I often get e-mails or phone calls from friends and blog followers, asking for advice on wine choices, or whether I have tried a certain wine that is being sold for a low price on one of those bargain wine websites. This week, I got a notice on my cellphone, as a Facebook notice, that I had been tagged in a comment from one of my friends. The message read, “Charcuterie.... Missing Madrid... Jim Newcomb.... Where are you when we need you? I can't decide Wine Flight".
Well, I don’t know what the wine flight choices were, but I can certainly make some recommendations.
The first course of action is to understand what “charcuterie” is. Then we can use that information to determine what types of wines would work best.
Prior to the advent of refrigeration, the idea was to preserve the stock of meat over the course of many months. Until the use of nitrates for preservation, salt was the preservative of choice.
The meat can be coarse, or pureed into a smooth emulsion. The most common forcemeats are salami (brined, salted or dry cured) or sausages (raw meat in casings that need to be cooked, usually by boiling, grilling or smoking).
pairing. There are a couple things that we find in common for charcuterie: salt, and fat. The additional variable is the curing process, spices used, proteins used, and the curing process involved.
Let’s look at salt first. Salty foods need a wine that can contrast, or counteract the saltiness. This is accomplished with sweet, acidic, or sparkling wines. The salter the charcuterie, the sweeter the wine need to be. Now, to be clear, we aren’t looking to pair a dessert wine with our salami, all we need is a touch of residual sugar in the wine. In this case, the most likely candidates would be Riesling for white, and Beaujolais (Gamay) for red.
so usually avoid the sparkling route (but it can be very nice with lighter pâtés and terrines). The choice to cover the most bases would be higher acid grape varieties. In this case, our previous two choices of Beaujolais and Riesling would work, but we can add a couple more choices: Chenin Blanc and Barbera. We now have four wine choices that would work with most any type of charcuterie. Add some spicy components to the charcuterie, and you might also consider Gewurztraminer, or even a blend from Cotes du Rhone.
These are by no means the only wine choices. If you know your wine varieties, and their general profile, you can experiment in good faith. Also remember that local wines, usually work with the local products. So, try to determine where the style of charcuterie was developed, then look for wines from that region that might fit the bill. But most of all, don’t worry about it. Experiment, and have fun!
Followers of this blog know that we have a small gourmet group. About every three months, we gather together a group of eight people to learn about traditional cuisine, cooking techniques, then create those dishes for an evening of food, fun, and wine.
Spotify.com that played Portuguese music. They had strung lights across their back deck, and put tea candles on the table. The mood was set, and the evening temperatures had cooled to a comfortable degree versus the daytime heat and humidity.
Salt requires effervescence, sweetness or acid. Vinho Verde fits the bill on most counts. It isn't sweet, but there is an amount of fruitiness, that lends itself to the flavor of the green beans.
My hope is that by reading this easy Portuguese wine dinner, you too will create a regional wine pairing dinner. If you do, please share your menu in the comments section. If you need help with a pairing, contact your local Sommelier, wine shop, or send me an e-mail.
Last week, I wrote about the Wine Century Club. Since then, I have had a number of people contact me about how to get started. It is actually pretty easy. Download their list of grapes, and start trying wines that contain those grapes. Okay….maybe it isn’t that easy. You really need some background, preferably through wine classes, or local wine tasting clubs. While we are seeing more and more unusual, or forgotten, grapes in the United States, the Old World still has the lock on the availability.
This week, I am conducting a wine tasting of Italian wines. As the president and Sommelier for the Arrowhead Wine Enthusiasts, I get to choose the wines to serve. Italy offers a never ending supply of forgotten grapes.
Oenotria (due to its’ abundant vineyards). Many of those grapes were brought to the region by the ancient Greeks, and the mysterious Etruscan people (thought to be the refuges of the fallen city of Troy). There are literally thousands of grape varieties in Italy, but Italy's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, has only documented a bit over 350 grapes and granted them "authorized" status. With DOC and DOCG regulations, only a handful of grapes are really known by most wine drinkers. Chianti (Sangiovese), Barolo (Nebbiolo) and Soave (Garganega) are probably the best known.
So, when it comes to Italian wine tastings, the door is open…as long as I can find the wines (not easy). This week, I was lucky. While I still have the “standard” Barolo, I was able to find some less common wines.
To finish the tasting, I do have to bring in one of my favorite Italian wines, Barolo. The last wine is an Oddero Barolo 2009. I have written about the Nebbiolo grape in the past, so won’t spend time recapping it here.
With a simple five wine, Italian tasting, we have covered five (if you count Nebbiolo) “forgotten” grapes. When you add these to your Wine Century Club list, you will be well on your way to reaching 100 grape varieties. And, hopefully you will find a new variety that will become a favorite.