wine and food
It was always about food. I am not saying you cannot, should not have wine without food (quite the opposite), but without my love for food there would be no Wine Rambler. The crucial moment was a Friday afternoon, years ago, when I decided to open a random bottle of Mosel Riesling with some mildly spicy Asian food because I had heard the two go together - resulting in my first moment of true wine excitement and the decision to track down the wine and learn more about it. Wine and food have been with me since and put me on the slippery slope to wine blogging. Considering that it is surprising that it has taken me so long to organise the first Wine Rambler dinner...
...but when it finally happened I made up for the delay by organising it in style, with the help of the fabulous team of Trinity Restaurant in Clapham - and five German wines.
There are several philosophies about kids growing up to into mature adults, but the successful ones tend to include the Muppet Show. And as our readers naturally are mature adults I can take it for granted that you will know the Swedish Chef. As do I, of course. Apart from where I don't: in the dubbed German Muppets version I grew up with he is actually Danish. Confused as we may be in that regard, us Germans have loved Scandinavian food way before the success of Noma. And Scandinavians, it turns out, love to pair their food with German wine.
Scandinavia is a very important export market for German wine and earlier this month I received a tasty demonstration of how well our friend Riesling in particular pairs with northern cuisine.
Wine is nothing without people. It is people who make wine. It is the company of the right people that makes for a great evening with wine. And it is people's stories that make for engaging wine writing. Recently I had the pleasure of meeting a man who not only makes excellent wine but who also talks about it in such an engaging way that there is only my writing to blame if you don't walk away from this article at least a little inspired.
I certainly left inspired after my encounter with Nik Weiss, the owner of the St. Urbans-Hof estate in the Mosel wine region of Germany. It made me think about the magic that happens when you fall in love with a piece of land and the produce you bring forth from it. It is a magic that over thousands of years has transformed the land but it also transforms the people who work it. This is a story about how the Mosel transformed a man and how he in turn set out to transform his part of the Mosel - and about a little magic that happened when I spent an evening with him and his Riesling.
You don't go to South East London. At least that is what my friend Sarah thinks, and yesterday she told me so when the question of where to live in London came up. After having lived in the South West, North and West Sarah now contemplates the East - but the South East just seems too far away, like another world. This is a common view in the murky blend of London post codes and identities. It is opposed by a smaller group of those who have lost their hearts to SE London, and they tell me of vibrant local communities with quirky shops, excellent and authentic food offerings and a satisfying restaurant scene. The other day I followed an invitation to explore this world at the East Dulwich wine shop and bar Green & Blue Wines.
It is no coincidence that I used the words "authentic" and "local", as Green & Blue champion wines from smaller producers, especially organic and natural wines.
Unless someone else is doing it for me there is almost never a day in my life when you don't find me in the kitchen throwing around pans, pots and knives. I like to cook, I love to eat well, and whenever there is time I work my way through recipes or London restaurants. That I also love wine with my food cannot have been lost on you as you are reading this on the Wine Rambler. So you may think nothing when I tell you that last week I was invited to a food and wine pairing dinner. But how about it was matching wine with supermarket ready meals?
First of all I should say that Charlie Bigham, who lured me and a group of food and wine bloggers to a secret location near London Bridge, is not too happy having his food called "ready meals". I will do so nonetheless, because it takes me back to one of the darker secrets in my food life.
Like many men who like to cook I have occasional delusions of grandeur. Unfortunately for you, these were made worse when at a Wine Rambler beer tasting an Italian friend (who is as obsessed with good food as any Italian) commented on my risotto: 'And that risotto was simply delicious! Mind you, I am Italian and have got some experience with risotto, very very good indeed! Recipe please?'
Easily charmed by such an appreciation of my cooking skills, I am happy to do as requested - and to make a wine pairing suggestion: Silvaner, the fantastically food friendly German white wine that deserves international attention.
There are not many things I enjoy more than good food, and my sweet tooth is infamous. Despite having dined in quite a few outstanding restaurants, there are still not many desserts I'd prefer over the chocolate mousse made by my friend Benita. It is so damn tasty that I usually just have it on its own, although when Benita last made it for me she was more than happy to enjoy it with a wine I had saved for just this occasion: a sweet Austrian Pinot Noir.
Sweet red wines can be a terrific match for chocolate desserts, and so I invite you to join us in our little indulgence. Just imagine Nigella Lawson presenting this, with lots of luscious language, licking of lips and sticky fingers.
Going out for Japanese food in London is not something I regularly do. This is not because I don't like it. Quite the opposite in fact. It is just that as far as sushi is concerned my heart is lost to a restaurant in Munich that serves high quality fish at very fair prices - and, perhaps more importantly, that I have a Japanese friend in my neighbourhood who treats me to all sorts of delicacies. Unfortunately she will be going back to Japan soon, so I was delighted when Emma from Japanese restaurant Tsuru invited me (and a bunch of other writers) to taste their new menu. So one night in late October I ventured east to the Bishopsgate branch of Tsuru (there is another one near the Tate Modern).
If I am not mistaken, our readers have had to go without Wine Rambler Silvaner coverage since August 31. That is clearly unacceptable and will be remedied as follows ("quickly and unbureaucratically", as german public officials are fond of saying): The Burrlein winery of Mainstockheim, which we have already featured as part of our Müller-Thurgau report, has consistently turned out over-achieving quality Silvaners to its large customer base these last few years. Has it delivered again?
Sweet wine is evil. Just mentioning it can make people's faces go grumpy bulldog on you. Even the faces of those who haven't tried any yet. Wine with residual sugar is often seen as nasty plonk, suitable for a cheap hangover or perhaps as a wine for the ladies, and that is usually not meant as a compliment either. In the UK, it is particularly associated with Germany 'thanks' to brands such as Liebfraumilch.
So I have to deal with a lot of bulldog faces in my mission to interest people in German wine. The most successful approach, I find, is to get them to taste the wines, especially with food, but that is a slow process if you are just one guy with a wardrobe full of Riesling in a nation of millions of wine drinkers.
So imagine my delight when I was recently invited to a lunch workshop designed to explore how off-dry and sweet Rieslings pair with food: Who is afraid of Residual Sugar? was organised by St. Urbans-Hof, one of the premier Mosel estates. What started as a very exciting and tasty experiment turned into a far-reaching discussion on the world of wine, customer perception, national (wine)stereotypes and wine marketing.
With the raspberry season coming to an end, it is high time to write up what is one of my favourite desserts and also one of my favourite wine and food pairings: tarragon custard on raspberry purée with a lovely, sweet Riesling from the Mosel. This recipe brings together sweet, sour, acidity, bitterness, fruit and a herbal creaminess - components that are present in both wine and pudding.
You will need for this (for four): raspberries (200g), sugar (50g), fresh tarragon, 4 eggs, double cream (150ml), milk (150ml) and cocoa powder. And a sweet Riesling, of course.
Asparagus is said to be difficult to match with wine. The reason is that asparagus contains substances that can make wine taste bitter, vegetal and strangely 'green', sometimes even bordering on outright weird. If you stick to a few very simply rules though there is no reason to be afraid of asparagus and wine, quite the opposite - it can be an excellent match, as I discovered last weekend when I serves a Riesling with pan-fried smoaked cod and English asparagus. Read on for a little background and, most importantly, a few suggestion on how to match asparagus and wine.
Pheasant is one of my favourite birds, and luckily it is available in abundance in England. Obviously, it is no longer in season, but as I did not get around to write this posting in winter let me invite you to join me in the memory of past delights. And to think ahead to the pleasures of next autumn. I am not only a fan of pheasant, I also adore Pinot Noir. Even better, I think the two can be an excellent match, particularly when you roast the bird in the oven and serve it with a lighter sauce and herbs.
The reason I mention the sauce is that it is actually more important to match sauce and wine than to think too much about matching meat and wine. Chicken with a spicy sauce might be good with Riesling, but in a casserole with a cream sauce it could go with a Chardonnay and if it was a red wine casserole even a heavier red might be suitable. So why pheasant and Pinot Noir then?
Ink-coloured, almost black, smelling of plum jam, eucalyptus and donkey stable and puckering your mouth all over with overwhelmingly rough tannins, here we have a text book Tannat (note the linguistic closeness to "tannin" as well as to "tanning").
Ever since I moved to the UK I have been in a constant love affair with scallops. I had them before on a few occasions, but living in London makes it so easy to get fresh, hand-dived scallops for a reasonable price that they became a regular guest in my kitchen. Today I want to share a recipe that, I think, goes perfectly with a good sparkling wine:
Matching food and wine is rarely an easy task. The basic rule of fish=white, meat=red, for instance, is sometimes correct and sometimes wrong, but even when it fits it is way too general to be really helpful. Would you know whether a dover sole goes better with an off-dry Riesling, a full-bodied Pinot Blanc or an Austrian Grüner Veltliner? There just is no answer to this question as it mostly depends on how you intend to cook the fish and, in particular, what sauce you are going to serve with it (the same goes for meat, btw). What I think works best is to think about the different elements of your dish, how they will taste and what type of wine could go with it. You are serving a rich, creamy sauce? A rich and creamy Chardonnay could be a good partner. Or you are going for a roast game bird with herbs - why not have a lighter Pinot Noir with toasty aromas and herbal notes? Your wine merchant should be able to help you here. And the Wine Rambler has a few suggestions too, for instance about scallops, avocado and sparkling wine.
Silvaner time again. After our Silvaner appreciation campaign last year, we were not planning to keep quiet about it in 2010. But it still needed Lukas Krauß engaging defense of the grape here to put it back on the immediate menu. Based on the river Main north of Würzburg, in classic Silvaner territory, Rudolf May is making his Wine Rambler debut today (he must be so nervous...).
When german Riesling is praised for its "finest perfume of fruit supported by a lightweight frame", it would seem that its ever-delicate balance must be so fragile that it would never survive contact with heavy, savoury food. Not so. To realise what Riesling can do with Sauerkraut, black pudding and liver sausage, you need to have tasted this classic german pairing* (do not, I repeat do not, take the Wine Rambler's word for anything).
For this, you need a Riesling that is dry rather than fruity, steely rather than floral, firm rather than ethereal. You need, in short, a dry Kabinett from the Pfalz. You also need good Sauerkraut and freshly made (raw, that is) sausages, of course. In what may simply be a local tradition or may have deeper and more sinister reasons of carnivore logistics, Munich butchers offer these every Friday.
Even if you do not know very much about pairing wine and food you might have heard that wine merchants often recommend Riesling with Asian or other spicy food. Or you might have come across a few wine labels that had similar suggestions. While certain wine labels do praise a wine as compatible with pretty much any food ('This wine goes well with salads, chicken, fish and various meats.'), there is indeed a connection between some spicy food and Riesling, especially sweeter Riesling. I will not exhaust this topic tonight, but I will give an example (with recipe) to illustrate how and why sweet (Riesling) and spicy (food) can go together, based on what may be the most important rule of food and wine pairing: match a wine with the sauce (not with the meat). So here it comes, a semi-sweet Riesling from the Mosel and pasta with a chilli-carrot sauce.
Christmas time, a time of peace, quiet reflection and many calories. The Wine Rambler's Christmas was no different, just add a few more extra calories from lovely wine to the mix. And because combining the food and wine was such a joy, I am going to share some of it with you now. It all started with a sea bass in salt crust with a dry Muscadet, which was a pleasantly light way to kick off the festive food and wine season. After that I felt the need to be more robust and moved on to braised oxtail:
Certain ways of cooking fish and shellfish just cry out for a clean, light and crisp dry white wine - especially if you bake a whole sea bass in a salt crust. This is an excellent way to celebrate the delicate flavour of fish and it works well with a range of fish, including sea bream. Just put a little pepper and some herbs into the fish and then cover the whole fish in a dough made of salt, water and perhaps a few egg whites. This seals in all the moisture and preserves the delicate flavours of the fish. Serve the fish just with a bit of olive oil, pepper and salt, perhaps a little lemon and enjoy with very simple side dishes, perhaps just a few slices of white bread.
And make sure to select a wine that will not overpower the fish - I find a dry Muscadet works very well in this context.