Archive | February 2015

Irancy: a red with rustic charm from Burgundy

Today, I’m paying homage to one of my favorite restaurants in Paris: Chateaubriand. This past summer, I had one of the best meals there in a very long time – seared veal served with chanterelle mushrooms. I will try to recreate this dish and of course I will put my own twist on it. And I have the perfect bottle of wine for this meal! Irancy from the Burgundy region of France, made by Nicholas Vauthier. Vauthier is known for his low intervention winemaking style. For the “La Croix Buteix” he adds the smallest amount of sulphur once the wine goes in the bottle. His wines are produced under the label Vini Viti Vinci. This Irancy “La Croix Buteix” is from 2012. La Croix Buteix refers to the climat, or the particular plot of land on which the grapes are grown.

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Burgundy is famous for its fine and delicate reds made with the pinot noir grapes. It is also famous for producing very expensive wines, such as the grand crus from Gevrey-Chambertin and Vosne-Romanée (and especially the Romanée-Conti, which holds the #1 spot on my wine wish list.). Irancy, while while made with pinot noir, can be blended with up to 10% Cesar, which gives the wine more body and character, creating what some might call a charmingly rustic wine :).

Yet, the Vini Viti Vinci “La Croix Buteix” is still on the light side, not only in terms of aromas but also texture and taste. The tannins are more noticeable than a typical pinot noir from this region and this is due in large part to the addition of the Cesar grape. The tannins are balanced nicely with some refreshing acidity. Due to the natural wine making style, both the taste and the aroma are fruit driven – particularly berries, cassis, and cherry. This is a very interesting wine: you get both sweet and tart fruit notes simultaneously. There are also some spices and pepper (another characteristic of the Cesar grape). Even though this is a fruit dominant wine, there is a little bit of earthiness and minerality (especially flint). Overall, this is a very nicely balanced wine with enough body to give it good aging potential.

It has a beautiful red color, which is another characteristic from the Cesar grape:

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I think veal will pair very nicely with Irancy. A bolder red would overpower the flavors of the veal as it is milder in taste and texture than beef. At the same time, veal has bigger flavors than some of the lighter meats, such as chicken, so it needs a heartier wine than a delicate pinot. In this respect, Irancy, bolstered by the rustic Cesar grape is perfect.

I’m going with veal chops. This cut will not only add more flavor to the dish but also richness, which the acidity of the Irancy will balance nicely. For my veal, I really would have preferred rosé veal. I could not find it. The veal that I’m using is, however, still European sourced.

(Sidenote: The flavors and texture of veal can be quite variable based on whether the animal was milk or grass fed, whether it was allowed to roam, and how young it was slaughtered. That, along with the cut of meat and the cooking method can greatly affect the choice of wine and some might call for a glass of white or a rosé. In this case, because I am serving grilled chops from an older calf that was not confined in crates, a red wine that is not too delicate is a better choice. If Irancy is not available, a bolder pinot or even a Médoc would also work nicely.)

I will serve the chops with onions, rhubarb, and shimeji mushrooms. The onions will add sweetness to the dish, while the tartness of the rhubarb will lighten up some of the flavors. Even without taking the wine pairing into consideration, the interplay of sweet and tart flavors with veal add so many layers of flavor and complexity to the dish. Just delicious!

And especially with this Irancy, these flavors in the food will also echo and highlight the sweet and sour fruit aromas in the wine, which I find to be an interesting and nice characteristic of the wine. As such, I want to bring this characteristic a bit more into the spotlight. Finally, given the hint of earthiness in the Irancy, and the addition of the shimeji mushrooms will also bring out and enhance this earthiness.

I prepared two versions of the dish: one with a sauce and the other without. The sauce is super simple. I just added a bit of stock and butter to the pan drippings.

Here’s is the dish without the sauce:

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And with the sauce:

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I initially wasn’t sure whether the sauce would overpower the wine so I wanted to try the wine with both versions of the dish. However, because the sauce is not too bold in flavor and not too rich, it worked well with the wine. At the same time, it added yet another layer of texture to the dish and enhanced the flavors of the veal. In my opinion, the sauce was a winner!

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Prosciutto three ways and a bottle of Friulano

I’ve been holding on to an Italian bottle of white for more than a year: “Adricatico” by Bastianich, made from the Friulano grape. The vintage is 2011. It’s time to open it and pair it with the some food 🙂

This Friulano is a medium bodied white from Friuli, in the northeast of Italy. It is characterized foremost by pear aromas as well has some floral and herbaceous hints. It has good acidity and, typical of some Italian whites (and especially the Friulano), it has a slightly bitter finish.

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The color is such a rich golden hue.

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The classical pairing with Friulano is prosciutto. Prosciutto and Friulano work well together for a number of reasons. Prosciutto can be quite salty and demands an acidic white to lighten up the salty taste. While the taste of prosciutto might be salty, in terms of flavors, it is quite delicate. These delicate flavors require a wine that will not overpower them. Finally, the mild hint of sweetness in the prosciutto is just what’s necessary to balance the bitter finish in the Friulano.

So with the Friulano, I will be featuring prosciutto throughout the entire meal. I’m putting it on my crostini appetizers, adding it to my asparagus salad, and topping my pizza margherita with it. I will also add some sweet element and creaminess to each course to best complement the wine.

For my crostini appetizer, I first caramelized some onions and then sliced some figs (it’s not fig season so I reconstituted dried figs in hot water). Then I smeared toasted baguette slices with labneh, which is a middle eastern creamy spread – you can easily substitute mascarpone, ricotta, or even burrata or mozzarella. I then topped the bread with either caramelized onions or figs. Given the bitter finish in the wine, you need a hint of sweetness to balance it. Both the onions and the figs work wonderfully as that balancing factor. The final ingredient in the crostini is crispy prosciutto. Super simple to make – just bake some prosciutto slices in the oven for about 5 minutes. They become super crispy and the flavor gets really concentrated. Scrumptious!

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The next dish in the meal is an asparagus salad. Along with artichokes, asparagus has a reputation of being one of wine’s chief enemies. Here are some key wines to avoid if asparagus on the menu: tannins (which pretty much rules out all reds) and heavy, oaked whites (like most and especially California Chardonnays). What asparagus loves is fresh and acidic wines, herbaceous and grassy flavors, and highly aromatic wines. Herbaceousness is especially an important quality in a wine when paired with asparagus. Because asparagus is such a green food, (meaning it is high in certain vegetal compounds like chlorophyll), you need a wine that echoes these flavors. Otherwise, you’ll end up with wine that tastes bitter and even metallic. Alternatively, when the wine echoes these green qualities, the flavors of the wine actually get enhanced and enriched. The first wine that comes to mind is anything made with the sauvignon blanc grape. Friulano, while less well known than the sauvignon blanc, also fits the bill perfectly! Friulano is in fact known as sauvignon vert in some regions and is related and similar to the sauvignon blanc grape. And especially with the Friulano, the slight sweet taste of asparagus is definitely a plus.

For the salad, I simply boiled some asparagus, cut it into smaller pieces, drizzled some olive oil and topped it with some scallions and prosciutto.

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If you wanted to serve a different salad with a Friulano, a caprese would also be a great match, with or without the prosciutto (but obviously better with the prosciutto). The acidity of the wine works well to balance the richness of the buffalo mozzarella. At the same time, the herbal flavors of the wine go great with the basil. The tomatoes not only match the acidity in the wine but also their sweetness really improves the wine’s flavors, similar to the asparagus, caramelized onions, and the figs.

Since I already have the asparagus salad on the menu, I will go with something else that incorporates all of these flavors in a more hearty main course: pizza margherita. I made the typical pizza margherita and as soon as it came out of the oven, I topped it with prosciutto.

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All of these dishes were great with the Friulano! Just the dishes alone had a nice balance between salty and sweet and between creamy and crispy textures.

There was also a perfect balance between the wine and the food. The wine’s acidity nicely balanced the salty tastes and creamy textures in all of the courses. The subtle flavors in the wine allowed the prosciutto to shine, yet without being too subtle to get lost in the meal. And finally, the sweet elements in the prosciutto and the food also nicely balanced the flavors of the Friulano. In the end, whether you’re concocting a dish or doing a food and wine pairing, it’s all a balancing act 🙂