Food and Wine Pairing: testing and tasting the theory

Tasting the aromatic wines of Riesling and Gewürztraminer with spicy foods in the comfort of home has been a plan for some time.  It’s a follow-up to my wine and food pairing comments in the April elizabethsvines.

Selecting wine for a wine tasting and especially a wine and food pairing is an adventure! Somewhat constrained by availability of choice yet an enjoyable shopping expedition!

It’s fun in the BC Liquor Store checking out the choices and having sidebar conversations with other customers about our individual wine selections!  People are curious about the idea of the food and wine tasting!

Two objectives are at the root of this food and wine pairing: to confirm the pairing of Chardonnay with a rich, creamy food choice and then to evaluate Rieslings and Gewurztraminers with spicy food.   With the aromatic wines, I also want to consider   different wine regions.    The Rieslings and Gewürztraminers  include wines from Alsace and Germany; I also include a British Columbia wine.   For the Chardonnay, I include one from my current go-to local Chardonnay wine maker, Meyer Family Vineyards in B.C.

Here’s the list of wines to be tested and tasted in the order of tasting.

 1. Chardonnay: Meyer Family Vineyards, Chardonnay Okanagan Valley 2017, McLean Creek Road Vineyard, Okanagan Falls, B.C. Canada. 13.5% alc./Vol $28.80

2.Riesling: Schloss Reinhartshausen, Riesling 2017, Rheingau, Germany.   11.5% alc./VOL $23.99

3.  Riesling: Trimbach Riesling 2017, Ribeauville, Alsace. France  12.5% alc./VOL $33.99

4.   Gewürztraminer: Pfaff Gewürztraminer 2016, Pfaffenheim, Alsace, France 13.5% alc./VOL   $21.99                                                                                                                                             

5.  Gewürztraminer: Tinhorn Creek, Gewürztraminer 2018, Oliver,(Golden Mile sub region) B.C. Canada 13.5% alc./VOL $17.88

 

In my April blog, I quote the famous American cook, Julia Child and her advice to be fearless, try new recipes and above all to have fun. I take this to heart in planning this whole food and wine pairing exercise.   Her comments influence my menu selection too.

To accompany the Chardonnay tasting, I make one of my personal recipes of chicken breasts poached in white wine and chicken stock with sautéed shallots.   The sauce is made by adding cream with a teaspoon of Dijon mustard to the reduced wine and chicken stock broth.   I always slice the chicken breasts when cooked and serve on a heated platter with the sauce poured over the top of the chicken slices. This is a favourite dish, simple to make and always delicious.

The challenge is in choosing a chicken dish that would be spicy and also manageable to prepare and keep warm while the first chicken dish is being enjoyed with the Chardonnay.

After a nostalgic and interesting time reviewing various recipe books in my collection, I rediscover the SoBo Cookbook my husband bought me after a visit some time ago to the SoBo Restaurant in Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

To my delight,  I find a recipe that I feel is appropriate: Thai Chicken with Peanut Sauce.   The chicken thighs are marinated for 24 hours in a special sauce from the recipe and then the cooked dish is served with a Peanut Sauce also included in the recipe.   This Peanut Sauce is amazing, lasts up to 2 weeks in the fridge and I continue to enjoy it with items like avocado long after the Thai Chicken is finished!     This Thai Chicken with Peanut Sauce dish seems to have to right amount of spiciness to taste with the aromatic wines without being “over the top”.   I enjoy making the recipe and encourage checking out The SoBo Cookbook.

Something to cleanse the palate between the two chicken dishes seems like a good idea and a salad is selected as an entremets.   As it turns out, the salad is eaten after the two chicken dishes rather than in between and is perfect  – oh well! one has to go with the flow!

Here’s how the menu lines up:

  1. Sliced, poached chicken breast with cream and white wine sauce. (Personal recipe).

Entremets: Arugula with Parmesan Reggiano Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette, which includes lemon juice, lemon zest, Dijon mustard, olive oil, mayonnaise, Parmesan Reggiano, salt and pepper.

  1. Thai Chicken with Peanut Sauce (The SOBO Cookbook – Recipes from the Tofino Restaurant at the end of the Canadian Road: Lisa Ahier with Andrew Morrison and photography by Jeremy Koreski, Random House 2014).

Vegetables for both dishes: small roasted potatoes with sea salt and fresh rosemary from the garden, steamed asparagus.

Raspberries and Blueberries with a dash of Grand Marnier and cream.   Lindt Chocolate (90% and Sea Salt)

Manchego Cheese

In terms of process, we taste all the wines first and then taste them again with the food.

The Chardonnay is in a class of its own as it is chosen for the creamy chicken dish.   It is enjoyed for dryness, citrus, biscuity notes and really comes into its own and is very good with the chicken and cream sauce and demonstrates that this grape is well suited to rich and cream based dishes.       The Alsace Gewürztraminer is also enjoyed with this chicken dish.

In the tasting of the four aromatics, the Rheingau Riesling is a stand out with its acidity, floral style and characteristic slightly petrol aroma.   It is the most popular of the aromatics and is very well suited to the Thai Chicken and also with the Manchego cheese.

The Alsace Riesling is less defined than the Rheingau but good with the fine fruit characteristics of pears and apricot.   It is also well suited to the Thai Chicken and the Manchego.

The Alsace Gewürztraminer is considered a versatile wine. The characteristic nose of lychees, violets, mango, slight curry, ginger is delightful. This is also enjoyed with the Thai Chicken and the Manchego cheese.

The B.C. Gewürztraminer from Tinhorn Creek is a bit of a puzzle to begin with as it took some time to open up to its full Gewürztraminer characteristics.     Its honeyed, fruit forward spiciness made it a particularly good selection with the salad.  We also wonder if we could taste a hint of sage brush, as this is a characteristic herb in the area.   This suitability with the salad was quite a revelation as salads are typically difficult to pair with wine but there is enough sweetness in the vinaigrette that it worked.

All the aromatic whites were enjoyed with the fruit salad and chocolate.

In terms of a popular vote for the four aromatics, the German Riesling and the Alsace Gewürztraminer were the most popular and the others two were enjoyed also.

The geographic areas of the wine growing areas is interesting to note and the impact on the individual terroirs, that magical mix of climate, soil, drainage, sunshine, and aspect that makes such a profound difference to the expression of the grapes in difficult locations.

Alsace is in the N E corner of France, in a valley between the Vosges Mountains and the  Rhine River, which is the boundary with Germany.   Alsace was part of the German Empire for a period of time after the Franco Prussian War but returned to France at the end of the First World War in November 1918.   The area is known primarily for Riesling and Gewürztraminer.   The Vosges Mountains cast a rain shadow over the wine growing area which results in low rainfall and a continental climate.  The soils range from sandstone in the foothills to clay rich limestone on the plains.

The Rheingau area of Germany is near Frankfurt.  At 50’N it is at the northern edge of Europe’s wine belt.  The climate is cool and continental and the soil type differs throughout the area so there is great diversity within the region.  Over 80% of the grapes grown are Riesling.

The Okanagan Valley in British Columbia is between the Columbia Mountains and the Cascade Mountains, which together protect the valley from both the maritime influence of the Pacific and the frozen Arctic winds.  It has a continental climate and mainly sand and clay glacial soils which are well drained. It is a semi-arid area with some areas experiencing very high temperatures in the summer. The vineyards are typically on the hillside of the valley.  There is great diversity of terroir, especially with respect to mesoclimates represented in 5 subregions:  Black Sage/Osoyoos,  Golden Mile, Kelowna, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Falls.  This diversity of terroir results in a wide range of wine styles being produced.

The great diversity in wine growing environments highlights the  skill and knowledge needed by wine makers to maximize the wine growing potential of their individual wine regions.

As a result of the tasting and wine and food pairing, I now feel that I will be more inclined to select either a Riesling or a Gewürztraminer in a restaurant if choosing a spicy meal and it confirms my inclination to choose a Chardonnay to balance a rich creamy sauce as in the example of the Chicken with White Wine Sauce selection.

The benefit of a wine and food tasting event, however small, is that it expands wine tasting horizons and encourages us to be curious and try different wines and foods.   It’s also fun!.

Julia Child would be proud of us!

References:   Alsace and German wine area maps from the WSET course material.

Bergerac Wine Region, SW France: Lessons in Wine Tourism

Caro Feely walks through the Marche de Noel in Saussignac with her usual friendly and confident air.

We smile and greet each other.  I congratulate Caro on her recent important win in the world of wine tourism.   Chateau Feely, of which she is Co-Proprietor with her husband Sean, is one of the 9 Gold Trophy winners in the first French National Wine Tourism Awards: Trophées de l’Oenotourisme.  Chateau Feely won Gold for the Category: Education and Valorization/Recognition and Valuing the Environment.

This trophy award is significant as it puts the achievements of Caro and Sean at Chateau Feely on the national scene.   With their January 2020 inclusion in the Forbes Travel Magazine list of 5 best places to learn about wine, they are now on the international map.    This is tremendous recognition for their hard work and commitment.

In addition to the sale of their organic and now biodynamic wines, Chateau Feely situated in the village of Saussignac, part of the Bergerac Wine Region, offers the visitor a broad repertoire of activities and events.   Wine and Spirit Education Trust wine courses, the organic/biodynamic learning and education trail through the vineyard, ecologically built holiday accommodation are available.   Wine tours and events such as wine harvesting days, the wine club and recently added yoga lessons taught by Caro, a qualified yoga teacher, round out the vacation experiences.   There are also Caro’s three books providing a personal and entertaining insight into their experiences at Chateau Feely over the years.

I ask Caro if I can take her photo and write about what Chateau Feely has achieved in my blog.   She is happy with both suggestions.

I’ve known Caro since about 2007.   When we first met Caro and Sean, with their two young daughters, they were starting to make their way in the wine world in this beautiful part of SW France with their wine farm on the edge of the small village of Saussignac, about 20 mins from Bergerac.

Sean focuses on the farming side of the enterprise and Caro, with her background in marketing in the world of technology, moved the business forward in terms of visibility.   Her leadership skills of focus, strategic thinking, perseverance, entrepreneurship and commitment to action have all contributed to where they are today.

Saussignac, this small village of about 420 residents, resting in the shadow of the 17th Century Chateau with 12th Century and earlier roots, is very much a part of the local wine community, having its own Saussignac Appellation for a late harvest delicious wine made by various wine makers in the area.

The village of Saussignac plays a leading role in wine tourism in the area and highlights the importance of community engagement and collaboration.   Led by a dynamic group of local people, the village hosts weekly wine tastings on Monday evenings in July and August presented by a different wine chateau each week. The Confrérie du Raison d’Or de Sigoulès organizes weekly walks in the surrounding countryside during July and August.   The village supports periodic Art Shows, theatre and music productions.   A new restaurant in the village, Le 1500, with its welcoming courtyard, offers delicious and interesting meals.   Le 1500 and Chateau Le Tap, an organic winery adjoining Chateau Feely offer excellent accommodation.

The Bergerac Wine Region has seen a steady growth in organic and biodynamic wineries, certified or following organic farming principles.   I have written about several of them in the past: Chateau Le Tap, Chateau Lestevenie, Chateau Court les Muts, Chateau Monestier La Tour, Chateau Grinou, Chateau Hauts de Caillevel, Chateau Moulin Caresse, Chateau Les Plaguettes, Chateau Tour des Gendres, Vignobles des Verdots and Chateau Feely.

So what does wine tourism mean?   In France, it is interpreted to encompass the countryside, heritage, history, culture, wine of course and all the people involved. It’s a broad perspective.

The objective of the Trophées de l’Oenotourisme is to shed light on initiatives taken by these winning wine chateaux and their proprietors, who like everyone in the wine industry, work hard every day to put in place strong and attractive wine tourism offerings to suit the changing demands of clients and to encourage others through these examples.

The opportunity to share wine tourism ideas is particularly important as the market for wine changes due to various issues including a gradual change in consumption, the effects of climate change on the grape varieties grown in wine growing areas and the positive focus on quality not quantity.  It’s a sector under pressure and the sands of the wine industry are shifting.

This first national award scheme of Trophées de l’Oenotourisme for wine tourism is a collaborative initiative of the French wine and lifestyle magazine, Terre de Vins and Atout France, France’s national tourism development agency.

The list of the 9 Gold Trophy winners is noted at the end of this article.   I have looked at the websites of each of the winning chateaux and found that exercise interesting and informative.  In addition to these 9 chateaux, there are many others throughout France pushing the envelope on wine tourism.

When considering how people choose to spend their discretionary money, it is interesting to look at the world of retail.   It appears people are buying fewer ‘things’ and spending their money on experiences.   This seems to be a trend in vacation planning.   As Caro says: “Our clients are looking for more, that extra something, when they go on vacation, and we provide that through our educational and environmental approach”.

We live in an age of increasing stress with the many diverse demands place on individuals and families.   Mental health is a significant workplace safety and wellness consideration for individuals and organizations.   A vacation in the countryside where one can have enjoyable experiences learning about nature, the environment, benefit from exercise, fresh air, good fresh food and excellent wine sounds like a healing proposition.

What are the lessons one can take away from observing what is happening in the world of wine tourism?   These include:

  • Keeping up to date on trends, particularly about the evolution of the mature wine market.
  •  Learning new skills and expanding knowledge of relevant topics
  • Using technology effectively to communicate with potential visitors
  •  Investing time, energy and money (sourcing development funds where possible) to remain current
  •  Adaptability. **
  • Collaboration and networking
  • Community engagement

To benefit from this awards initiative, one way of looking at these Wine Tourism Trophies and their 9 categories is to see them as case studies of success and adaptability.   In this way, they offer value to students and observers of wine tourism. One new idea can have far reaching results.  In an era of change in the wine industry, these learning opportunities take on greater significance.

Congratulations, Caro!

References:

Here’s the list of the 9 Gold Trophy winners:

Les lauréats des premiers Trophées de l’Œnotourisme:

Catégorie Architecture & paysages –Château de Pennautier (11610 Pennautier), 
Catégorie Art & culture – Maison Ackerman (49400 Saumur), 
 Catégorie Initiatives créatives & originalités – Château Vénus (33720 Illats)
, Catégorie Œnotourisme d’affaires & événements privés – Champagne Pannier (02400 Château-Thierry)
, Catégorie Pédagogie & valorisation de l’environnement – Château Feely (24240 Saussignac)
, Catégorie Restauration dans le Vignoble –Château Guiraud (32210 Sauternes)
, Catégorie Séjour à la propriété – Château de Mercuès (46000 Cahors)
, Catégorie Valorisation des appellations & institutions – Cité du Champagne Collet (51160 Aÿ-Champagne)
, Catégorie Le vignoble en famille – La Chablisienne (89800 Chablis). I googled the chateau names to look at the websites.

 

Chateau Feely                                              www.chateaufeely.com

Chateau Le Tap                                           www.chateauletap.fr

Chateau Lestevenie                                               www.chateau-lestevenie.com

Chateau Courts les Muts                           www.court-les-muts.com

Chateau Monestier La Tour                      www.chateaumonestierlatour.com

Chateau Moulin Caresse                          www.moulincaresse.com

Chateau Hauts de Caillevel                      www.chateauleshautsdecaillevel.com

Chateau Tour des Gendres                      www.chateautourdesgendres.com

Vignobles des Verdots                               www.verdots.com

Le 1500                     https://www.le1500.rocks     (restaurant and accommodation)

Terre de Vins   www.terredevins.com

Atout France     www.atout-france.fr

Forbes Travel Magazine                             stories.forbestravelguide.com