Saturday, 23 March 2013

why did the adobong pair with the sauvignon blanc?....

Red with red, white with white; the basic mantra we have been taught when choosing a wine for our meal. While this rule is still generally applicable, our modern, multicultural kitchens require more insight into the complexities of food and wine pairing. If fish is white, then where do salmon or tuna fit? If beef is red, what about its baby version, veal? In my last blog, why did the beef-based adobong pair well with a white Sauvignon Blanc? If you are saying to yourself "I don't know; why did the adobong pair with the Sauvignon Blanc?", then let's look at key components to consider when buying your dinner bottle:

The Cutting Edge of Acidity: Acidity in wine has a dual effect on food. First, wines that are high in acid match well with foods that are high in acid. The duelling acids cancel each other out, resulting in more concentrated flavours in both the food and the wine.
          Second, acidic wines (as above) match well with foods that have a high protein or fat content. Think about why you squeeze lemon over your fried calamari or malt vinegar on your chips. The same concept works with wines;

Full of Character: When thinking of the food you are making, choose a wine that has similar flavour profiles. This is particularly true for marinades and sauces. For example, Syrah tends to have flavours of white pepper and herbs (rosemary, thyme), so a rosemary-rubbed lamb would be a natural pair;

The Power of Intensity: Strongly flavoured foods require wines of equal intensity.The timid and restrained Muscadet would be overpowered by a complex and flavourful beef stew, whereas the exotic aromatics of Gewurztraminer has the courage to stand up to the power of a Thai curry;

Sweet on Sweet:  Sweet food requires wines that are greater than or equal to its sugar levels. Cheesecake and Sauternes, Tokaji with Creme Brule, or a personal favourite, Icewine with triffle show that rich, sweet desserts become that much better when matched with the right wine;

Terrific (or Terrible) Tannins: Tannins are a result of prolonged skin contact during fermentation, and are a key component of red wines; the stronger the tannins, the better the wine will match with high protein foods (picture a Cab Sauv with a juicy steak). However, tannins have their downside too: tannin with and spice is nothing nice, making a kiss that is certainly not sweeter than wine. 

With the above in mind and a plate of soy-and-vinegar stewed beef with spicy coconut milk simmered spinach, I decided to play around with not one but seven different wines (for the record, only about 2 ounces of each!) to see which would work best. Here's how things worked (with country and brand in brackets):

Shiraz (Australia - Molly Dooker): Beef with red should work, but in this case, the bold tannins and high alcohol of the Shiraz clashed with the subtle spice of the adobong;
Chianti Classico (Italy - Carpineto): A second attempt at reds, and an "official" recommendation by Filipinos, the acidity of both the wine and the adobong balanced nicely, but this was a lesson in a failure of flavour harmony; Chianti doesn't like to play with soy or coconut milk;
Gewurztraminer (Alsace - Trimbach): Adobong is "exotic," and so are the flavours of Gewurztraminer, but the failure of this pair is Gewurztraminer is a relatively low-acid wine, so the vinegar-based sauce of the adobong resulted in a flabby Gewurz;
Chardonnay (Chablis - Brocard): A lesson in intensity, the delicate and restrained Chablis could not stand up to the flavours of the adobong, but it did work well with the bicol spinach;
Riesling Spatlese (Rheingau - Balthasar): Unlike Gewurztraminer, Riesling is high in acid and should complement the adobong and cut through the coconut milk of the spinach. Unfortunately, the high-sugar Spatlese proved to be too sweet;
Riesling (Hardy's - Australia): Australian Rieslings are distinct from their German cousins; dry with an intense flavour of lime. The green character and acidity matched both the spinach and the stew, but the intensity of the meal was just too much for the wine;
Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand - Giesen): High-acid wine to match the vinegar and cut through the coconut milk? Check. Dry wine with a low-sugar dish? Check. No tannins to clash with the spice? Check. Intense flavours in both food and wine? Check (NZ Sauvignon Blanc is among the most intensely flavoured of wines). Flavour character combination? Check - greengauge notes of the Sauvignon Blanc are slightly reminiscent of spinach and bay leaf (used in the adobong sauce).

And that, dear reader, is why the adobong dinner paired with the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

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