came home to his womenfolk usually laden down with his bountiful fish catch.
Of course, nothing is better than fresh, wild caught salmon from the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean. To this day, I remember the bright color of the meat and the rich, meaty taste of the fresh salmon fillets, but, alas, you can only eat so much before the rest has to be smoked or frozen. The salmon was still wonderful, but not quite the same.
Now we fast forward to present day. I live in Florida and while the fishing is wonderful in the Gulf of Mexico, I have never had a salmon on the end of my fishing pole! I have to rely upon fast jets to overnight fresh salmon to my local grocery store. The fish, unfortunately, is usually farm raised not wild caught. I say unfortunately, but really the farm raised fish is very good, just not quite the same. I know that the color of the salmon meat is enhanced by the food the fish are fed and that they live in a comparably small environment and not the big blue ocean. Perhaps that is just a romantic thought!
I recently decided to try out an old favorite salmon recipe that I had long forgotten about. I found a terrific salmon fillet with the skin still on, I think it adds a bit more flavor that way, and placed this in an oven safe glass dish. I mixed together a combination of mayo, wasabi powder and fresh dill out of the garden and lightly buttered this onto the fillet. The salmon was then covered with foil and placed into a 425 preheated oven to cook. I usually figure about 10 to 15 minutes per pound, but I always keep checking. Salmon should never be over cooked, if anything, serve it a bit medium rare and you will be delighted by the buttery texture.
While the salmon is doing its magic in the oven I prepare fresh broccoli to be steamed. I always use a fruit and vegetable rinse to make sure any chemicals or bugs are gone and then place them in the steamer. It only takes a few moments for the broccoli to steam to a bright green, still crunchy state. I drizzle on a bit of pumpkin seed oil, direct from Austria, and then salt and pepper to taste. The pumpkin seed oil adds a terrific nutty flavor. Just right!
The salmon comes out of the oven and I garnish it with thinly sliced cucumbers and sprigs of fresh dill. It looks as great as it tastes!
Now is the time to pop the cork on your wine. Wine food pairing with salmon has always been easy for me. I love pinot noir with my salmon because they just seem to bring out the best in each other. I chose a New Zealand pinot from Coopers Creek for this particular evening and I was not disappointed. This was a super meal and a just right wine.
This is wine food pairing the way it should be! CHEERS!
If you are looking for fine German wine and food, consider the Franconia region of southeastern Germany. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a local Riesling.
Franconia is bordered by the Danube River on the south and by the Main River on the north. Both France and Franconia are named after the Franks, a Germanic tribe. Franconia had been independent for centuries but the Congress of Vienna in 1814-1815 joined it to neighboring Bavaria in southern Germany as part of the reshaping of Europe.
Franconia ranks sixth out of the thirteen German wine regions in both vineyard acreage and total wine production. Over 85% of Franconian wine is white. Its main grape varieties are Müller-Thurgau, a German hybrid, responsible for almost half the local production of white wine and Silvaner. Unlike many other German wine regions, here the Riesling grape is not a major player. About 40% of the region’s wine is middle-quality QbA wine, and almost 60% is the higher quality QmP wine. Only about 0.5% of Franconian wine is table wine.
Nürnberg (Nuremberg) is the largest city in Franconia and the second largest in Bavaria. It’s a very historic city, slightly less than one thousand years old. It was the site of the first Diet of the Holy Roman Empire, the site of Hitler’s most important rallies, and the site of the Allied War Crimes Tribunals after the Second World War.
Among its many sights are the city walls surrounding Nuremberg’s Old Town. Be sure to see the Albrecht-Dürer-Haus, where the great Renaissance painter spent almost the last twenty years of his life. The Germanisches Nationalmuseum (German National Museum) is the largest such museum in all of Germany. Should you so desire, there’s enough to view to spend days there. Outside the museum is the Strasse der Menschenrechte (Street of Human Rights) with thirty huge columns inscribed with excerpts from the Declaration of Human Rights. Make sure to see the Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle) complex, which in bygone times was the home of the Holy Roman Emperors. As its name might suggest, the Neues Museum (New Museum) is devoted to modern design. Children and the young at heart will like the Spielzeugmuseum (Toy Museum) and Tiergarten (Zoo) which includes a dolphin show. Nuremberg’s historic churches include Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), St. Sebaldus Kirche (St. Sebaldus Church), and St. Lorenz Kirche (Church of Saint Lawrence). If you get hungry you might want to stop in the Historische Bratwurst-Küche Zum Gulden Stern, the oldest bratwurst restaurant in the world dating back to 1419. Their slogan is Wer nicht hier war, war nicht in Nürnberg; if you weren’t here, you weren’t in Nuremberg.
Before reviewing the Franconian wine and imported cheeses that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region.
Start with Hochzeitsuppe (Wedding Soup – Meat Broth, Dumplings, and Sliced Potatoes)
For your second course enjoy Hackfleischküchla (Franconian Hamburgers).
As a dessert indulge yourself with Lebkuchen (Gingerbread).
OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.
Burgerspital Zum Hl. Geist Riesling Kabinett 2004 12% alcohol about $17.50
We’ll start by quoting the marketing materials. Description Franken is best known in our market for their Silvaner-based wines and squat, green bottles called bocksbeutal. Here, we have a rare opportunity to explore the incredible job Franconian winemakers can do with Riesling too. Tasting Note Aromas suggest rose petals, apple, apricot and mineral. On the palate it is off-dry, fresh and lively. Light- to medium-bodied, this long finishing wine would complement veal cutlets, pan-fried freshwater fish or mildly spiced Thai cuisine. And now for the review.
The first meal was consisted of slow-cooked chicken legs in a supposedly spicy tomato sauce, potatoes, and a medley of small salads. Wow! This wine just hit it right with its acidity and fruit. I tasted lime. It was very round. Frankly, no pun intended, I could have finished the bottle.
The next meal was an omelet with sliced brown mushrooms and chopped red onion and a side of smoked salmon. Once again I tasted great acidity and lime. The smoked salmon intensified the wine. It was a very pleasant combination.
Then I went to spaghetti and meatballs but a bit different from the usual style. The spaghetti was whole wheat and the meatballs were made with ground turkey. The Riesling was honey-flavored, rather light, but somewhat complex and slightly acidic. I finally found a disappointing combination; fresh pineapple which flattened the wine. On the other hand, the wine went well with honeydew.
First I tried this Riesling with a French goat’s milk cheese that really seemed more like a Camembert. The wine was refreshing with good balance of fruit and light acidity. Then I tasted it with a nutty Swiss Gruyere. The wine became more acidic and was nice and long. When it finally faded away, it did so delicately. I saved the best cheese for last, a local Asiago that I prefer to the native Italian variety. Ironically the best cheese made the worst pairing; the wine was weaker.
Final verdict. This wine is a winner. I plan to buy it again. And I won’t be wasting it on cheese, especially local Asiago cheese.