Tuesday, December 22, 2009

That's One Small Step for a Man

One of the things I enjoy most about wine is matching it with food. And when you look at various wine and sommelier programs, courses on wine and food matching are always at the top of the popularity list. For me, learning about matching tastes and textures, intensity and persistency, finding complementing and contrasting matches – it put some structure to something that had been, for many years, either instinctive or simply based on what various experts said was “correct”.

When I took my food and wine matching course (part of becoming a sommelier), one of the things that struck me was that students and instructors who also cooked were much better at coming up with good matches than we winos were. Of course, to do a good job at matching wine with food, you have to know the ingredients, dominant flavours, and cooking method. It makes even more sense that if you put the dish together, you have that much better understanding of those elements.

Now, in our house, we’ve always kept the wine and food duties strictly divided. My wife, Michèle, does the cooking. She loves to cook and she does it extraordinarily well...that’s an understatement. I’ve always been Mr Wine; rarely have I stepped into the kitchen. So when I decided to propose to Michèle that I prepare one meal a week…stepping onto her turf…I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be. (Well, I’m sure you women out there are way ahead of me at this point.) She was thrilled!

So, from time to time in this blog, I’ll talk about dishes that I’ve prepared and the matching wine I selected. Don’t worry; this isn’t turning into some sort of "Julie & Julia" thing.  First up:

Orecchiette Pasta with Artichoke Hearts and Bacon 
There’s no sauce involved here and the dominant flavours are the artichokes, bacon, and cheese. Artichokes are notoriously difficult to match with wine because of their high natural acidity; the fat from the bacon helps offset that acidity. The bacon, garlic, and onion are sliced into small pieces so they tend to lodge into the ear-shaped pasta; all the flavours come through in each bite. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano is stirred in at the last minute.

A light-bodied, low-tannin red with good acidity (Valpolicella or Bardolino) could work, but because of the artichokes, I think no tannins are best. Orecchiette pasta comes from Puglia, so that led me to consider white wine from the south of Italy, maybe Greco di Tufo or Falanghina. But these can be hard to find so I went with something from up north: Collalto Pinot Grigio 2008, IGT Delle Venezie, 13% ABV, made by Azienda Agricola Conte Collalto in Susegana. Aromas of lime, green apple, and pear, then tropical fruit; floral notes and minerality. A cut above the oceans of banal Pinot Grigio that are out there. Medium-bodied and just the right level of acidity for the artichokes. A good match!

Oh yes...the dish was delicious.

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1 comment:

  1. Sounds delicious! I'll definitely try recreating this dish in the near future.