Monday, January 24, 2011

This Wine & Food Pairing: A Saturday Afternoon 20 Years in the Making

When a generous friend recently offered to liberate a wine from his collection more than 20 years old, I quickly accepted and in turn described what dishes might pair well.

Lunch on a sunny January Saturday in Atlanta, GA would serve as good as time as any to bring a 1990 Chateau de Beaucastel, Cotes du Rhone, Coudoulet de Beaucastel to the end of its time traveling journey. I often mention that this kind of drinking best approximates time travel. It's the embodiment of a message in a bottle - a liquid postcard from the past and from France no less.

What We Expected

Quick explanation of the wine label: Chateau de Beaucastel comes from the appellation (wine district) of the Southern Rhone Valley, Châteauneuf de Pape. The more precise the location in between the formula "Appellation + location + Controlle", the higher the standards the wine is required to meet to earn the right to use its provenance in the label. Moving on.

Chateau de Beaucastel is perhaps the quintessential blended wine. With 13 varieties of grapes allowed, the winemaker has the ability to craft a unique and distinct interpretation of the soils and climates of the region. The wine consists mostly of Grenache and Mourvèdre (30% each) to form the heart and soul of this wine.

What We Tasted

We opened the bottle about an hour before drinking it as one should do with a bottle trying to breathe for the first time since 1990. See my previous post on the wrong way to aerate wine. We also gently decanted the wine into a carafe exposing it to more air to get properly acclimated. With a little bit of time spent here the wine's aromatics and flavor profile get to their fullest expression - in enough time to enjoy it with the food.

I thought the wine was a classic. Wonderfully perfumed nose that smelled like cloves, nutmeg, leather, and other spices. In the mouth: real notes of berries, cherries, some herbs like sage, some tea, and a finish that's best described as, "pour me some more".

What we Paired

My friend did most of this heavy lifting with this dish; notably the grilled chicken and vegetables/onions. This was served with my sides consisting of a winter salad of persimmons, shallots, and pomegranates next to a serving of kale braised in coconut milk. The wine harmonized with the earthy-ness of the chicken and accentuated the sweetness of the coconut and winter salad. It truly was a wonderful way to pass a Saturday.

Try it. Find yourself a recipe (soup perhaps). Make it a day in advance if need be. Invite a lucky companion over for a Saturday afternoon to contemplate the effects of good food and good wine on life and friendship. Can't go wrong here.
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