Grapes, No Wrath
If sommeliers directed diplomacy, a good time might be had by all, feuding countries too.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
The ’80s band Tears for Fears said it best: “Everybody wants to rule the world.”
Which means not everybody gets along. Ask the Israelis and the Lebanese. Or the French and Germans. Relations aren’t exactly warm and fuzzy between Argentina and Chile, the U.S. and China, or Portugal and Spain, either.
If only resolving a geopolitical problem was as easy as sitting down to enjoy a good meal, sommeliers could be renowned U.N. diplomats. Maybe, then, there’s hope: Food-and-wine pairings across contentious borders indicate maybe that’s not so impractical a possibility. Here are some such pairings that give hope for world peace:
Since France invaded Prussia in the 18th century, both countries have feared attack from one another – but because of Germany’s cold weather, France held off. The Treaty of Versailles and construction of the Maginot Line, which was built in the 1930s, stopped German tanks from entering, but was eventually crossed in 1940. And after WWII, relations have been flat-out weird.
But when the beausoleil oysters from Biarritz, France are served with a glass of the 2010 Hans Barth “Charta” Riesling Troken ($23.95 at www.trulyfinewine.com or 877-264-WINE) from the Rheingau region of Germany, life is groovy. Since oysters have umami, they can be tough to pair with wine. They demand minerality and acidity.
This winery, founded in 1948 and one of the smallest growing regions in the world, has that covered. The grapes that go into this bottle come from steep hillsides, are hand-harvested and fermented dry. The aromas of blossom, citrus, and peach are likely to make Riesling haters rethink their animosity.
South American Collaboration
It’s funny how Argentines and Chileans argue about land rights, considering that both fought to gain independence from Spain. The Beagle Channel (1978) dispute was resolved in Chile’s favor, but the Vatican had to get involved. So, it’s no surprise that they’ve been on the brink of war several times – the last being 30 years ago.
For a moment, they should forget about that to focus on sips of the 2010 Couquena Torrontes from the Cafayate Valley of Argentina ($17.99 at Southern Latitudes, 622-7652, www.solawines.com). This extremely aromatic and floral varietal behaves like Sauvignon Blanc, but is fatter on the palate and goes well with Chilean seabass – but that’s unsustainable. So, serve “cadillo de congrio,” a traditional fish stew that’s great after surfing a cold day at Chile’s world-class break, Punta de Lobos.
East-West Gets Appetizing
During the Cold War, the Chinese government brainwashed people into hating Westerners (particularly the U.S.). Differing views on human rights don’t make for great table talk either.
Nevertheless, the 2010 Calera Pinot Noir Central Coast ($21.99 at winery 637-9170, www.calerawine.com) goes well with Peking duck. The Pinot-with-duck marriage defines the phrase “text-book pairing,” and may be enough to provoke references to 2004 film Team America from cultured Chinese. Imagine shouts like: “America, F%$! Yeah!”
Over at Calera, they take the hands-off approach and let the characteristics of superior Central Coast vineyards (Talley, Doctor’s, Lone Oak… ) to express themselves in diplomatic ways. The ample acidity and ripe red fruit aromas co-exist as they please the palate.
Middle East Middle Ground
A lot of Israelis and Lebanese don’t get along because… a lot of Jews and Muslims don’t get along – but both countries have tons of cool people. It’s hard to explain why things are the way they are, but it would be easy to pull the cork on a bottle of the 2001 Chateau Musar Cabernet Blend, from the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon and available at Epic wines for $35 (277-1937). Serve it with Israeli-style roasted lamb over Israeli couscous. The nuances of spice and forest floor dance, while the wine’s body holds its own with the powerfully pungent characteristics that lamb offers.
Because of the Treaty of 1977, the Spanish were allowed to enter Portuguese waters to fish. That didn’t go over well with the Portuguese, who love to fish. On top of that, the two countries have one of the most intense soccer rivalries of all time. Just recently, in 2010, after Spain beat Portugal 1-0 in the World Cup, the Spaniard fans streamed over the border to celebrate victory. Portuguese supporters ended the celebration by hurling rocks.
But when the 2009 Grahams Port ($59.95 at Carmel Cheese Shop 625-2272), is poured to go with Spain’s “Pastel de Chocolat” (chocolate and almond cake) there’s nothing to argue about. The peacemaking pairing is not a bomb, it’s the bomb.” In 2009, the weather was perfect for growing Port’s predominant wine grape: Touriga Nacional. Grahams, one of the best Port producers to ever dominate bodega life, knows a thing or two about arresting fermentation with brandy by way of residual sugar. Since desserts are sweet, serving wine that is sweeter is highly recommended. The Porto is a slam-dunk. If the Portuguese and Spanish sat down to witness this life-altering pairing, they might even meet halfway to say, “de nada.” In case the phrase isn’t familiar to readers, it means the same thing in both languages, “You’re welcome.”
PAUL WETTERAU is a sommelier-surfer. Visit paulwetterau.blogspot.com for tasting notes and epiphanies.