Saturday, July 18, 2020

NORTHERN THAI FOOD AND A ROUSSILLON MUSCAT


This month in July the French #winophiles are exploring the white wines of Roussillon. Lynn Gowdy of Savor the Harvest is hosting us; do read her very informative primer on all things white wine and Roussillon at the link above.

https://www.touteleurope.eu/
Before Languedoc-Roussillon, there was Languedoc and there was Roussillon in Sud-Ouest - southwest - France, and then they merged with the larger Occitanie administrative region in 2016. As is the case with every ancient land, a few kilometres travelled make you feel like you're in another country! It's no different in France... for example, in the wine world Languedoc-Roussillon are lumped together implying that they are similar. In reality, they're two distinct regions - culturally, culinarily, linguistically, geologically, and even in wine styles. While wines from the Languedoc are fairly easy to find, those from Roussillon can be challenging to find. But they are delightful and worth seeking out if you like food-friendly wines with minerality, salinity, floral notes, and a rich mouthfeel.

We decided to pair our wine selection with Northern Thai food from one of our favourite Bay Area restaurants, Monkey Thai.

THE WINERY + THE WINE

Clos de l'Origine is a small 10 hectare (~25 acres) domaine focused on organic farming with biodynamic practices since its creation in 2004, and now agriculture biologique (AB) certified since 2009. The winery has chosen to remain in the Vin de France classification to allow greater creative freedom. Winery operations are in a rather unassuming facility (see my Google Maps screenshot to the right) in Maury, Pyrénées Orientales (formerly Roussillon). The grapes are grown in several different terroirs throughout the region, ranging from 15 m to 400 m above sea level. According to vignerons and owners Marc and Caroline Barriot, the wines are made with the idea of vinifying "as close as possible to the expression of the terroir".

It is truly a labour of love - the soil is worked mostly by hand, harvests are 100% by hand, and the other work like weeding, tying the vines, etc. is also done manually. At the winery vinification is done with indigenous yeasts of each terroir, with no added yeasts or enzymes. As Marc Barriot says, "Our goal is not to obtain perfect and boring wines. Our choice is based on vinification with little sulfur, depending on the vintage, so as to respect the integrity of the grapes to obtain finesse and purity of the fruit, giving free rein to nature as to the tastes of our wines." 



2018 CLOS DE L'ORIGINE "LE TROUBLE FAIT"
100% Muscat Alexandria (muscat)
Price: $25, ABV: 12%

Vinification: direct pressed whole bunch Muscat grapes (no destemming), indigenous yeasts, skin contact with Muscat and Syrah for 3 weeks, no fining or filtration

Soil: clay, limestone, shale, 15 m above sea level

Colour: cloudy, yellow with a lashing of orange

Nose + Palate: Dried white flowers, juicy fruit, saline minerality, astringent but balanced, with just the right kind of medium length finish.

Pairing: We had this with northern Thai food which is savoury, not intensely spicy, features banana leaves used to wrap meats, uses sticky rice rather than Jasmine rice, and has a discernible absence of coconut milk. Quite different from the richly spiced, coconut milk "curries" sweetened with palm sugar that are ubiquitous in southern Thai cuisine and Thai restaurants outside Thailand. Northern Thai cuisine is fragrant and savoury, with layers of flavours, and brought out the best in Le Trouble Fait, an equally savoury wine with a rich mouthfeel to match the food.


Want to know more? Read below to find out what the other #winophiles are saying about their wine choices and food pairings! And do join us on Twitter to chat about the white wines of Roussillon with the hashtag #winophiles on 18 July at 8 AM PST.

Monday, July 13, 2020

A RIFF ON ROBERTA'S PIZZA DOUGH + A SAUCE



I've been making pizza from scratch for a number of years and I've never found a dough recipe that wowed me. But I recently I came across Roberta's Pizza Dough recipe on the New York Times website and decided to give it a go based on the comments. I agree with everyone who raved about it, I love it too, and I suspect this is my new go-to dough recipe. However, I did a few things differently than the NYT recipe and loved the results so decided to write it up here in case I forget what I did. I hope you try it!

The sauce is a classic pizza sauce of crushed, reduced tomatoes and a bit of garlic. It's the way I've made sauce ever since I'd casually dabbled in cooking as a teenager, so I really couldn't tell you where I found the recipe - probably one of my mum's Italian cookbooks. But I can tell you that it is perfect in its simplicity and really lets the tomatoes come through.

Notes:
  • If you haven't got 00 flour, use all-purpose
  • You can use the dough after a 4 hour rise but it will be lighter and more flavourful with the longer rise. I highly recommend it!
  • I let the dough rise in the stand mixer bowl but if you don't have room in the fridge, transfer to another bowl
  • I use a stand mixer now but I've mixed plenty of doughs by hand, it's just fine
  • Use a good quality low-moisture whole milk mozzarella (Trader Joe's has one)
  • Don't overload the pizza with toppings

A RIFF ON ROBERTA'S PIZZA DOUGH + A SAUCE
makes: 2 12 in. pizzas, plenty of sauce

DOUGH
- 2 g (3/4 tsp) active dry yeast
- 200 g (~3/4 cup + 1 tbsp) warm water
- 155 g (~1 cup) 00 flour
- 155 g (~1 cup) all-purpose flour
- 8 g (1 tsp) salt
- 4 g (1 tsp) olive oil
- 200 g (~4 oz) sliced whole milk low-moisture mozzarella
- pepperoni/salami/prosciutto/other light toppings (optional) 
- fresh basil for final garnish (optional)

SAUCE
- 28 oz. tin whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano or other good quality ones)
- 2-3 cloves peeled garlic

METHOD
  1. SAUCE: blend the garlic and whole peeled tomatoes + whatever liquid is in the tin. Cook in a slow cooker on High for 3-4 hrs, or on stovetop at medium heat for 1 hr. Use right away or store in the fridge for up to 3 days, then freeze if not using.
  2. DOUGH: Proof the yeast in warm water (barely warm, not hot or the yeast cells will die): add the yeast to the water and give it a quick stir, let it sit for a few minutes while you prep the flour mix.
  3. Mix the flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (or any large bowl if making by hand). Add the proofed yeast mixture and oil to the flour, mix at lowest speed.
  4. Knead for 3 min. at medium speed, let it rest for 15 min., knead for 3-4 min. to form a smooth dough. Remove the dough ball and give it a light coating of olive oil. Put it in a bowl that fits in your fridge, cover with a towel, let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for 2 hrs. After 2 hours outside, put the dough in the fridge and let it rise for 8 - 24 hrs.
  5. Remove the dough from the fridge 1-2 hrs before you want to make the pizza. At the same time, put your pizza stone or cast iron pan into the oven and preheat the oven to the highest heat.
  6. After the oven has stayed at the highest temperature for 1-2 hrs, make the pizza: Divide the dough into two equal-ish parts. Shape each into a pizza, top with sauce (see recipe below), cheese, and toppings. Put the pizzas in the oven, together or one by one, set the timer for 6 min.
  7. After 6 min. broil on high for 1-2 min. Remove and garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve!

Friday, May 22, 2020

ISRAELI WINE WITH THE DIVERSE CUISINE OF THE DIASPORA


  
https://winesisrael.com 
Israeli wine has come a long way from being absent from the global wine map to making  a strong presence around the globe. Viticulture has existed in the area now called Israel since biblical times, and wine was even exported to Rome at one point. However, the entire industry eventually died off with increased Islamic dominance in the area due to their religious rules about wine. Fast forward to much later, the modern Israeli wine industry was established in the late 1800s with the help of Baron Edmond James de Rothschild of the Rothschild banking and wine family but it really only took off after Israel was formed ~1948. Locally made wine was being sold within Israel earlier but it has continued to make a presence in other countries around the globe, although the US remains the primary export destination for Israeli wine.

For further reading, Wines Israel is an excellent resource to dive deeper into Israeli wine, past, present, and future.

JEWS AND THEIR CUISINE IN INDIA
The cuisine of the Jewish diaspora has always fascinated me because of its diversity and the nimbleness with which Jewish people have adapted foods to meet their religious and dietary requirements everywhere they have ended up. This includes India, which philosophically has nothing to do with Judaism but is a famously tolerant place that has offered protections and respect for cultural and religious proclivities to foreign communities who decided to stay in India after initially coming for trade and commerce.

Jewish people came to India initially as traders in the time of King Solomon’s reign (~970 to 931 BC) and stayed, and then after the Alhambra and King Manuel's Decrees which expelled Jews from Spain and Portugal if they did not convert to Christianity. The Hindu monarchs of the time offered numerous privileges to these waves of Jewish immigrants including land grants, tax exemptions, the freedom to speak their language, and freely practice their religion. These Jewish groups established themselves in India, built synagogues, and truly mixed  with the Indian population adopting elements of local  cultural habits and food. All of this was mostly in the coastal Indian states of Kerala and Maharashtra.

Indian Jews made their own wine, challah, and matzo because there were no Jewish bakeries, and like the Muslims do, they had their own butchers who slaughtered meat per Kosher requirements. As the Indian Jewry left or passed away, so did the butchers, and eventually the communities ate mostly vegetables and seafood along with the abundant varieties of rice, spices, and produce adapted from local recipes.

After Israel was established in ~1948 many Indian Jews emigrated to Israel. Although their centuries old synagogues and houses lay largely vacant in India, they continue to carry forward their synthesised cultural and culinary habits in their newly adapted land. I thought it would be interesting to connect the dots and discover how Indian Jewish food pairs with Israeli wine and ponder over whether the Indian Jews who are cooking their ancient hybrid Indian recipes in Israel ever pair them with local wine as they had done in India!


THE WINE + FOOD PAIRING
2014 Binyamina Winery Yogev, 12.5% ABV
SRP $20
WINE: According to the winery, "Our winegrowers instill their crops with their own individual character, Israeli roots and genuine love of the land, inspiring us to name this Series in their honor. Wines in the Yogev Series have been blended using the finest grapes from the best vines cultivated by our most outstanding winegrowers. Simply put, this is the very essence of our wines." The wine is an 80-20 cepage of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay from the oldest vineyards in the Upper and Lower Galilee, and strives to be a "harmonious fusion between two noble varieties".

Regarding the wine-making process, the winery says, "The Sauvignon Blanc grapes are harvested two weeks after the Chardonnay grapes. Both varieties are brought to the winery and immediately pressed to extract the best quality free run juice and maintain freshness and aroma. After a natural clarification of the must, the wine is transferred for a slow alcoholic fermentation at low temperatures. The wine is then transferred for brief storage in stainless steel tanks until selection of the final varietal blend. Contact with oak is deliberately avoided in order to maintain maximum freshness. The wine is bottled after filtration and is released after briefly aging in the bottle."

NOTES: We thought that the wine is a beautiful medium lemon colour, clean with a medium intensity and predominantly citrus + white flower on the nose. On the palate it is crisp, medium-bodied with a juicy medium acidity and intensity, and grapefruit/lemon and pear notes with green apple and orange blossoms in the back palate ending with a medium finish. Overall this is a simple wine and considering that this has no oak aging, I can't see how it would age well beyond 2020.

FOOD: We enjoyed the 2014 Yogev with a lovely Keralan lunch of ponganam (rice+lentil crepes) and mutta kari (egg curry) from the book Spice & Kosher. The wine paired exceptionally well with the warm herbaceous of the curry leaves, the smoke of the toasted black pepper, and sweetness of caramelised onions in the curry along with the slight tang of the crepes made from a fermented batter.

FUN FACTS
The egg curry recipe is from Matilda Davidson, from Petah Tikva, Israel, a city that started small but became a permanent settlement in the late 1880s thanks to financial help from Baron. As I've mentioned above, he also helped establish the modern wine industry in Israel.

The word "curry" is anglicised from kari, a Tamil word for dishes seasoned with leaves from curry plant and meant to be eaten with rice or crepes. Kari isn't always saucy, and can be sweet or savoury. There are also 1000s of different kinds of crepes in India, and since rice grows exceptionally well in the wet humid climate, it dominates southern Indian cuisine so the crepes in South India are all rice and/or lentil-based. Seafood also aplenty, and each region has it's favourite fish. Also, in India oysters are considered poor fishermen's food so they never make it to the markets!


Pop over to the websites of everyone below to see what they've done with their Israeli wine and food pairings! And then come talk about it at #WinePW on Twitter on Saturday, 23 May @8 AM PST.

  • Terri at Our Good Life shares “Grilled Mahi Mahi and Gilgal Sauvignon Blanc. Our Good Life”
  • Gwendolyn at Wine Predator shares “The Eternal Light Shines in Galilee: Yarden Merlot, Pinot Gris”
  • Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Lamb Stuffed Eggplant and a perfect Wine from Galilee”
  • Deanna at Asian Test Kitchen shares “Yarden Wines Paired with Japanese Surf ‘n Turf”
  • Rupal at Syrah Queen shares “Off The Beaten Path – Two Wines From Isreal’s Galilee Appellation”
  • Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares “Of Israeli wines, long-ago memories, and Harvey’s takeout”
  • David at Cooking Chat shares “Pairings for Gilgal Sauvignon Blanc from Israel”
  • Payal at Keep the Peas shares “Israeli Wine with the Diverse Cuisine of the Diaspora”
  • Nicole at Somms Table shares “Memories of Yarden Wines with a side of Meatball Shakshuka”
  • Jennifer at Vino Travels shares “Pairings with Wines from Israel”
  • Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Peppered Brisket, Honeyed Onions, and the 2106 Galil Mountain ‘Ela’”
  • Pinny at Chinese Food and Wine Pairings shares “Enjoying Gilgal Cab Sauvignon – Merlot and Yarden Pinot Gris with Grilled Wagyu Steak, Alaska Sockeye Salmon and Poke Ahi Tuna Bowl”
  • Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Two Fisted Wine Pairing with Yarden Wines”

Friday, May 15, 2020

WELCOMING SUMMER WITH A BERRY DELICIOUS BROUILLY


This May the French Winophiles are exploring Cru du Beaujolais. All 10 crus, so lots of options and lots to look forward to. The Beaujolias crus are stacked between Burgundy (north) and Rhône (south) and offer an exhilarating variety of wines to try, warranting a tasting dedicated solely to Beaujolais!

               Image from https://www.discoverbeaujolais.com/

Cindy from Grape Experiences is our host this month, read her preview post here to find out more about the finer points of Cru Beaujolais.

CRU BEAUJOLAIS: BROUILLY
I had originally thought of doing a north-to-south tasting of all 5 Cru Beaujolais wines we've got in the cellar, which would've been a great way to really highlight the nuances of each cru. But I've put a weekly limit to the number of alcoholic drinks we're allowed, and the virtual socialising has been adding up so there's no way we could've done the full tasting *and* the social hours and stayed within our limit. The upside to all the socialising I suppose, is that no one is taking their relationships for granted and everyone is going out of their way to keep in touch, including us, even if it is just a check-in to say hello. Everything is virtual nowadays, even meditation sessions! Although, I chicken out of those every week - I have done yoga and meditation since a young age, but I just cannot truly meditate in front of a screen.

So I settled on a Brouilly for our May 2020 #winophiles tasting. Brouilly is the southernmost of Beaujolais crus, and at 1,315 hectares, is also the largest, with ~20% of the total Cru Beaujolais area. The wines are fresh, fruity, can be enjoyed young or aged up to 10 years, and are easy to pair with  various savoury foods. And, as is the case with all of Beaujolais, a great value for $$$. The only red grape allowed in Brouilly is Gamay, with Chardonnay, Melon de Bourgogne, and Aligoté allowed up to 15% in a blend. The four different types of soils on and around Mount Brouilly allow nuanced wines that can fit every palate. There is a long history of superior wine making and as far back as 1769, Brouilly was producing elegant wines that were authorised to be sold to Paris. Certainly a feather in the cap at that time.

I was introduced to Beaujolais and its wine-making communes when I took a wine class during my undergraduate years at Purdue Univ. In the early 2000s IN did not have much going on by way of wine but the class was incredible. The professor had been a wine consultant with American Airlines for decades prior so we always had the best wines in class and reps from all over who came to lecture, including Dom Perignon and other premium champagne houses. And every class included food pairings with the wines - looking back, I'm amazed and impressed at the effort and enthusiasm Prof. Vine put into the class.

THE WINE
2017 Les Frères Perroud "Amethyste", 13% ABV
SRP $16

The Perroud brothers grow the grapes for the Amethyste wine on the southern slope of the Saburins hill in Quincié village, one of the six villages of the Brouilly AOC. The wine is named as such because of the crystalline amethyst layer deep in the soil.

The wine is 100% Gamay and is aged for one year in Burgundian neutral oak barrels. According to the winery website, this wine is best between 2018 and 2032, so we definitely had it on the young side of that time period. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful ruby coloured wine, with aromas full of berries black and blue, ripe purple plums, cooked ripe raspberries, and a hint of black pepper in the very back. Same on the palate, with plush tannins and juicy acidity. The finish is medium and overall the wine is balanced although a bit simple. A splendid wine that I'd love to try again in a few years to see if anything has changed.

We enjoyed it with a classic Beaujolais pairing of charcuterie, cheeses, a goat cheese and leek crumble, and sardine butter. All the food was an expectedly incredible complement to the wine. Even the sardine butter which is silky and more buttery than briny or fishy. We actually had Coravined two glasses to start, but the food and wine were so delicious together that we ended up opening the bottle.

See the links below to find out what my fellow #winophiles are saying about the Cru Beaujolais wines they chose and the superb food pairing ideas for each wine! Join our Twitter chat on Saturday May 16 from 8 - 9 AM PST at #Winophiles. Hope to see you there!
  • Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm had “A Casual COVID19 Visit with Charcuterie and Chateau de Poncie Le Pre Roi Fleurie”
  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Cam pairs “Tuna Pâté + Joseph Drouhin Hospices De Belleville Brouilly 2016”
  • Jill at l’Occasion explores “Soil + Wind: Tasting Cru Beaujolais with Château du Moulin-à-Vent”
  • Payal of Keep the Peas is “Welcoming Summer with a Berry Delicious Brouilly”
  • Lynn at Savor the Harvest finds “Fleurie – The Princess Queen of Beaujolais Crus #Winophiles”
  • Jane at Always Ravenous explores “Cru Beaujolais: Tasting and Food Pairings”
  • Jeff at Food Wine Click enjoys “Cru Beaujolais at the Grill”
  • Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles shares “Flowers for Julien – Beaujolais in May”
  • Linda at My Full Wine Glass discovers “Gamay and Granite – A Beaujolais Love Story #Winophiles”
  • Susannah Gold at Avvinare finds “Cru Beaujolais – An Endless Discovery”
  • Pinny at Chinese Food and Wine Pairing discovers “Cru Beaujolais – Cedric Lathuiliere Fleurie Paired with Frog Legs #Winophiles”
  • Nicole at Somms Table explains “Julien Sunier Régnié and a Focaccia Fail”
  • Lauren at The Swirling Dervish meets “Morgon de Jean-Pau Thévenet, One of the Beaujolais Gang of Four”
  • Kat at The Corkscrew Concierge is “Exploring the Differences & Pairing Versatility of Cru Beaujolais”
  • Martin at Enofylz Wine Blog considers “A Taste of Chénas, Beaujolais’ Rarest Cru”
  • Gwendolyn at Wine Predator shares “Comparing Louis Tete’s 2016 Brouilly and Morgan Gamay from Beaujolais With Pairings”
  • Terri at Our Good Life shares “Cru Beaujolais with Rustic Foods”
  • Cindy at Grape Experiences, is loving “The Wines of Fleurie – An Enchanting Introduction to Cru Beaujolais”

Monday, April 27, 2020

WALNUT MISO SAUCE (SAVOURY SNACK)


Disclosure: I received free samples of California walnuts mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by @cawalnuts and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

California walnuts are a key ingredient in this easy Japanese savoury snack/appetizer/bento box side dish of walnut miso sauce over lightly cooked vegetables! Although nuts don’t often feature in #japanesecuisine, when they do it’s usually walnuts. The sauce pairs well with any steamed/blanched veggie like carrots, asparagus, or green beans. We’re keen on vegetables and healthy fats in our house since @m_wineguy and I both grew up vegetarian, and we often have this as an appetizer or snack, especially in the summer. Thanks @cawalnuts for the walnuts!

Did you know that a handful of California walnuts is a versatile snack and can satisfy any taste preference, from savory to sweet. Regardless of your flavor preference, walnuts are the only nut to provide an excellent source of the plant-based omega-3, ALA (2.5g/oz). So make this summery snack and enjoy!

WALNUT MISO SAUCE
makes: 6 servings (snack/side dish)

- 1 cup California walnut pieces, dry-roasted until fragrant, and cooled
- 2.5 tbsp red miso
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp sugar 
- 2 tbsp water
  1. In a small food processor blend the above ingredients into a paste. It doesn’t have to be a very smooth consistency, but don’t leave it too chunky either. Think chunky peanut butter or thereabouts.
  2. Serve over blanched/steamed green beans or other vegetable of choice.
  3. Store leftovers in a covered container in the fridge and use within 3 days... if you can resist it that long!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

A BIRTHDAY AND A VOUVRAY


THE PRELUDE
This month in December the #winophiles are in Vouvray, Loire Valley, France. The Loire Valley is one of France's largest wine making areas but don't let the size sway your opinion. The Loire Valley and it's various AOCs are nothing to sneeze at. Some of the top wines come from there... Muscadet and oysters for a breakfast snack, anyone?! And that's just one example of the specificity of the Loire and its wines. Vouvray, as another example, is mainly about Chenin Blanc... chances are that unless you're really looking under every stone in Vouvray, that is exactly the grape you'll find bottled even though Arbois is very much allowed. Read an intro to Vouvray and the #winophiles here, where our December host Jeff Burrows offers a primer on it all!

Things have been a bit frenzied around here - in the best way possible. Besides work and contracts and proposals I've been designing our new master bathroom and it's been most fun. From the 3D model I made to help visualise the design to picking out the tile, finishes, light switches, and designing a half-wall to hang a barn door, it has all been fun. I've always done my best work with a tight timeline and this was no different.

THE BIRTHDAY
In the middle of all that, I had to come up with something special for my better half's birthday. Those who don't know him don't know that as blasé as I am about my birthday, he's the polar opposite. Questions about birthday gifts begin at least 6 months in advance, and questions about plans for the day and the champagne we'll drink start floating about a quarter year in advance. Needless to say, the pressure is on! Last year we went on a terrific bourbon country road-trip with friends. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do this year since we'd had a barrage of parties, eating out, networking things, and other scheduled events. I couldn't bear the thought of yet another eating-drinking-hobnobbing event at a restaurant, winery, or hip tech company office. Besides, we're off to Paris for a few days in January and Death Valley after that, so that's plenty of doing for the first quarter of the new year!

So we opted to have an evening in. No fussy meal or going anywhere, just a fun evening at home with a fire, music, conversation, books, sparkling wine - and since I had to plan a meal - Laura Chenel garlic and herb chèvre, and potato crisps. As we were in mid-December, the wine of course, was on trend with the December #winophiles Vouvray topic. Bubbly French wine generally means a cooler vintage workaround if you're a winemaker, but for most of us it means celebration! We started with a half-bottle of champagne and for after I'd selected a sparkling Vouvray. Domaine du Petit Coteau Vouvray Brut, to be exact. Both wines were a hit with the birthday guy... as evidenced by the one lonely photo of the evening!

THE WINE

SRP: $15
At the beautiful organic - and rather compact - Domaine du Petit Coteau, the wines are made exclusively from Chenin Blanc in varying degrees of sweetness, generally dependant on the location of the grapes. The grapes for this wine were harvested from vines planted in the classic Vouvray sandy clay soils over tuffeau.

We had a Brut, with less than 12 g/L residual sugar, and it was splendid with the salty crisps and the creamy-salty chèvre with a whisper of garlic. Who said crisps and chèvre isn't a full meal?! The wine is dry and juicy with overt notes of just-ripening yellow pear, honeysuckle, and caramelised apples with a medium finish. It is not too complex but it is a delight in any season!

THE SOIL
Mono Lake, July 2019
For the geology afficionados, tuffeau is not related to the other stone tuff, but it *is* related to tufa, that poetic stone best known for forming eerie spindly towers in Mono Lake in the Eastern Sierras of California. Tuffeau is not quite as smooth as chalk, the other calciferous grape-vine friendly stone, but instead it has the old skeletons of millions of microscopic organisms from the ocean beds of many eras ago. Because of those inclusions, tuffeau is far more porous than, say, a dense stone like granite. And also has far, far less compressive strength compared to granite, which, among other reasons, makes granite a favourite stone for the base of a building. So I wouldn't recommend a steel-framed skyscraper with a tuffeau base but of course, tuffeau is a fine stone for other types of buildings. And also wine!

Do see what my #winophiles friends are sharing about Vouvray this December!

Friday, October 18, 2019

CAHORS: WHAT PUT MALBEC ON THE MAP


This month the French #winophiles are in Cahors AOC, southwestern France. Nicole of Somm's Table is graciously hosting, and we can thank Jill of L'occasion for scoring us Cahors wine samples through the UIVC (Union Interprofessionnelle des Vins de Cahors) for a few of us. But even without samples, everyone is welcome to join us as we jaunt through Cahors and enjoy the wine!

Malbec - aka Côt, Côt Noir, Auxxerois, Pressac, and hundreds of other regional names - is native to France, especially the southwest in the Lot department where it was introduced by the Romans around 50 BC and has been cultivated since then despite a few setbacks  like phylloxera and frost along the way. Incidentally, while the Romans were introducing grapes in southwestern France, they were also capturing Gaulish villages in the area and Romanising them. One village in particular managed to defend itself and remained Gaulish despite being surrounded by Romans and other captured villages. Asterix, the hugely popular French comic series about the resistance of a Gaulish village against Roman occupation, is set in that very village! The village chief Vitalstatistix in those comics is based on Lucterius, a formidable leader of the Gauls who was instrumental in defending the village from the Romans. If you haven't read any Asterix, begin with Asterix the Gaul!

As a grape Malbec is a bit finicky, like Pinot Noir. It is thick-skinned but sensitive to humidity, frost, temperature, and other weather conditions which make it prone to  diseases like downy mildew and "coulure", or lack of full development of grapes. Malbec grapes make deep, inky, intense wine, making it popular as a blending grape for colour and fruit, especially in the Loire, Bordeaux, and elsewhere where Bordeaux-style blends are made. These qualities have also earned it the nickname "black wine" although of course it is not actually black. At one point Malbec was grown in up to 30 departments around France but these days it primarily grows in the small town of Cahors which is the capital of the Lot department and a small town on the river Lot that flows towards Bordeaux. Cahors is a red wine-only AOC, with a minimum of 70% Malbec required in each blend. Grapes commonly used to blend with Malbec are Merlot and Tannat.

In the mid-19th century at the instruction of provincial governor Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Malbec was planted in Argentina by French agronomist Miguel Pouget. A lot has happened between then and now in the Argentine wine world but it ultimately led to Malbec being the most widely planted red grape in Argentina, which is nearly synonymous with Malbec around the world. And, as I'd mentioned above, Malbec is a fussy grape and hectares of it succumbed to frost and phylloxera around the time it was fledgling in Argentina. Thanks to that serendipitous planting, despite the natural devastation in France, Malbec survived, thrived, and became a fixture on the world wine map, albeit through Argentina via Cahors!

All that aside, Argentine and French Malbec are vastly different wines. The grapes themselves are same but different... tighter clusters and smaller berries in Argentina, e.g. And taste... Argentine Malbec is jammy, fruit forward, with some floral notes, soft tannins and a velvety texture, whereas French Malbec is leathery, with flavors of tart currant, black plum, firm tannins, higher acid, and a savoury meatiness on the palate. The higher tannins and acid in French Malbec yields lower alcohol, age-worthy wines compared to Argentine Malbec.

THE WINE
The Cahors Malbec wines I received were:

  • Château du Cèdre Extra Libre 2018
  • Château de Gaudou Le Sang de Ma Terre 2018
  • Château Lamartine Cahors "Cuvée Particulière" 2016

The one I opened for this review was the Château du Cèdre Extra Libre (2018) because it has no added sulphites and we couldn't wait to try it! I will review the other wines at a later date.

Château du Cèdre Extra Libre, 2018 | SRP n/a
95% Malbec, 5% Merlot
https://www.chateauducedre.com/
Ch. du Cèdre was started by Charles Léon Verhaeghe, a Flemish immigrant who settled in the Lot department. Truly a family owned and run winery, they are now on their third generation of family members running the show.

The grapes for this wine come from vines on the lower terraces with sandy alluvial soil, and from the upper terrace with limestone soil. The grapes are sorted and destemmed in the vineyard, at the winery they're macerated for 30 days and fermented in concrete tanks before being aged in nearly neutral (twice used) oak barrels.

The wine is beautiful in the glass with a gorgeous magenta rim and deep core. On the nose: aromas of ripe red berries, fresh red roses, and cinnamon. On the palate: juicy, same as nose + black pepper, a hint of nutmeg, and a faint minerality, all with mouthwatering acidity and a medium finish. This is a highly quaffable wine with or without food, and quite different from any Cahors Malbec we've had. It is, however, a must to serve it cool, not at room temperature, to get the best of it.

THE FOOD

I paired the wine with wild scallop theeyal, a dish from Kerala, India, a coastal state known for its abundant seafood, extensive use of coconut, curry leaves, and fragrant rice varieties. Although scallops are found in every ocean of the planet, they are not commonly found on Indian menus even though India, as a peninsular country, has an extensive coastline. Maybe they are not abundant off the Indian coast, or, like oysters, might be considered "fisherman's food" in India. Like most food from the Indian subcontinent, theeyals are very flavourful but not fiery, and have a distinct deep red colour because of the deeply roasted coconut used in the sauce (clearly, I did not roast the coconut enough, because my sauce was hardly deep red!). In addition to all the spices, the sauce has a pleasant tangy acidity in the background that can come from either tamarind or kudampuli (Garcinia Cambogia), a pumpkin-shaped sour fruit whose dried and reconstituted peels are used extensively in Sri Lankan and Keralan cuisine.

Kudampuli, what I used rather than tamarind, lends a discernible but complementary acidity to the sauce, and actually brings forward the fruitiness of the wine. All the flavours - the roasted coconut, sweetness of the fresh scallops, and the bright and fruity wine - were so delicious that we'll be having more of this!

We'll be talking Cahors on Twitter this Saturday, 19 October at 8 AM PST so join us and be sure to use #Winophiles in your tweets so that we can see your comments. If you can't make it, no worries, you can stop by whenever to see what the other friendly Winophiles have done with Cahors this month while we slowly but sure move into colder weather here in the northern hemisphere:

  • Jane from Always Ravenous explores the “Flavors of Fall Paired with Cahors Malbec”
  • Cathie of Side Hustle Wino looks at “Cahors – TheBirthplace of Malbec”
  • Jill from L’Occasion shares “Cahors, a French Classic”
  • Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla will be posting “Château du Cèdre Extra Libre 2018 Malbec + Cider-Braised Chicken Thighs” 
  • Wendy Klik of A Day in the Life on the Farm samples “A Trio of Cahors Wine and the Pairings Served” 
  • Jeff of FoodWineClick! gives us “The Malbec You Never Knew: Cahors”
  • Linda of My Full Wine Glass shares “Newbies to Old-World Malbec Discover Cahors”
  • Cindy of Grape Experiences explores “The Old-World Style of Malbec from Cahors”
  • Deanna of Asian Test Kitchen gives us “French Malbecs Meet Chinese Duck”
  • Gwen from Wine Predator shares “From Cahors: Biodynamic Chateau du Cedre Malbec with French Charcuterie”
  • Pinny of Chinese Food & Wine Pairings matches “Cahor Malbecs and Waygu Beef”
  • Cynthia and Pierre of Traveling Wine Profs give us “Cahors, Hainan Chicken Rice, and the Stories Wine Books Tell”
  • Susannah of Avvinare will be “Shedding Light on Old World Malbec from Cahors”
  • Payal of Keep the Peas discusses “Cahors: What Put Malbec on the Map”
  • Rupal of Syrah Queen will posting “Cahors – Tasting “Black Wines” With The Original Malbec”
  • David of Cooking Chat pairs “Mushroom Truffle Risotto with Cahors Malbec”
  • Nicole of Somm’s Table shares “Bringing Home Cahors with Clos D’Audhuy”