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Sep 5, 2000 04:31 PM

Wines with pesto...aioli

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[note from the management: this is a reposting of a message--and the thread following--from July in an attempt to clean up this board. When threads get too long (from people tacking new discussions onto existing threads rather than starting new threads), it makes the index really hard to use and crashes some browsers].

I would love suggestions for wines that would complement: 1)pesto, and 2)aioli. Thanks all, for an interesting thread.

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  1. Wines for pesto and aioli, yep, the garlic in these can overwhelm a lot of wines.
    Whenever I’m asked about food pairings, first I look to the traditional wines in the region. The cuisine and wines of an area evolve together --- the locals have figured out how to season their foods to make the best of their wines.
    Pesto is from Liguria. The regional wines are crisp whites (mostly vermentino) from the Cinqueterre area and light fruity reds made from principally dolcetto or sangiovese. I don’t have much experience with actual Ligurian wines, nor any recent tastings to draw on, but I think that fruity style wines made from those grapes from other Italian regions would be delicious with pesto-sauced pastas or vegetables.
    Vermentino has snappy natural acidity, full body, and a gingery spice and blanched almond character that would be good complements to the pine nuts and basil. I’ve had a few vermentinos from Corsica lately that were just wonderful, of course, I’m a sucker for this grape which some believe is the same as the Provencal rolle. Also on the French side of the border, the blancs from Lascaux Coteaux du Languedoc are mostly rolle, made in oaked and unoaked versions, and both are really nice.
    The 97 and 98 dolcettos from Piemonte, just to the west of Liguria are very successful. Best gulped within a couple-three years of the vintage for the fresh raspberry and blueberry flavors. Tuscany adjoins Liguria’s eastern border and has had a string of good vintages – 95, 96, 97 & 98 – with ripe and juicy sangiovese-based wines.
    Besides these Italian varieties, I recently had some hot tapas of pesto-topped crusts that had been run under the broiler and served bubbling hot accompanying a flight of 1994 Rioja Reservas that went together well. These Riojas were mostly in the more fruity style rather than woody/earthy yet had good acid balance too. The Crianza style with even less wood would probably be even better and less expensive too. The 94, 95 & 96 vintages in rioja have been excellent. 97 is good, and the early word is that 98 is very good. Fruity-style rioja crianzas to look for are Marques de Caceres, Marques de Murrietta, Loriñon, Conde de Valdemar, and Sierra Cantabria which are about $9-12 in San Francisco.
    And, whenever we’re talking about garlic, I tend to reach for Zinfandel which has a great affinity for the stinking rose. Pick one of the fruity styles with good acid balance, as you’ll find from Sonoma Valley or Russian River Valley, and it should harmonize with Pesto. One of my favorites is the Joseph Swan "Stellwagen Vineyard" Zin from Sonoma Valley which is somewhat atypical with a healthy dose of Thai basil in the aroma and flavor which should wrap around pesto nicely.
    The trick to pairing aioli with wine is to add a good amount of lemon juice to counteract the wine-killing effects of the egg yolk. Also the underlying dish --- seafood, red meat, veggies --- will affect the pairing. Looking again at the regional wine palette first, I’d pick the fiery Mediterranean varieties of Mourvedre, Grenache, Carignane, and Syrah for reds and Rolle, Grenache blanc, Clairette, Roussane and Marsanne for whites to match with garlicky food.
    Some memorable matches that worked very well --- spinach in bouillabaise with aioli served with Cassis blanc; roasted potato wedges topped with aioli with Rioja; grande aioli with young Domaine Tempier Bandol rouge and rosé (mourvedre); grilled butterflied leg of lamb drizzled with demi-glace and sauced with mint aioli with old Calif. Cabernet Sauvignon (74, 75, 76, 77 & 78 Sterling CS); sweet red pepper crudites with aioli accompanied by a young Cotes du Rhone rouge, and grilled asparagus topped with aioli served with white Chateauneuf du Pape (94 Vieux Telegraphe).
    For the summer appetizer table I’d pick a clean refreshing rosé as best all-round to accompany aioli. Buy the youngest and freshest you can – the 99s are on the market now. Perennial favorites are Domaine Tempier, Mas Champart Coteaux du Languedoc, Preston (Dry Creek Valley, from Rhone varieties), Joguet Chinon, and Julian Chivite "Gran Feudo" Navarra rosado,

    9 Replies
    1. re: Melanie

      Thank you so much Melanie for your thoughtful, informative answer. I'm really looking forward to going wine shopping now and to tasting some of your suggestions.

      1. re: efdee

        I hope you'll let us know which ones you liked best.
        Thought of a few more as you hit the rosé shopping trails - Charlie Melton Rosé of Virginia from Australia, LaFond Tavel Rosé, Gabrielli Sangiovese Rosado and Vega Sindoa Navarra Rosado. And to warn you off one, stay away from the Les Jumelles Cinsault rosé - I've tried a couple of prior vintages and it's pretty bad.
        Can you tell I love pink wines for summer?

        1. re: Melanie

          Thanks again. Your suggestions are as gracefully written as they are informative. We're having our grand aioli 7/22 and I'll certainly report back. Santé.

          1. re: efdee

            Grand aioli --- A real celebration! Can't wait to hear your report.
            I loved the description in Richard Olney's _Lulu's Provencal Table_ of drinking both Domaine Tempier rosé and young snappy red chilled with bouillabaise and grand aioli. Both styles of wines are really compatible with these feasts.

            1. re: melanie

              Our annual Grand Aioli is a birthday celebration so besides wine shopping, I will also try to locate a copy of "Lulu's Provençal Table" to give to my friend. We always love our summer garlic extravaganza but your contributions will make this one very special. Thanks again.

              1. re: efdee

                It's Grand Aioli Day! Can't wait to hear your report...

                1. re: melanie

                  What a joyous time we had at our Grand Aioli dinner!
                  Earlier in the week I had printed out Melanie's wine suggestions and brought them to 2 wine stores. I didn't end up with any of the specific wines that she mentioned, but her information helped me to find appropriate wines that were within my limited budget (all the wines I bought were about $10).
                  Before starting the meal we relaxed with Vignes Du Soleil, a very pleasant Provençal, rosé table wine. We had a bottle of Coppola Rosso with the aioli and were all amazed at how much that wine -- that is a blend of several of the grapes Melanie mentioned -- complemented the food more than whatever random wines we had with this meal in past years.
                  Our party of 3 was tiddly by the end of the meal so we didn't get to the Cotes de Provence (Commanderie De Peyrassol)but there are lots of delicious leftovers for dinner tonight to have with the last bottle.
                  Melanie's awesome knowledge, the fun of trying new wines, and the deliciousness of the result made our happy celebration even nicer. I'm encouraged now to try other wines on the list and to learn a little about wine and food pairings. I am incredibly grateful to Melanie for sharing her expertise so generously, like a lot of people on this wonderful site. Now on to the pesto!

                  1. re: efdee

                    What a fun time! Thanks for sharing it with us. I'm glad to hear that you were able to find some nice wines at reasonable prices. I've heard some good things about the Coppola rosso but haven't had a chance to try the recent vintage, will do so soon.

                    1. re: melanie
                      Leslie Brenner

                      That was so much fun to read. Thanks to both of you! Puts me in the mind to have an aioli party myself...