Thursday, June 23, 2016

Pairing Wine with Ceviche

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Raw fish is always challenging to match with wine. Ceviche can be even more difficult as it has citric notes from splashes of lime and often—these days—a healthy hint of soy sauce on unique, Asian-inspired takes on the classic dish.

High-acid dishes often pair best with similar wines or those that are completely different. Best bets might be cool-climate whites from Northern Spain, Chile or Portugal or total opposites, such as highly oaked California whites.

Chiles that are often in the sauce that dresses ceviche or spicy dipping sides can also pump up the volume on flavor intensity and make pairings more difficult. The better Peruvian ceviche places often leave the lime on the side so guests can increase the acid levels as they like while they are eating.

A Restaurant’s Perspective
LaMar has long been one of my favorite Peruvian restaurants in San Francisco. They work with Master Sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji on fun and often challenging wine pairings from the restaurant’s mostly South American- and Spanish-focused wine list.

“Acid in wine is the key element to pair well with our food as it contains varied spices and high acid sauces that necessitate a high acid wine.” He adds that because of the spice factor, he likes to "use high-acid wines like [Spanish] Albarino and Godello from Galicia or Verdejo from Rueda.”

The types of raw fish that are used in ceviche can also make a major difference in terms of the right wine choices. “Texturally speaking I try to pair the wine to match the richness or meatiness of the fish. If the fish is of a delicate character, I try lighter wines like Albarino or if they are rich then wines like Sauvignon Blanc or unoaked Chardonnay,” said Kemiji.

He even had a very detailed list of ideal wine varietals that would pair well with different fish. They include tuna with Pinot Noir; salmon with Chardonnay; crab with Riesling; shellfish with AlbariƱo; and sole with Rueda.

In terms of Kemiji’s pairing insights the Alpha Zeta Soave 2014 from the Veneto would probably be great with a range of raw-fish based dishes. Its steely minerality will excel with the citrus notes and offset onions and other alliums in the dish.

Another idea might be the Bonnet-Huteau "Les Laures Granite de Vallet" Muscadet Sevre Et Maine Sur Lie 2012 from France’s Loire Valley. This wine is made from 100 percent Melon de Bourgogne—which is typical for this wine region that is close to the Atlantic. Its crisp citrus notes and buttery and mineral flavors on the plate will work well with a wide range of raw fish. It also runs fairly low in alcohol so it won’t generate heat in the mouth when savored with a ceviche and is not likely to overwhelm the parings.

Another great choice would be the Mesta Verdejo 2014 from Castilla y Leon, Spain. These lean and clean northern Spain pairings tend to excel with most seafood preparations.

Also some great Northern Italian whites will savor with these types of dishes. Italians, along the continental, have long known how to pair wines with local seafood. The mineral and cool fruit notes of the Icardi "L'Aurora" Cortese 2009 from Piedmont and its bright acidity would be lovely with a ceviche dish. Other classic Piedmontese wines, such as Arneis, would also probably be suburb.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.
Photo Credit: La Mar

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Wines for Father's Day

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Even dads who have seen it all want to be surprised once in a while and that special day in June is a great time to do it. My father only drinks Champagne, and gimlets, so he's a tough cookie to buy wine for. Hopefully your dad is a little more flexible, so let me give you a few ideas about how to surprise him on the 19th of June.

Cool and refreshing wines are a delight in hot weather across the country. So give him something with fizz, such as Billecart-Salmon Extra Brut 2006 (Champagne, France) . It is a great vintage that you rarely see on the market these days. I am also a great fan or the cherry, berry flavors in roses such as Canard-Duchene Brut Rose NV (Champagne, France), which is creamy, elegant and structured and a bargain for its price point. Another sparkling and even more affordable choice would be the Henry Varnay Blanc de Blancs Brut Sparkling Wine NV (Loire Valley, France).  The Loire Valley has always been home to so many beautiful wines that are so delicious on their own as well as with food. This wine has toasty notes that would make it well-suited to porch sipping with some mixed nuts.

For the Red Wine Dad
If your dad likes to spice things up Malbec is always a great direction to go in. Its zesty and pepper-driven flavors make it great with BBQ and spicy foods. Bodegas Renacer "Punto Final" Malbec 2015 from  Argentina is a great value and comes from very old vines, if you want to impress a wine-geeky dad. Malbecs are also great to grill with meat as they are the classic wines of Argentina and pair so well with everything from short ribs to steak and even blood sausage.

If your dad is a big Cabernet Sauvignon kind of guy go for some classics. Tannic reds can go beautifully with the burnt exterior of grilled meat. The   Liberty School Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 is a great example of what this super-diverse wine region near the Central Coast of California can do with great grapes and climate. The area also makes some divine blends and Rhone varietals as well.

Another great choice for grilling and summer sipping, when it is not too hot, is Zinfandel. The sweetness of ripe tannins in this wine, combined with its generally high alcohol level, makes it soft on the palate and so approachable with meat. Amador County, just a few hours outside of San Francisco, is making some great examples. The Mountain View Amador County Zinfandel 2013 is an incredibly fruit-forward wine that will benefit from a little air before you drink it.

If your dad likes his big reds Old World, there is nothing better than an earthy and intense red from France's Rhone Valley. Ferraton Pere & Fils Crozes-Hermitage "La Matiniere" 2012 is a big, intense wine made from 100-percent Syrah with lots of red fruit and currants on the nose with soft herbal undertones. Cheers to dad whatever kind of wine he enjoys!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Pairing Wine with Fermented Food

By Liza B. Zimmerman

I have loved Kimchi since I was a kid. I think I may have been Korean in a past life. Almost every single dish of delicious fermented vegetable goodness Korean have served me at table I adore. However there's a reason that Koreans have long consumed beer and soju with their native food: these intense and spicy flavors are challenging to pair with wine. The same goes for the recent nationwide love of picked vegetable plates that are often served as side dishes.

Crisp and fresh wines from a range of cool-climate regions are likely to work best. "Avoid oak. Be conscious of your acid and spice. Look for your wine pairing to provide the inverse. If the food is mega spicy, find something with some sweetness," advises Josh Nadel, the beverage director at the New York-based NoHo Hospitality Group.

Whites are generally going to be your best bets with spicy, pickled dishes of all kinds. Alsace is a great region to start with as its whites tend to have distinctive acidity and great mineral notes. They are also often lower in alcohol levels so they won't generate heat in the mouth when paired with fermented dishes.

"With fermented foods, pairing with the acidity is paramount. I look for round and ripe whites, and depending on the spice and acid level, some residual sugar. The ripeness of Alsace wines, and the opportunity to select from multiple, moderate to lower acid wines, makes these wines a perfect match," said Nadel.

The bracing acidity and moderate alcohol level of the Willm Gewurztraminer Reserve 2014 make it a great choice. Other good whites might include aromatic Northern Italian whites such as the esoteric Kerner. While the Kofererhof Alto Adige Valle Isarco Kerner 2007 may be difficult to say its delicious in a glass. The grape was bred in the 1920s by crossing the Riesling and Trollinger grapes and was named for the German poet Justinus Kerner.

Careful With Oak
Oak-aged wines will not shine with fermented dishes like kimchi or pickles, unless they are fried. Once you fry just about anything all regular food-pairing bets are off. "Oak and fermented foods do not mesh,"  confirmed Nadel.

Fresh Sauvignon Blancs, be they from California or Chile, would be good matches and are rarely oaked. The Mahu Sauvignon Blanc 2015 would work well as would the Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc. White Bordeaux are likely to be too acidic and Loire Valley whites might be just to tart to meld with pickled flavors.

Reds in general are tough to pair, particularly tannic ones, said Nadel. Earthly reds, like those from the Rhone Valley or the Loire would also be less than idea. Perhaps a fruit-forward wine, such as a Sangiovese or even an Argentine Malbec, could stand up the flavors of fermented cabbage and other vegetables. However the higher-alcohol levels on these wines could run the risk overwhelming the dishes' vegetal flavors.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.