February 16, 2009

Weekend imbibage

After the quick tasting of Antica Terra Pinot Noir and Lillian Syrah on Friday evening, I went home and opened the 2004 Neudorf Pinot Noir Nelson. This New Zealand red wine comes from the lesser known, here in the US anyway, Nelson region on the very north end of the south island.

At first the wine seemed overly vegetal, somewhat remeniscent of older Monterey county pinot noir before that region in California got things together pinot-wise. It wasn't bad, just underwhelming. I probably shouldn't mention that I found myself again pairing pinot noir with unadorned steak. When will I learn that's not a good match?

Saturday was Valentine's day, so we had what turned out to be a lovely rose Champagne with dinner at home. After the overly dosaged NV Drappier "Brut" last week, this NV Henriot Brut Rose was just the thing. Bright, lithe, nervy with pretty but restrained red berry fruit and that telltale chalk of Champagne. This won't make me forget Lassaigne, but it's far closer than the Drappier.

The beauty of Champagne is that it pairs with almost anything on the dinner table, maybe even steak. The pinot noir in the blend of this Henriot was excellent with our soft polenta and mushroom ragout. Yet I saw the leftovers of the Neudorf calling for another chance, so we poured a little of it as well. Sure enough, the vegetal notes now seemed more root-like and gamey, with the earthy meal bringing more savory fruit out of the wine. I loved it.

We should not doubt the importance of food/wine pairings, even if paying such attention to them takes the wine geek to another level of disdain in most people's eyes. I can't deny it. My concern about what wine goes with steak is pretty small stuff in our world. Yet on a cold winter night, when I do have a modest home and the means to scoop up close outs at the discount outlet, it's real to me.


Paul said...

Vincent, for me it is ALL about the pairings. I generally won't order a bottle of wine in a restaurant if they have either a) a decent glass list or b) a tasting menu with pairings. There is just too much to be missed by pairing the right wine with the wrong food and vice-versa. This should be a universal truth and restaurants that aren't with the program need to be.


Vincent Fritzsche said...

You're absolutely right. I became a wine geek years ago and wasn't interested in food/wine pairing, beyond the obvious. I think my reaction to wine foodies was similar to others' reactions to wine geeks - boredom. It just seemed so frivolous. But food and wine pairings, obvious as it might be to some, are truly important and life affirming stuff. It took me some time to get to that point, so I understand how others aren't there. I'm just glad I made it.