This week we’ll discuss a wine that pairs well with spicy foods, but first, have you checked out the new Community Bulletin Board on my web site www.brucecochran.com? It’s a place to announce your upcoming events and other news of interest to Arkansans who love wine, food and travel. I’m particularly interested in helping fundraisers for non-profit organizations, but all are welcome. If you’re in Little Rock on September 11 you can meet a California winemaker and enjoy food and wine, of course, at Cheers in the Heights’ new “private kitchen” where I recently celebrated my 50th birthday. So send in your announcements—via email please—to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Try a new wine this week!
Some people consider Germany’s Riesling to be the world’s greatest white wine grape variety. While others might pick chardonnay, I do have to say that in my years of teaching wine courses, it’s the Riesling that gets the most pleasantly surprised response.
It’s a versatile wine because it comes in many styles. Sweet, dry and in between, plus various German sub-regions have differing types of soil and minerals that give each a subtle individuality.
But grow this grape in a different climate and you really get a different style. Grow it in California and the result is often a wine tastes great with spicy foods, one of the more challenging matches in food and wine.
The reason is mostly a different climate. Riesling grows best in cool climates, which tend to preserve the crisp, tart fruit acids. Grow it in a warmer climate and the result is often a fuller, softer wine, whether it’s made in a dry style or left with some residual sugar.
Both of these aspects—lower tartness or a little sweetness—can contribute to California Riesling’s spice-friendly nature. Additionally, since it rarely receives much if any oak aging, the wine retains a certain delicacy and fruitiness that makes it even better with many Oriental dishes, lightly prepared fresh seafood, mild cheeses, or just a glass of wine by itself.
And not only is it food friendly, it’s people friendly, too. I enjoy serving it in groups that include both experienced wine lovers and people who are new to wine.
Monterey County is one part of California that is cooler than most, due mainly to the closeness of the Pacific Ocean’s cooling breezes. The geography is such that these breezes are channeled inland to cool the vineyards. There’s still more sun during the growing season than in Germany, but not too much for Riesling grapes.
I tried a Riesling at Cajun’s Wharf in Little Rock called Night Owl that retails for $10-$15 a bottle. The style to look for is off-dry, with fruity, appley flavors, and a bit of palate-cleansing acidity but less than their German cousins. Jekel is a good name to look for, as is Mirassou.