Welcome to Second Ferment! Wine pairs well with life ... and food, travel, people, work and play. Grab a glass and join me as I explore the wine scene in Ottawa, Canada, and beyond. Love hearing from my readers, so please leave a comment. Cheers! - Bethany

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Make-or-break pairings

There are times with the planets align and a marriage between a sip of wine and a morsel of food opens the door to the mysteries of the universe. And then there are days when that door gets rudely slammed in one's face.

Today, for instance. I was having lunch at Fraser CafĂ© (my third visit, but my first at the new digs on Beechwood. Great space, funky, homey; service is a bit on the slow side but the food makes up for it.) I ordered the Korean beef tacos off the menu: two hand-pressed corn tortillas generously stuffed with succulent bits of marinated spare rib and piled high with shredded cabbage, carrots and chili-spiced fried noodles. Sesame-crusted edemame on the side, a first for me. I relished busting every bright green nugget out of its pod and popping it into my mouth.

But for some reason, when I ordered the wine, my brain could only process the "beef" part of the equation, without taking the spice and textures of the taco into consideration. (I blame it on two weeks' worth of poor sleep. That's what you get when you have kids.) So I ordered a glass of Andeluna Cabernet Sauvignon (Mendoza, Argentina). The wine itself was fine, a good cab with decent fruit, moderate tannins and lots of peppercorn, clove and blackberry in the bowl.

The match? Dreadful. The heat of the chili turned the tannins all ragged and rough, the fruit was lost and the overall feel of the wine went flat. I would have been much better off ordering either the Riesling (Tawse, from Niagara) or the Gewurztraminer (Alsace, France).

Good thing I've had a few successful pairings lately, where I managed to pull it off without having to consult Natalie's matching tool or flip through my copy of Immer's Great Tastes Made Simple. (I do check them afterwards, just to see if I'm right. Then I do a little happy dance.)

Last night we had butter chicken with basmati rice and garlic sauteed asparagus and green beans. My choice? The Black Chook 2008 VMR (done by Woop Woop Wines of South Australia), one of my $100 Challenge picks. Viognier is fragrant, often sweet, with a moderate amount of acid, and ranks up there with the riesling and gewurz for spicy, intensely flavoured dishes. This blend, with a smidge of marsanne and roussanne tossed in, was glorious. Floral and herbal on the nose, flavours of spice and tropical fruit. Sharp acid, lightish to medium weight, with a tart finish. Not really a sipper on its own, but with the butter chicken, its slick texture and heady aromas danced their own little happy dance on my tongue.

Yup, sometimes I get it right. Sometimes I don't. It's a learning process - and I love the homework.

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