Summer Heat with a refreshing Vinho Verde

Food pairing with Vinho Verde

It’s hot. I mean, Vegas Hot, which is like someone opened the oven in your face when you walk out the door. A little breeze? Yeah, that feels like they turned on the blow dryer. We acclimate, but often you just need something refreshing. So you sit in the air conditioning pour a glass of Vinho Verde and ask Alexa to play ocean waves. If the fan is on in the living room you can pretend it’s an ocean breeze.  Here, I pulled up a bit of sunset from off the Pacific Coast highway to put you in the mood.

Well tonight is the night for that getaway. The Vinho Verde is chilling in the fridge and I have put together a menu to compliment it.

Vinho Verde. It means “green wine” or rather “young wine” by intent. This wine is meant to drink in the first year. And while the name indicates that it is a young wine, the name actually stands for a region in Northern Portugal, where these wines are made.

Espiral Vinho Verde

Vinho What?

Vinho Verde. It means “green wine” or rather “young wine” by intent. This wine is meant to drink in the first year. And while the name indicates that it is a young wine, the name actually stands for a region in Northern Portugal, where these wines are made.  You can learn more about this region on the Wines of Portugal site.

What grape do they use?

Most often Alvarinho and Loureiro, but also Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso, and Azal, among others. So, as you see, the variety and range can be wide.  Still these wines are typically made in a similar style.

What’s that fizziness?

Yeah, it’s kinda effervescent. At least sometimes. Originally this was because the bottles would still be fermenting a little after they were capped and that locked in some of the CO2. Now…well honestly, it’s often added. But regardless, it does make it refreshing.

So what are you eating it with?

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Seafood is always a good bet. A meatier white fish or something fried. We are having fried Calamari and Mahi Mahi burgers. It goes well with green vegetables, so I’m going to have a salad with some avocado (a little fat that the acid in the wine will cut through). Creamy rice dishes and potato dishes also pair well, so we will be doing a brown rice and quinoa blend with onions, butter, lemon juice and zest and some parmesan cheese, and latkes. I think arancini balls would be great with this too. We will taste it with Salmon, smoked trout, goat cheese and a parm/gouda blend also.

Now…about the wine.

This Vinho Verde is from  Espiral.  The wine is bright and when I close my eyes I can feel sea spray flying up from where it is crashing on the wet rocks (there’s my mini vacation). In my mouth it fizzes and opens with a bright tangy citrus. It’s lemon pop without the sweetness or the tartness of “Fresca” (who remembers Fresca?) without the bitterness. It’s joyful as well as thoughtful. The initial sip brings a smile that almost erupts to a giggle and then melts into a quiet moment of savoring, like closing your eyes to capture a moment at sunset on the beach. That…that is what is here in this glass, that balance of euphoric joy and a content sense of peace.

What did it bring to the food?

The calamari was fine. This is such a typically pairing that it was good without sending off any bells and whistles. The Latkes, now that was another story. The potato and onion had such richness and the lemon and acid in the wine cleaned your palate for the next bite. I could have continued eating this combination all night. Our salad of greens would have been fine alone with the wine, but add the avocado to give it some creaminess and fat to cut through, a little goat cheese for some tang and a vinaigrette of lemon juice, olive oil and thyme and the pairing had real depth in each bite. The Mahi Mahi had a lemon butter sauce  of lemon juice, melted butter salt, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and fresh thyme.   The weight of the fish and the lemon butter were perfect and the fresh thyme added this bit of unexpected depth that all played very nicely with the wine. Our grain was brown rice with quinoa to which I added butter, lemon juice, lemon zest and grated Parmesan cheese. Again, the creaminess and the lemon were perfect with the wine, the creaminess balanced the acid and the lemon popped back in to match. So like contrasting and complementary colors, these flavors pulled from different sides of the flavor wheel to make for a happy mouth.

Vinho Verde with Mahi Mahi, brown rice, avocado salad, calamari and latkes

We also tried it with a smoke salmon and a smoked trout.  The salmon was fine (kinda like the calamari).  I did notice that the flavor disappeared at first and then slowly returned to fill my mouth.  The trout on the other hand was really wonderful with the wine.  Being smokier it felt richer than the salmon and complimented the lemon and mineral nature of the wine.  This was an unexpected happy mix, inland creeks longing to return to the sea.

What I learned about pairing with Vinho Verde

Lemon, lemon, lemon

….that punch of lemon in your dish will reach out for the wine and want to dance.

Something richer and creamy

Then add a little creaminess, some fat to cut through, like the butter and cheese in the rice or the goat cheese and avocado in the salad. Or the richness of the potato and onion in the Latkes.

Fried is good

This wine is great with things that are fried, the salt and fat coat your palate and the acid and fizziness of the wine leave you with a clean slate for the next bite.  (like the calamari and most definitely the Latkes)

Seafood is a really good bet

The Mahi Mahi paired nicely because of the weight and the sauce.  A lighter fish I think would have disappeared.  Any fish that is not too delicate should go nicely.  I would like to try it with Swordfish or monkfish. Shrimp is also supposed to be a good bet.  With the minerality…I am also wondering about shell-fish, clams or fresh oysters.  Maybe I’ll try that next time.

Thyme, the unexpected harmony

Most recipes called for basil or parsley and while I can see that, I didn’t have any in the fridge.  I was left with Rosemary and Thyme as my options.  I went with Thyme.  As I added it I was wishing it was a lemon thyme to accent those fragrances, but in the end, I think it was better as it was.  The depth of fragrance really was an unexpected harmony to the meal.  This earthiness, a bit of forest, maybe again it’s that “land meets the sea” creating a balance.

I wrote about Vinho Verde once before and had a different pairing then.  You can check it out here:  Pairings at the Keyboard! Vinho Verde

Stop back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  for more on wines and pairings and for stories of winemakers in winecountry.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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Wine Pairing: Cod, Clams & roasted citrus avocado salad with a 2012 Esprit de Tablas Blanc. 

Steamed Clams with Butter and Herbs

I was going through our wine selection trying to find a wine that I could find a great pairing to go with. So I went through our Tablas Creek Wines. The great thing about Tablas is that they set you up for a great wine pairing.  They have a vintage chart on their site, so you can see which wines are ready to drink. Tablas Creek does mostly Rhone varieties in the French style, so most of their wines are meant to age. I found a 2012 Patelin de Tablas in the rack in the dining room that was ready to drink and found a recipe and pairing ideas on the Tablas site (yep, they usually have one or 2 recipes to pair with each of their wines, as well as some additional suggestions…it’s really foodie heaven).

There was a fish with fennel recipe and suggestions for citrus avocado salad, fish with tropical salsa and Mussels or clams cooked in butter and wine. We determined we would do the citrus avocado salad, fish with tropical salsa and the clams. We thought we would go to whole foods for a good citrus selection, but since I wanted clams and I wanted them to be easy, we stopped first at Trader Joes.

Foodies might be appalled, but while I wanted clams, I didn’t want the worry of cleaning them, so we picked up a box of TJ’s steamer clams, which are frozen and have an herb butter sauce already. We picked up some frozen Alaskan Cod, a mango, limes, a red bell pepper, a red onion, Meyer lemons, blood oranges, a Minneola, arugula and mint. I had an avocado at home from the farmers market. This was probably a Zutano or a Pinkerton avocado and it was a little different from the well-known Haas. It was smooth skinned and green with a pear like shape with a smooth light flesh.

Cooking

So now it was time to cook. We started by making the salsa, dicing ½ of the red pepper, the mango and ½ of the onion then squeezing the juice of 1 lime over it and seasoning with salt and pepper. Mix this up early if you want and toss it in the fridge to let all those flavors meld.

Next we sliced up our citrus into rings. In retrospect I could have sliced them thinner. They get tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and go in the oven at 425 for 10-15 minutes to roast and caramelize. While they were in there, I tossed my arugula and some fresh mint together and mixed a dressing of small diced red onion and the juice of 1 Meyer lemon.

We started the clams at this point and Michael seasoned the cod. The box of clams went into our preheated pan and then instead of the water called for on the box, I went to add the white wine… only it was red. Silly me…I saw the label and didn’t look to see if it was the white or red Patelin de Tablas. So, Plan B…I grabbed a bottle of 2012 Esprit de Tablas Blanc and tossed in a bit of that.

Michael got some butter (by that I mean almost a stick) going in a skillet and added the cod pieces, these cooked while I sliced the avocado for the salad and pulled the citrus from the oven to top it. Last the dressing of Meyer lemon juice and onion went on.

The Wine Pairing

The fish was plated and topped with our salsa and we were ready to eat! Our wine pairing wasn’t what we originally expected, but we enjoyed the Esprit de Tablas Blanc with dinner and then enjoyed a glass of the Patelin de Tablas after. While the Patelin de Tablas Blanc would have potentially made for a better wine pairing with the mango salsa and with the citrus salad, the Esprit went very well. The difference? The Esprit is a blend of 75% Roussanne, 20% Grenache Blanc & 5% Picpoul Blanc, where the Patelin Blanc would have been 52% Grenache Blanc, 27% Viognier, 16% Roussanne & 5% Marsanne. That Viognier would have lended itself nicely to the tropical salsa, but regardless the Esprit was wonderful with it!

The fish and clams were delicious. The salad…the peel and pith were a little bitter. Perhaps if I had sliced these more thinly, it would have soaked up more of the olive oil and been a little sweeter, less chewy and caramelized a little more. It was beautiful though and the mint and arugula were nice with it.

All in all, this was a pretty simple dinner. It took us about 35 to 40 minutes total, but that was with shooting while we cooked. You could multitask and complete the whole thing in about 20 minutes.

So dive in! A fantastic looking dinner doesn’t have to take hours in the kitchen; in fact the best stuff usually is simple and cooks up pretty quick. And even an accidental wine pairing can turn out to be delicious!

À la Vôtre!