Tuesday, 16 April 2013

pairing for paella...

After going through the Spanish Rice thought process of my previous blog, I opted for the paella path for dinner. The next step in the process was to pick a paella-friendly wine. As discussed in previous entries, more is involved in food and wine matching than just "red with red, white with white." In the case of my paella, I needed to take into consideration the delicate texture of the seafood, the exotic aromas from the saffron, the high acidity of the tomatoes and lemon, and the spicey intensity brought on by the paprika. What is a gringo to do?

One good rule to follow is to choose a wine from the same region as the food; if centuries of tradition have worked for locals, then it should surely work for me. Since paella originates in Valencia, my first instinct is to look for a wine from that region.  Monastrell (a.k.a. Mourv├Ędre in France or Mataro in the New World) is readily available in our market, but it's full-body, high tannins, and dark fruit character would likely clash with the seafood-based paella. Likewise, the traditional Moscatel de Valencia would be more suited to a dessert, and although widely planted in Valencia, I can't say our stores are abundant with neutral white wines from the Merseguera grape. So much for regional consistency.

Barcelona: Home to the World's Best Chilean Paella

My thoughts then trended toward my first visit to Spain. Naturally, while in Barcelona, I wanted to have an authentically Spanish paella experience. Delicious as the paella was, I was disappointed when, at the end of the meal, I realised we had ended up in a Chilean-themed restaurant.  This memory made me think that if "authentic" paellas can be found in different regions and households, surely different wines would suit the palate as well.
Fortunately for me, I had a few sample bottles open to run another profile taste to see which worked best with paella. On their own, each wine had their own merits and were of good quality for their price. But with paella, here below are the results from my cata de vino con paella:
1) Mitchell "Watervale" Riesling, ClareValley, Australia
Australian Rieslings have a distinctly lime flavour. With the paella, this flavour became even more pronounced. The key here is the acidity tempered the acidity of the tomatoes and lemons as well as the spice from the chorizo and paprika, and the light body of the Riesling did not clash with the delicate seafood components.
2) Undurraga "Sibaris" Carmenere, Maipo, Chile
Maybe my authentically-Chilean-paella-in-Spain experience precluded me to enjoy this combination, but I was surpised that not only this red but also the least expensive of the flight finished second. The tannins of this particular Carmenere were not to strong, the juicy flavour rested well with the spice, and in the end, the minty character of the Carmenere really came out with the paella, yet without clashing with the other components of the dish.
3) Domaine Font de Michelle, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France
With a bit of Mourv├Ędre in the blend, the Font de Michelle was the closest to regional authenticity of the group. Although the flavours generally worked with the paella, the spicy chorizo and paprika brought out the high alcohol in the wine; an overall mediochre pairing.
4) Brocard "1er Cru - Vaucoupin," Chablis, France
Wines of Chablis are generally delicate, and the Brocard is no exception. Beautifully sublime, it became intimidated by the powerful complexity of the paella. Too much going on in the dish, so the wallflower wine cowered in the corner, too afraid to show it's true colours.
5) Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand 
Where the Chablis shied against the paella, the extravert character of the Sauvignon Blanc fought the flavours of the paella resulting in a date-gone-wrong. Too bad, considering Kim Crawford is a great choice for seafood; it just did not work with the tomatoes and saffron.
So, there you have it. I wonder what the results would be for jambalaya, Spanish Rice, or for your own paella-inspired concoction?

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