Knock-your-socks-off wine pairings
- carswell Feb 7, 2008 06:07 PM
Occasionally you hit upon a food and wine paring that simply awes you, that leaves you drop-jawed. A pairing where the wine and the food amplify each other, are greater than the sum of their parts.
I'm not talking here about "pretty good is good enough" matches but rather pairings you'll never forget. ("I remember clearly the day that I became convinced of the gastronomic need to find exactly the right wine for the right food. For years, I'd been content to make sure my matches were good enough -- for acceptable matches offer a great deal of pleasure. But the sommelier at Lucas-Carton in Paris turned me into a fiend for perfection when he served four wines with four cheeses with a precision that can only be described as surgical. It was the cheese course of my life, and I'll never forget it." -David Rosengarten in *Red Wine with Fish*)
Here's a thread for recording them. Not general pinciples, mind you. Not "Chardonnay is THE lobster wine." Nope, specific vintages of specific wines with specific dishes ON AN AS-YOU-ENCOUNTER-THEM BASIS.
All this is prompted by a fortuitous match this evening, one of my best in years. The dish was a classy (but store-bought!) veal marengo made with veal, mushrooms, bell peppers, pearl onions, veal demi-glace and assorted herbs. I'd been thinking of opening a Merlot-dominated Bordeaux or a Bourgueil but a French sommelier's guide insisted Côtes du Rhône was the red way to go. Fortunately, I had a 2004 CDR from Vieille Juilienne (a fabulous under-the-radar producer, who also makes a knockout Châteauneuf du Pape). *Coup de foudre*! The wine added a spiciness the veal was lacking. The mellow and savoury veal tamed the wine's alcohol and brought out a complex herby fruitiness that wasn't there on its own. Conversation stopped. Time stood still. Definiitely greater than the sum of the parts.
Please share your own awe-inspiring pairings as you encounter them.
Speaking of feu Lucas Carton ...
November 2003. White truffles on polenta, washed down with a 1995 Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne. Simplicity and perfection in a dish and a glass. Bliss can get different, but not any higher.
1995 Quintarelli Amarone. 1 big-ass hunk of Reggiano Parmesan cheese.
1999 Flor de Pingus. Flash-marinated butterflied leg of lamb (rosemary, garlic, pepper, lemon juice, olive oil) grilled over super hot coals scented with mint and rosemary.
1995 Roda I Rioja. Seared rib veal chop in porcini sauce at Taberna del Alabardero in Washington DC.
A few weeks ago, after spending the entire weekend painting our soon-to-be nursery, my wife made me one of my favorite dishes, osso buco.
The shanks were braised for a few hours in red wine, stock, fresh herbs, aromatics and finished with a demi-glace based sauce before serving. Considering it was a Sunday night and my wife couldn't help me polish off a good bottle of wine, I picked an '03 Cameron Hughes Lot 15 cab with very low expectations.
The wine had decanted for about 20-30 minutes and my first sip did not offer high hopes. Tannic, disjointed and "hot".
However, like magic, after a few bites of the osso buco and then coming back to the wine, it was a completely different experience. The fattiness of the shanks cut through the harsh tannins and created a velvety mouthfeel and then lush dark fruits and cocoa burst forth from nowhere.
I was stunned. I've never been fond of CH wines, but this combo of food and wine melded perfectly.
Vinosnob, You've touched on a point made by a good friend of mine: "You can drink wine as a cocktail or you can drink wine with food. However, they are not the same." I too have noticed how your wine experience can be altered immensely at the table. Recently I served a Dona Beatrix Spanish Sauvignon with mussel bisque. It was an amazing combination.
Not sure I've ever had a true pairing epiphany, but I've heard interesting things about Gewurstraminer and lamb.