How to get creative with ramps, fiddlehead ferns, asparagus and more
Spring and summer usher in a new batch of colorful vegetables, some of which throw a curveball when it comes to pairing them with wine. Now is the time to flex your creative muscles! It’s notoriously challenging to find proper wine matches for artichokes and asparagus; however, roasted root vegetables, stewed beans and earthy mushroom dishes lend themselves quite well to wine. From my experience, when in doubt pull out the bubbles, orange wine, sake or sherry.
I’m taking myself back to my days in culinary school, to offer these basic principles for creating great pairings:
Powerful flavors in food and richness call for powerful wines. Lighter food flavors require lighter wines. Spicy, salty, or smoky flavors in food welcome lighter, fruity reds, and off-dry to semi-sweet whites. You can pair food with wine by creating complementary pairings, where the food tastes like the wine (tomatoes with fresh herbs, olive oil, and olives paired with fresh, bright herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc). Or you can go the opposite direction with contrasting pairing where the food and the wine have opposite flavors and textures (for example, roasted asparagus with hollandaise paired with a vibrant sparkling wine).
Another consideration is how the dish is cooked. Roasting and caramelizing brings out the richer, sweeter flavors in vegetables. Steaming or sautéing can keep the flavors light and bright. Braising will bring out some of the deeper, more brooding and complex aspects of a vegetable or legume. Other components in a dish, from fresh herbs to spices, can also affect what you might pair with your vegetable of choice, so consider options at both ends of the light white to dark red wine spectrum.
Ok time to jump right in! Here are some tricky veggies with wine pairings that will almost always work together:
Artichokes: Artichokes are challenging because they contain a chemical acid called ‘cynarin’, which makes everything taste sweeter — especially the wine. To counter this I recommend serving a dry Fino sherry, smooth Soave from Italy, or a vibrant Txakoli from Spain.
Asparagus: A rustic vegetable that contains compounds like asparagusic acid, which, in case you were wondering, is an organosulfur carboxylic acid. Go for something citrusy, herbal and unoaked. For instance, you might choose a Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé from France’s Loire Valley; Grüner Veltliner from Austria; Alsace Riesling; Italian Sauvignon Blanc; or even unoaked Chardonnay, especially from a cooler region like Oregon’s Willamette Valley or Chablis from France.
Avocados: They are rich and sexy, and they work beautifully with voluptuously herbaceous, grassy and fruity whites, such as Torrontes from Argentina, Chardonnay from France or Italy, Albarino from Spain, or Moschofilero from Greece.
Mushrooms: Sure, there are a number of pairings here, but as far as a standouts go, you only need to remember two words and one wine: Pinot Noir. The earthy mushrooms and the fruit of the Pinot make for the “divine” contrast.
Nettles and Fiddlehead Ferns: These are some of the most highly sought after spring vegetables! These special veggies pair well with a soft, slightly fruity white like Pinot Gris from Oregon, Viognier from southern France, or Pinot Blanc from northern Italy.
Ramps: Make sure to avoid wines with a lot of oak/vanilla notes and wines that are super floral. You want a bright wine with green apple acidity and a hint of grassiness, arugula, or pepper to go with the bright, green, funk flavors in ramps. My picks are Friulano or Pinot Grigio from Friuli, Italy.
The enjoyment of thoughtful wine and food pairing comes into play when you have special fresh market products on hand whose virtues you want to showcase and savor. That is the essence of the garden cook’s mission—to capture flavor at its peak. Why stop short of the beverage? By its very nature, no other liquid flatters the earth’s bounty better than vino, so cheers!
A look back at the week that was
This weekend is Easter Sunday, which is preoccupying much, although not all, of IWM’s staff. We finished the week with Garrett Kowalsky’s ode to pork and his picks for pairing with ham (there’s even a poem from a lauded poet). Our go-to wine, coincidentally, would be a find suggestion for this Sunday’s feast; Sean Collins wrote about a$22 Sartarelli Verdicchio so good it makes converts out of red wine lovers.
John Camacho Vidal offered a brief history lesson before picking two Italian Cabernet Franc wines, both from Antinori. Michael Adler looks forward to 2014 Burgundies by selecting a pair of beloved 2013 Chassagne-Montrachet bottles. When it comes to pairing with spring’s tender bounty, Crystal Edgar turns to Umbria’s Castello della Sala, another Antinori holding, for her selections. And Francesco Vigorito has your value Burgundy needs covered with two lovely Pinot Noir bottles, both under $40.
Cheers to you, your family and to spring, however you’re celebrating it!
Balancing fruit and acidity is a challenge–here’s how to meet it
I love celebrating Easter. In addition to all of the religious ceremony, my family celebrates with a feast—a veritable cornucopia of dishes and dressings as far as the eye can see or the table can handle. At the center of it all, as with many families, sits a large, glistening, succulent ham. (A couple of years ago, the NY Times offered a helpful article on how to pick out a good ham.) It’s a tradition, and it makes me very, very happy.
But the eternal question is this: what wine do you pair with a ham? I am glad you asked. Here are a few ideas kicking around my head to bring home this weekend, and one wine immediately popped into my head. The 2014 Sartarelli Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi for under $18. I would be shocked if you had not already heard me sing the praises of the region of Le Marche and what its doing with the Verdicchio grape. In my humble opinion, this remarkably refreshing yet detailed and crisp grape is poised to be the Next Big Thing in Italian Whites.
As for the red selection, you need a wine with bountiful fruit. Trying to combat the savory meat with a tannin-laden wine will end in your cursing the decisions you’ve made. Your bottle should be bright, vibrant and relatively devoid of mouth-puckering tannins. I have picked up a few bottles of the Domaine Faiveley Mercurey 2012 Clos des Myglands for just under $60. It’s dense and rich; juicy raspberries explode from the glass and match the festive mood of the occasion. Velvety tannins work in harmony with the dish to result in an altogether charming experience.
Here’s wishing you all a very Happy Easter. Enjoy the time you spend with your family!
P.S. I would like to leave you with a favorite poem of mine regarding the joys of pork.
ODE TO PORK
I wouldn’t be here
without you. Without you
I’d be umpteen
pounds lighter & a lot
less alive. You stuck
round my ribs even
when I treated you like a dog
dirty, I dare not eat.
I know you’re the blues
because loving you
may kill me—but still you
rock me down slow
as hamhocks on the stove.
Anyway you come
fried, cued, burnt
to within one inch
of your life I love. Babe,
I revere your every
Some call you murder,
then dress you up
& declare you white
& healthy, but you always
come back, sauced, to me.
Adam himself gave up
a rib to see yours
piled pink beside him.
Your heaven is the only one
you keep me all night
cursing your four—
letter name, the next
begging for you again.
—from Dear Darkness
Distinguished Poet and National Book Award Finalist
A tasty under $25 Sangiovese Chianti Classico that’s anything but ordinary!
When you think about Tuscany, you probably think of Chianti, one of the most famous wines in the world. The beautiful Castello di Selvole Chianti Classico 2012 is not your ordinary Chianti. A historic producer whose roots stretch back to 1070, Castello di Selvole embodies the role that Chianti Classico has had in shaping Tuscan identity. This Chianti Classico, which is among my personal favorites, is crafted in a mix of traditional and international protocol; this wine ages in barrique before bottling, where it rests for three months before release. It’s a delicious, evocative Chianti Classico that makes food sing.
As fall is unfolding with its beautiful light and colors, I wanted to make a comforting dish that would be ideal for the crisp weather. The ragù Toscano that I chose to cook is actually the first Italian recipe I learned how to prepare. When I first moved to Italy, one of my good friends named Giovanni was an apprentice chef and shared with me this recipe he originally got from his Tuscan grandmother.
I highly recommend opening the beautiful Castello di Selvole Chianti Classico a couple hours before tasting. The high acidity of the Sangiovese grape is perfect for the tomato-based ragù, and it pairs perfectly. This ’12 Chianti Classico has great balance, and after aerating for a couple of hours, it shows beautifully. Open a couple of bottles of this $25 Chianti Classico, invite a bunch of your friends, and celebrate the fall with my friend Giovanni’s recipe for ragù Toscano.
Ingredients for fettuccine al ragù for 8-10 people:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
2 carrots, finely diced
4 celery sticks, finely diced
One bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley
Three sprigs of thyme
One sprig of rosemary
A few fresh basil leaves
2 bay leaves
2 bottles of Castello selvole Chianti Classico
3 Pounds of ground meat (ideally 50% beef and 50% veal)
2 classic Italian sausages.
Canned peeled San Marzano DOP tomatoes (approximately 70 oz)
3 teaspoons of tomato concentrate
Salt and pepper to taste
In a very large pot gently heat some extra virgin olive oil and add the vegetables, let cook this soffritto for 5 min at medium heat or until the vegetables have softened.
Add some olive oil, salt, pepper, minced parsley, thyme and rosemary to the meat. Mix well.
Add the meat and the garlic cloves to the vegetables in the pot; increase the heat to HIGH and stir well. Once the water released by the meat evaporates, add ¾ of bottle of Chianti Classico. Keep the heat on HIGH to let the alcohol evaporate for approximately 7 minutes.
You can stir gently every 45 minutes. For the last 45 minutes of cooking, you can take the lid off and let your ragù evaporate a little bit to reach desired consistency.
Toss the pasta in a 5-quart pot filled with salted water. Once the pasta is cooked, put it in a large plate, cover with the ragu sauce and add some leaves of fresh basil. You can use long pasta like pappardelle, tagliatelle, spaghetti, or you can use short pasta like paccheri, or rigatoni.
A look back at the week that was
It was a short week, but a sweet one here on Inside IWM. Stephane Menard kicked off the blog in some serious style, setting the bar high with his Go-To-Wine Tuesday post that highlighted Sartarelli 2013 Verdicchio Tralivio with a beautiful recipe for lobster pasta. On Wednesday, we got a history lesson on BBS11, the Sangiovese clone responsible for Brunello di Montalcino. And Thursday saw Emery Long urging you to embrace the world beyond beer as you ready for game day; whichever sport you watch, Emery wants you to pair your wings with wine.
Our experts were similarly powerful. Michael Adler sings the praises of Morey-St-Denis and picked a pair of beautiful Burgundies from this subregion to prove his point. Francesco Vigorito can’t get enough Miani, the cult Friuli estate owned by reclusive Enzo Pontoni, and after experiencing Francesco’s wines, neither will you. And Garrett celebrated the sweetness of this short week with two dessert wines–you’ll love them!
Cheers to you and yours!keep looking »