I sat down Sunday night to try some wines with a couple new dishes chef put on the menu for restaurant week. The food is Amalfi inspired and I had thought one of their wines would easily come out on top. Unfortunately its never that simple…
The first dish was a simple chicken milanese accompanied by a chilled arborio rice salad with pees, corn, prosciutto cotto, and caper aioli stuffed into an organic native tomato. The dish has a fun hot-cold contrast and at first glimpse a dry coastal wine would seem appropriate.
For the wines I had open most of the usual suspects plus a couple of new ones:
Max Ford Richter’s “Zepplin” reisling was up first. The wine has a really elegant level of residual sugar probably under what would be a called a Spatlese. The pairing was a simple richness on richness comparison. the reaction is hard to describe but worked well with no ill effects.
Bridlewood’s viognier, which is rather full bodied and low acid, produced a pretty neutral reaction but for some reason I think I noticed the wines high alcohol a little more.
Martin Codax’s albarino tasted thin when all its fruit was stripped away for some reason by the dish. The reaction which was definitely negative did seem to reveal the wines minerality.
Matrot’s Bourgogne chardonnay reacted strangely, and the wine’s oak influence was brought out in a kind of inelegant creepy way. Oak in white wine isn’t summery to me.
White Haven’s New Zealand sauvignon blanc was kind of nice and complementary. The dish brought out the grapefruit in the wine, but I don’t understand why this wine may have worked but not the dry albarino.
Terra di Paolo’s falanghina was dominated by the aioli and like the albarino, may have been too delicate.
So for the dish, the slightly sweet reisling was a complete pleasure and the dry New Zealand sauvignon blanc may have fared better than the other dry wines because of its over the top expressive intensity.
The next dish up was salmon wrapped in grape leaves and grilled then served over what is essentially a chilled Nicoise salad (heirloom tomatoes, hericot verts, olives, onions) with a separated perfectly cooked hard boiled egg. I shared this with some of the other guys so I didn’t get to taste it with all of the wines I had open. What was cool to see is how a lot of the guys don’t enjoy the Zepplin reisling but found it sensational and counter intuitively the best pairing for the dish. I should also note that the dish never read well to me on paper but was really sensational, summery and completely perfect for the hot august evening.
The “Zepplin” reisling when combined with the sweetness and particular acid level of the heirloom tomatoes brought out all the apricot flavors of the wine, but then you noticed the steeliness of the tomatoes on the finish. the results were quite cool. The salmon and especially the smokiness of the grilled grape leaves provided even more sensational contrast to the wine. The fruit just grew in intensity and luckily the sweetness was always manageable.
Matrot’s Bourgogne chardonnay was too heavy and definitely not bright enough in character for the electric flavors of the dish. I was worried about the subtle oak of the wine encountering the egg but it didn’t seem to be a problem.
White Haven’s sauvignon blanc definitely brought some electric intensity, but just provided a strange contrast that didn’t really maximize the potential of the dish.
I didn’t get around to trying the falanghina but others thought it may have been too dry and delicate. Whats seems strange to me though, is how falanghina usually ends up as the only wine that can stand up to big flavors like parsley and pepper flake in a red sauce.
So all in all, we found some stunning matches for the food, but strangely in the same wine. Is there any coincidence involved in the reisling coming out on top or does it reflect a chef’s distinct summer time ethic of how lighter dishes should be balanced?