Saturday, October 10, 2020

KICKING OFF AUTUMN WITH #MERLOTME


This year again the #winepw group are having a celebration of Merlot Month. Several of us received wine samples and although I'm sure there is overlap in the bottles we all received, it should be a fun discussion of all things Merlot! Check out the wines, tastings, pairings, musings below, and join us on Twitter on Saturday, 10 October at 8 AM PST under #winepw to chat to everyone about their thoughts on Merlot, the wines, and their Merlot+food pairings.

MERLOT + MERLOT MONTH
Merlot is a dark blue grape traditionally used for blending where it is used to add body and softness to a blend, but it is also used in single-varietal wines. Merlot wines are generally fleshy, soft, velvety, low in tannins and with juicy acidity. Aromas associated with Merlot are a combination of black and blue fruit, cherry, plum, eucalyptus, thyme, leather, wet soil, mushrooms, etc. If the Merlot is aged in oak, add chocolate, vanilla, coffee, baking spices to the mix. There are also some Merlots that are quite brawny and grippy but usually Merlot wines are very drinkable, easy to pair with a variety of foods, and quite delicious!

October has been declared as National or, depending on whom you ask, International Merlot Month. The #MerlotMe hashtag was created in 2013 to promote Merlot and perhaps counter some of the negative effect of the movie Sideways. Evidently, Sideways has the dubious distinction of turning wine drinkers in an entire country - the US - off Merlot. I've watched the movie and I can say that "I'm never drinking Merlot" was NOT my takeaway from the movie. In fact, I had no take-aways from it. I'm sure I've missed something but I haven't figured out how an average buddy film could single-handedly have such a profound effect on a wine grape that is used in acclaimed wines such as Petrus. But it has, since 2004 when the movie was released. I hope this is an MBA case study somewhere! Despite the ups and downs, winemakers have continued to produce excellent Merlot wines and for that, many of us wine lovers are grateful.

THE WINES
I've received four wine samples for Merlot Month and have reviewed only two here. The wines all arrived 3 days ago and I was quarantined so wasn't allowed in the kitchen until today. Nevertheless, I'm glad to be back and thankful that I did not catch Covid-19 or anything else during my flights and time spent working with others. 

2017 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot
80% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot, 0.5% Malbec 
14.5% ABV | Sample (SRP $56)

Vinification: 
100 French oak, 40/60 new/neutral

Colour: 
Deep ruby

Nose: 
Ripe, ripe, ripe black and blue fruit, almost jammy. A whiff of baking spices and vanilla.

Palate: 
Similar to nose: ripe black and blue fruit, a splash of red fruit, baking spices, vanilla. A refreshing juicy acidity, fine-grained tannins, a medium+ body, with a lengthy finish. The wine opened up as it sat in the glass but overall it could use a rest in the bottle. I think it would be great in 3-5 years.

2018 Decoy Sonoma County Merlot
98% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Petit Verdot
13.9% ABV | Sample (SRP $25)

Vinification: 
100 French oak, 40/60 new/neutral

Colour: 
Medium Ruby

Nose: 
Black cherry, violets, black and white pepper

Palate: 
Black cherry, cocoa, cedar, and a note of minerality at the taper. Juicy acidity, dusty tannins, medium body, medium finish. This wine may be terrific in 2-3 years but I'm not sure how much more complexity it would develop. It might be best to enjoy it now.

THE FOOD
We paired both wines with a gratin of ziti and cauliflower done in an equal mix of two classic French sauces: sauce tomate and soubise. The sauce tomate brought the acidity to match the Merlot, and the soubise brought the smooth heft from the béchamel sauce and onion purée. The parmesan-bread crumb crust added the savoury umami that really brought everything together.  And the pasta and cauliflower added a much-needed coziness. In general both wines went nicely with the gratin but the Duckhorn was the clear winner if there were one. This was a perfect stay-in for the evening and watch your favourite movie or TV show wine and food pairing. A welcome change from the hectic few weeks I've had of wilderness holiday, work travel and  project follow-up, exam prep and exam, and finally ~10 days of quarantine since I'd been out of town for work. I barely remember September!

Saturday, October 3, 2020

KASHMIRI YAKHNI PULAO AND MOLDOVAN WINE

This month we have a bonus - and very exciting - event that Lynn is hosting. Check out her sneak peek here! Our brand new blogging group World Wine Travel is discussing wines from Moldova in collaboration with Wine of Moldova and Vinconnexion. Moldova, the sliver tucked between Romania and Ukraine in SE Europe, that boasts more grape vines per person than anywhere else in the world! Lynn very generously arranged for samples for a few of us and we will discuss our thoughts on those, Moldovan grape varietals, food pairings, and Moldova Wine Day on Twitter this Sunday, 4 October at 8 AM PST under #worldwinetravel. In the meanwhile, read below to find out what everyone's saying...

  • Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Two Indigenous Moldovan Grapes – Fetească Albă and Fetească Neagră – Paired With Colțunași Harnici (Hard-Working Dumplings)”
  • David from CookingChat has “Food Pairings for Moldavan Wines”
  • Terri from Our Good Life shares “Moldova Wine Day Celebration!”
  • Linda from My Full Wine Glass is “Celebrating ‘My Wine Day’ and the little country that could”
  • Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles shares “Moldovan Wine – moving forward while not losing track of the authentic grapes of their past” #WorldWineTravel
  • Susannah from Avvinare writes “You say Feteasca and I’ll Say Moldova”
  • Jennifer at Vino Travels tells us about “Eye Openers to the Wines of Moldova”
  • Melanie from Wining With Mel is “Exploring new territory with Moldovan wines”
  • Jeff from foodwineclick asks the question “Are Local Grapes the Future of Moldovan Wines?”
  • Here at Savor the Harvest I share “Moldovan Native Wine Grape Discoveries” #WorldWineTravel
  • Jill from L’Occasion discusses “Wines of Moldova: Worth the Adventure”
  • Payal from Keep the Peas pairs “Kashmiri Yakhni Pulao and Moldovan Wine”
  • Nicole from Somms Table is “Celebrating Moldova National Wine Day with More Food and Wine Explorations”
  • Rupal at Syrah Queen shares “Celebrate Moldova National Wine Day – Exploring Native Varieties”

wineofmoldova.com

MOLDOVAN WINE
The region that is now Moldova, once part of Romania, has been making wine since approximately 3000 BC. The topography includes hills, sunny plateaus and plains, and streams that flow into two big rivers, Prut and Dniester. The climate is continental with influences from the Black Sea. Allthis makes it ideally suited for viticulture and the production of quality red and white wines. Moldova has 112 thousand hectares of vineyard planted with international and native grape varietals spread over 3 main wine regions: Valul lui Traian (south west), Stefan Voda (south east) and Codru (center). Native grape varietals account for 10% of the vineyards and include Feteasca Alba, Feteasca Regala, Feteasca Neagra, Rara Neagra, Plavai, and Viorica. 

I received 4 samples for this review: Suvorov Vin Viorica and Castel Mimi Feteasca Alba (white wines), and red blends from Chateau Purcari and Radacini.

THE WINES
SUVOROV VIN 2018 VIORICA
13% ABV | Suggested SRP $18
100% Viorica

According to the winery: "Viorica is the name of a Moldavian girl, it comes from the flower of the same name. A wine with great personality and character, made from the local selection of Viorica grapes. Produced according to a special technology from selected Viorica grapes grown in vineyards in the Stefan Voda region (South-East) of Moldova. Delightful, harmonious, soft taste of wine reveals nuances of tea rose, candied fruit, honey and nutmeg. The grapes were grown in vineyards in the Stefan Voda region (South-East) of Moldova."

Tasting Notes: 
The grapes for this pale gold wine are hand-harvested. On the nose it is wonderfully floral with notes of lemon rind and a faint mineral edge. On the palate it has notes of sweet white flowers,  muscat grapes, lemon juice, and a faint stony minerality with a juicy acidity and medium finish. Overall it is not too complex and certainly meant to be enjoyed now.


CASTEL MIMI 2018 FETEASCA ALBA
13% ABV | SRP $15
100% Feteasca Alba

Constantin Mimi, the last governor of Bessarabia and the man behind the vines and wines at Castel Mimi, may even be regarded as the force behind Moldovian wines. In 1893 he planted the first grape vines and started construction for the very large castle named after him. Having survived the tumult of the Soviet Bloc, Castel Mimi is now regarded not only as an excellent winery that produces wines from a variety of red and white grapes but also as a cultural center of excellence in the Republic of Moldova.

Tasting Notes: 
This unoaked wine is medium gold wine with flecks of green. On the nose and palate it is full of juicy citrus and stone fruit notes with a delicious minerality on the finish. The juicy acidity and medium finish make it perfect for wam weather. Overall it is not too complex and certainly meant to be enjoyed now.

THE FOOD
We paired the wines with Kashmiri yakhni pulao with mushrooms (home-made) and walnut chutney one day, and a Hyderabadi vegetable biryani (take-out) the next. Both dishes are redolent with complex flavours and warm spices without being spicy and complement the wines beautifully.

The yakhni pulao, cooked in a fragrant broth, was lovely with both wines. In Kashmir the yakhni pulao would be made with local morel mushrooms but it's definitely not morel season in CA so I had to make do with shiitake mushrooms. The walnut chutney is a classic Kashmiri accompaniment to a slew of dishes and was also excellent with both wines, especially the stone fruit of the Castel Mimi white. The Hyderabadi biryani really enhanced the floral and muscat notes in the Viorica and brought forward the lemon notes. A squeeze of lemon is a great flavour enhancer for pretty much any savoury dish from the Indian subcontinent so this was an absolute hit pairing that we would repeat! 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

A CÔTES DU RHÔNE TASTING



This month Cam is hosting the #winophiles exploration of Côtes du Rhône wines. It is a very open theme with the choice of any Côtes du Rhône wine of our liking. Côtes du Rhône AOC is  the second largest appellation in France and includes rosé, sparkling, red, white, dessert, and even orange skin-contact wines. With such a vast region to play in, and a large number of grape varietals allowed, we've got a great variety of wines and some food pairings in the line-up this month. Check out the wines, tastings, pairings, musings... below. And then come join us on Twitter on Saturday, 19 September at 8 AM PST under #winophiles to chat to everyone about their thoughts on the AOC, the wines, and their wine picks!




  • A Window Into Chateau-Neuf-Du-Pape Through Maison M. Chapoutier by Avvinare
  • Rhone Roam #3: Crozes-Hermitage Is Syrah, Condrieu Equals Viognier Paired with Fall Fish by Wine Predator

CÔTES DU RHÔNE AOC
Côtes du Rhône wines come in three quality levels: Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages, and Côtes du Rhône Villages (named village). Although the named village wines are highest quality of the three levels, no matter which Côtes du Rhône you pick, the wines are versatile, wallet-friendly, and a foodie's dream since they are very food-friendly. I wanted to compare three reds - one Côtes du Rhône and two named village wines, paired with herb-crusted lamb chops and roasted potatoes. 

THE WINERIES + THE WINES + THE FOOD

All good things, it seems, begin in the shadow of impending doom. Domaine de Cabasse was a highly regarded producer making wines from the Rhône villages of Sablet, Gigondas and Séguret. In 2012 the family decided to sell their property - the family with the exception of one family member who couldn't bear to see it go. Nicolas Haeni scraped together money, but managed enough to afford only the Séguret vineyard which he purchased and made the focus of his new project, "Malmont".

Nicolas Haeni is a young winemaker who made the first Malmont wines in 2013. The winery is set on steep rocky soil making all aspects of vineyards management including winemaking a challenge and a labour of love. The winery follows the principles of organic and bio-dynamic farming with a special focus on balanced soil nutrition. No synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides are used in the vineyard, and s
ince 2018 Domaine Malmont is officially in conversion to organic agriculture.

According to the winery: "Our winemaking aims at translating in the most accurate way the great fruit we harvest in the terroir of Malmont. Hence our interventions are reduced to a strict minimum. We use wild yeast to ferment and very little sulfites. No other additives than sulfites enter our winemaking process."

2017 Malmont Côtes du Rhône
13% ABV | SRP $13
60% Syrah, 40% Grenache

Vinification: 
Destemmed grapes are allowed a 12 day maceration followed by spontaneous fermentation then aged on fine lees in tank.

Colour: 
Ruby

Nose: 
Blackberries, pepper, faint geranium, not too complex

Palate: 
Similar to nose: ripe blackberries, very present black pepper, not too complex. A refreshing juicy acidity, somewhat jagged-edged tannins, a medium body, with a medium finish. The wine was a bit austere just out of the bottle but opened up and softened a bit as it sat in the glass. Overall it needs a rest in the bottle - I think it would be great starting in about 3 years, ~2023 or so although it is not complex enough to go very long in the bottle.

2017 Malmont Côtes du Rhône Villages Rouge Séguret
13.5% ABV | SRP $17
70% Syrah, 30% Grenache

Vinification: 
Destemmed grapes are allowed a 20 day maceration followed by spontaneous fermentation then aged on fine lees. 
Fermentation, maceration, and aging are done in a truncated cone-shaped French oak vat.

Colour: 
Medium Ruby

Nose: 
Black cherry, violets, black and white pepper

Palate: 
Similar to nose: Black cherry, violets, black and white pepper. Juicy acidity, plush tannins, medium+ body, long finish. This wine was superb out of the bottle and as it opened up. It can certainly be had now, and it would also be terrific in 2-3 years.

Ferraton Père et Fils Côtes du Rhône Villages Plan de Dieu
14% ABV | SRP $15
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan


Soil: 
Limestone gravel and large pebble soil from vast alluvial terraces (Riss), 80 to 150 m above Aygues and Ouvèze rivers.

Vinification: 
Destemmed grapes are pressed and vinified in concrete vats. Vinification is traditional with daily punching down and controlled temperature. Aged in vats.

Colour: 
Medium Garnet

Nose: 
Mainly black fruit: blackberry and blackcurrant, a hint of wet earth

Palate: 
Similar to nose: mainly black fruit but also a slight bit of white pepper and a meaty savouriness on the palate. Juicy acidity, restrained velvety tannins, medium+ body, long finish. This wine was superb out of the bottle and as it opened up. Similar to the previous Séguret, this wine can also be had now or in 2+ years.


Pairing:
We paired all of the wines with herb-crusted  lamb chops and roasted fingerling potatoes. All three wines were splendid with the food. Lamb chops with classic French herbs - savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and oregano - in my opinion, are just the perfect thing to pair with the nuanced red blends of the Côtes du Rhône.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

MADE IT TO DESSERT WITH A VOUVRAY


In August 2020 the French Winophiles are having a bit of a free-for-all in the Loire Valley! Jill Barth is hosting this month, don't miss her invite post. The options in the Loire are endless. Red, whites, rosés, sparkling wines, pétillant naturel, dessert wines, the Loire offers it all. We were to select whichever wine(s) we fancied, and we've got quite an inspiring list from everyone. Check it out below, and then join us on 15 August at 8 AM PST to talk about Loire wines on Twitter under #winophiles.


LOIRE WINES + VOUVRAY
The Loire Valley wine region is along the Loire River and stretches from north central France to the Atlantic coast. The region has tremendous natural beauty, gorgeous châteaux, and a long history of winemaking, since the Romans planted grapevines there in the 1st century AD. Loire wines at one point were considered the most prestigious, even more than Bordeaux. A majority of the wine is white, although red wine from Cabernet Franc is also made in some areas. After Champagne, Loire is the second largest region for sparkling wine - crémant. It is also a very diverse wine region that offers exceptionally food friendly wines that are a true expression of their terroir and varietal due to no oak aging. It is a truly vast and varied wine region, sure to have something for every palate!

Each area in Loire has distinct characteristics and is known for certain wines. Almost all ~5,500 acres of Vouvray AOC, near the city of Tours, for example, are dedicated to the Chenin Blanc grape. Chenin Blanc is a high acid grape known locally as Pineau de la Loire and is believed to have originated in the Anjou wine region of Loire sometime in the 9th century. From there it eventually migrated to Vouvray. Vouvray white wines (Chenin Blanc) are categorised as sec, demi-sec, and molleux, and doux depending on acidity and residual sugar. Vouvrays from good vintages have aging potential, although they are also excellent without significant aging. Whatever the style of Vouvray wine, the one common characteristic amongst the wines is freshness/crispness.

For all that the region contributes to French and global culture, the Loire Valley was added to UNESCO’ World Heritage list in 2000. It is an area of France worth visiting regardless of any distinctions. 

THE WINERY + THE WINE

DOMAINE DU VIKING
In the early part of the 20th century, most of Vouvray (like much of viticultural France) was worked by farmers in polyculture. Cows, sheep, and grain were raised alongside vines. Such was the case for the land belonging to Lionel and Francoise Gauthier, the owners of Domaine du Viking. Francoise’s grandparents owned just 2 hectares of vines in the early 1940’s along with animals and grain crops. As is still the case in many areas of France, winemaking was primarily for family and local consumption. Until August 11, 1944 when Francoise’s grandfather, Maurice, was killed by Nazi soldiers after being caught trying to blow up some train tracks. His son, Francoise’s father, was suddenly in charge and in an effort to keep the family afloat, converted all of the land into vineyards. The family haven't looked back since then!

Most of the Domaine's 13 hectares are not on the famous chalk (tuffeau) soils that make up over 90% of Vouvray, but on the hard flinty soils of the northern tip of the appellation. Soils that produce crisp, mineral, and age-worthy Vouvrays.

As shown in the Google street view shot I took, the winery is more of a garage, although they do host tastings there. Domaine du Viking is also quite well known for its sparkling wines, made with the expertise acquired through Marcel L'Homme, the third generation of a family of farmers and vine growers.


2017 Domaine du Viking Vouvray Tendre
13.5% ABV | SRP $14
100% Chenin Blanc

Soil: 
Flint soils of Reugny rather than the more typical tuffeau soils further to the south and west in Vouvray

Vinification: 
Grapes from 50-60 year old vines, hand harvested and hand sorted, pressed and fermented by native yeasts. Aged in tank for at least 12 months before release.

Colour: 
Medium yellow

Nose: 
White flowers, lemon zest, baked apples, a faint earthiness

Palate: 
Sweet white flowers, lemon zest, baked apples, a faint earthiness, and a delightful stony minerality on the finish. Off-dry with a juicy acidity and pleasant amount of residual sugar without being cloying. Medium body and finish, overall a really delicious wine after 3 years in bottle... could perhaps be fine for a while but I'm not sure it would benefit greatly from further aging. 

Pairing: 
We had a very late lunch so we weren't hungry at dinner but by the time 9.30 PM came around we were a bit peckish so we decided to make it a light meal. We enjoyed this wine with two different but similar cheeses... a Fromager d'Affinois Brebicet from Rhône-Alps and a geo-rind MonS Mary dans les Étoiles cheese. Along with a black cherry-charred scallion relish (recipe below), a slathering of raw honey, a sunflower seed loaf, and a baguette.

The MonS Mary dans les Étoiles is a gorgeous goat's milk cheese with a rind of Geotrichum candidum (a mold-like yeast also used in Loire cheeses). It is a creamy cheese with a fresh citrusy, savoury vegetal flavour. The Brebicet is a sheep's milk cheese with a similar consistency to Brie but slightly more pronounced aromas. Can best be described as a sheep's milk Brie.

Black Cherry-Scallion Relish
makes 1 cup

- 4 scallions, cleaned
- 1 tbsp chopped green scallion tops
- 1-1/2 cups black cherries, pitted and quartered
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
  1. Put the scallions in a cast iron pan, and heat until charred and softened but not mushy. Remove from heat, let cool. Halve each scallion and dice.
  2. In a medium bowl add the salt, pepper, vinegar, and oil. Stir to mix well. Add the scallions, scallion greens, and cherries. Mix well.
  3. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, vinegar to taste.
  4. Serve with cheese and sliced baguette.

Friday, August 7, 2020

SEM IGUAL VINHO VERDE WITH PEIXE CALDINE

In August, when most of the N. hemisphere is in the peak of summer, the #WinePW crew are appropriately exploring Vinho Verde DOC, a virtually unlimited buffet of refreshing summer sips. If you'd like an invitation, check out co-host Cindy's invitation post and then join us on Twitter on 8 August 2020 at 8 AM PST to be enlightened about all things Vinho Verde and food pairings at hashtag #WinePW! Thanks Cindy and Liz, for hosting this event!

A sneak peek short-list of what everyone's pairing with their Vinho Verde is here:
  • Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Cam shares Foods from Around the World Paired with Pink Wines from Portugal
  • Event co-host Cindy at Grape Experiences, I’ve been reminiscing upon last fall’s work trip where I spent A Beautiful Morning at Quinta da Aveleda in Vinho Verde 
  • Event co-host Liz Barret of What’s In That Bottle? is thrilled with Va Va Va Vinho Verde: the Portuguese White That Wows
  • Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles answers What is Vinho Verde? 5 things I didn’t know about this perfect summer wine
  • Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm savors Tomato Poached Cod with Vinho Verde Wine.
  • Linda at My Full Wine Glass realizes that Distinctively ‘laurel” Vinho Verde Delivers with Seafood and Salad
  • Nicole at SommsTable is loving Vinho Verde and Simple Seafood Feast
  • Payal at Keep the Peas is pairing Sem Igual Vinho Verde with Peixe Caldine
  • Gwendolyn at Wine Predator says Vinho Verde: A Green Wine That’s White from Portugal Paired with Tuna, Tomato, Basil, Orzo #WinePW
  • Martin at Enofylz is Pairing Maria Papoila Vinho Verde with Summer Pizza
  • Susannah at Avvinare explains how Vinho Verde Meets Homemade Sushi
  • Terri at Our Good Life savors Scallops, Smashed Peas and a Great Vinho Verde
  • Pinny at Chinese Food and Wine Pairing achieves A Successful Hunt Down of a Red Vinhao Escolha from Vinho Verde DOC #WinePW 

VINHO VERDE (VEEN-yo VAIR-duh)
https://vineyards.com/wine-map/portugal/norte

The largest of Portugal's DOCs and perhaps the least known globally, Vinho Verde is in cool, wet, verdant NW Portugal bordering Spain. A DOC since 1984, the region has approximately 52,000 acres of vines, 19,000 producers, 93 million liters produced per year, 100 export markets, and 45 indigenous grape varieties.

Although Vinho Verde translates to "green wine" in English, the wines of Vinho Verde DOC and its 9 sub-regions regions are in fact not green. It's a debate, but the name is a hark back to either the astringent nature of the wine that is produced from high-acid grapes with limited ripening, or the lush green region that is Vinho Verde. The arrival of maize in the 16th century shifted all attention to farming it and grape vines were relegated to side spaces... trees, walls, hedges, or pergolas, thus requiring ladders to harvest. Some small producers still train vines up heights, although most wine houses have switched to the typical low-trained vine method.

Most wines are still, but fully sparkling wines have been permitted since 1999 and both are now made in Vinho Verde. A majority - 86% - of the Vinho Verde wines are made from white grape varieties, with reds and rosés in the remaining 14%. The most popular indigenous varieties found in Vinho Verde are white grapes Alvarinho, Arinto, Avesso, Azal, Loureiro and Trajudura. Red varieties include Espadeiro, Padeiro and Vinhão. Blends are quite common, almost the norm, since sun exposure is limited and grapes don't ripen as they would in drier, sunnier regions. But Vinho Verde winemakers take advantage of the weather and different levels of aromatics, acidity, fresh fruit notes, and body that each varietal offers to create puckeringly refreshing wines with a prickly natural fizz when made the traditional way. Some winemakers do add carbonation to mimic the traditional-but-increasingly-rare in-bottle malolactic fermentation.

PORTUGUESE STATE OF INDIA (ESTADO PORTUGUÊS DA ÍNDIA)
The Portuguese sailed to India in the late 1400s primarily to buy spices and take back to Europe for trade. Inevitably over time they set up headquarters in Goa on the SW coast of India, laid claim to a few other territories, effectively established a small colony in India, and remained until 1961. They left a cultural and culinary mark on areas they colonised, and in fact Portuguese is still spoken in some of those areas. This is especially true in Goa, their first Indian HQ. Since Vasco de Gama and the others who came to India were Catholics, they had most influence on the Catholic Goan population.

With regards to culinary tradition, perhaps the most well-known dish is the fiery vindaloo which is derived from the Portuguese Carne de Vinha d'Alhos, a dish made of pork cooked with garlic and wine (replaced by vinegar in India). In Goa it was enhanced with spices and that is the version that has prevailed around the world. SW India is a rice eating culture since that is what grows there easily. But the Portuguese brought leavened bread to the region and it traveled north to Mumbai and a bit beyond, where it is still called pão, the Portuguese word for bread. They also introduced to India chili peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes, which have left an indelible mark on Indian cuisine.

Fun Fact: Prior to chili peppers, black pepper was the primary source of heat in Indian food and it wasn't used so much for heat as it was to balance other spices and flavours. In Ayurveda, black pepper still reigns supreme, so traditional Indian food, which is  very seasonal and based on Ayurvedic principles, is mild, flavour-balanced, vegetarian, generally excludes tomatoes and chili peppers and focuses on the many benefits of spices including black pepper. Indians have been cooking this way for tens of thousands of years so we don't usually analyse the traditional food combinations but they're deeply ingrained in us since we eat that way daily.

For my Vinho Verde pairing, I settled on fish caldine, a beloved Goan Catholic dish that is derived from the Portuguese fish stew, caldeirada, but adapted to local Goan tastes and ingredients. Traditionally, caldine includes black pepper as the only spice, although some cooks add a chili pepper or two. Overall it is meant to be a mild dish, always prepared with freshly extracted coconut milk and seasonal seafood.

THE WINERY + THE WINE + THE FOOD PAIRING
Per the winery, Sem Igual means without "igual" (equal in English). The name was chosen to define a Vinho Verde that is different from the popular fizzy and sweet style, but still made with the local grapes. The vineyards are on 10 hectares located in the heart of Vinho Verde, 30 min. from Porto where the family has produced wine since the 18th century.

However, in the younger generation, owner João Camizão decided to depart from the usual. Previously in his career, when on a telecom assignment in India, he decided to continue the family heritage but with a new series of wines that would be unique. Thus Sem Igual was born; the first vintage of Sem Igual was in 2012. Given that a mere 1,000 bottles of the 2018 Sem Igual were produced, I feel quite fortunate to have snagged one.

2018 Sem Igual "Sem Mal" Vinho Verde DOC
70% Azal, 30% Arinto
11% ABV | SRP $25

Vinification:
After an initial 10 day ferment, the wine is bottled to allow malolactic fermentation in bottle which results in a natural delicate fizz, no added sulfites, no filtration. According to the cut sheet, "Before pouring Sem Mal, you need to gently shake the bottle to homogenize the wine."

Soil:
Granite and gravel, vines ranging from 6 to 70 years. The grapes for this wine came from a 4 year old vineyard

Colour:
Cloudy, pale yellow, very fine bubbles

Nose:
Lemons, a hint of wet stone, wet earth


Palate:
A bracing acidity thanks to the two high-acid grape varietals used in this wine. Decidedly dry but balanced, took a little time to open up. Mainly ripe lemons, wet stone minerality, and a hint of tart green apple with skin. Overall a balanced wine with a welcome lingering finish. The bubbles are not intrusive at all, and make each sip delightful. This wine is made for fresh seafood on a warm summer's day! If I can get my hands on another bottle of this vintage, I'd pair it with oysters on-the-half-shell and a saffron mayonnaise.

Pairing:
We enjoyed it with Peixe Caldine, an Goan-Portuguese seafood stew that I made with shrimp. The mild sweet shrimpy flavour with the mix of warm spices and vinegar softened by the coconut milk beautifully complemented the earthy, citrusy, medium-full-bodied, spritzy Vinho Verde. This would also be good with rice, as many Goans eat it, but we loved it with bread. Pão would be the ideal bread but I'd forgotten to make it so we had it with the last of a baguette and a homemade Pullman loaf that I had made in a style similar to Indian bread aka pão. If you are a seafood lover, you can't go wrong with this one!

THE RECIPE
PEIXE CALDINE (PEIXE CALDINHO)
makes: 3-4 servings

Sauce
- 1 tin/~400 ml coconut milk
- 1 in. piece ginger, peeled
- 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1-2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
- (optional) 1 in. piece chili pepper (Indian, chile de arbol, Thai, or serrano chili)

The Rest
- 1 lb wild shrimp, cleaned and deveined
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 large/2 medium ripe tomato, chopped
- 3 cups shredded green cabbage (OR 2 cups shrimp-sized chunks of not-too-watery vegetables like carrots, pumpkin, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tbsp salt (+to taste)
- 1 tbsp cane sugar
- 1-1/2 cups water
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar (+to taste)
  1. Open the tin of coconut milk and skim the creamy part off the top into a small blender (or smoothie) jar. Add the rest of the Sauce ingredients to the jar and blend into a smooth paste.
  2. Heat the coconut oil in a medium pan and when it's hot add the chopped onion and salt. Stir and cook until the onions are softened.
  3. Add the tomatoes and cook until they're very soft and the juices are nearly evaporated.
  4. Add the cabbage, 1/4 cup water, and mix well. Let it all cook on medium heat until the cabbage softens. Stir every 2-3 min. so nothing sticks to the pan.
    • IF USING OTHER VEGETABLES: add to the pan and cook for 3-4 min. then add 1/2 cup water, cover, cook until vegetables are just tender. Don't overcook or they'll become an unsightly mash.
  5. Turn the heat up to med-high and add the shrimp, the remaining coconut milk (the watery part left after skimming the cream off the top), sugar, and the rest of the water. Bring to a boil and let it cook for 5-7 min. or until the shrimp are nearly cooked.
  6. Add the blended Sauce and boil for 3-4 min. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and add the white wine vinegar, stir well, cook for 3-4 min.
  7. Taste the sauce and adjust the salt, sugar, vinegar, and black pepper to taste. The sauce should be neither too spicy nor too tart.
  8. Take off the heat and serve with Goan/Indian pão or other bread.

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.