Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Simplicity of Meat, Bread and Wine

It is nearing the end of April and at last I got the chance to get out to the garden to do the usual spring cleanup. I started off a bit late this year because we were completing a kitchen renovation and a face lift for the family room (more about that and its associated frustrations in a future post) and because of business travels. Although I was stiff and sore and a little sunburned as well, it felt good to be out in the sun again after the long, cold winter months.

But after a hard day’s work there are few things as nice as a relaxing barbeque on the porch, watching the sun set and a few sips…glass or two, from a bottle of good wine.

In recent months I have increasingly focus on finding and buying French wines. The reasons are twofold: I am reading up more about France, its tourist attractions, wine regions, etc., because we are dreaming about a vacation there in the near future, and secondly, with a favorable Dollar/Euro exchange rate lately, more affordable French wines are appearing on wine shelves. Buying French and Italian wines are not always easy because of the foreign language label, the fact that they do not sell their wine by cultivar and the fact that I do not know the French terroirs that well. So I can’t always tell what exactly I am buying. But that is part of the fun, isn’t, not knowing what you will drink until you open it. And, how else will I learn about their wines without buying blind and tasting it. After all, I am not buying in the $50+ a bottle range. Well, sometimes, but when I buy to try I am a strict $20 and below guy.

I recently purchased a few bottles of French wines, mostly reds from Bordeaux (familiar style because South African blends are similar and they are more readily available here), from Burgundy 2 whites and 2 Pinot Noirs and a red each from the Côtes-du-Rhône and Languedoc-Rousillon appellations.

(Right: The clay and limestone soil of the Lirac appellation.)

[Personally I think South African winemakers during the 1960 have made a slight miscalculation on the long term to so faithfully copy, on a large scale, and to persist until today, with Bordeaux style blends. This prohibited the development of a unique South African blend that could have served them well with their re-entry into the world wine market after 1994. The Australians saw such an opportunity with their Syrah (or Shiraz) and South Africa could have promoted their unique Pinotage to the same level. I know it is being done now more often but it will take years if not decades for wine writers and drinkers to establish a Pinotage-based blend as a wine with the same reputation as a Bordeaux or a Chianti. Well…I doubt it will ever get to that standard but at least to the Syrah-based blends.]

I will readily admit that I am not very familiar with wines from the Rhône appellation. That is apart from the South African version Goats do Roam in Villages. It is my understanding that many of the Rhône reds are not always barreled and that most are associated with Syrah or Grenache or a blend thereof.

So with a few lamtjoppies on the grill and a semi-homemade Mediterranean focaccia warming up in aluminum foil I opened a Chateau de Ségriès Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge 2008 and was pleasantly impressed with this $10 wine.

The vineyard at Chateau De Segries

Chateau de Ségriès is owned and operated by Henri de Lanzac and his family since 1994. The Chateau is located in Lirac, on the western side of the Rhône River just across from the more famous Chateauneuf du Pape appellation, and northwest of the once-upon-a-time-papal-city of Avignon. The soil at Chateau de Ségriès is a mix of clay and limestone. The clay keeps the soil warm, pushing ripeness and concentration, while the limestone contributes mineral vibrancy and aroma. Mature Grenache and Syrah vines, on average 30 years old, ensure that the wine coupled with low yields account for the deep color and concentrated black cherry flavors.

2008 Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge is made from 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Cinsault and 10 % Carignan. Only 10% comes from spending a short time in barrels. The rest matured in stainless steel tanks.

The wine is dark red in the glass with lots of fruit and vanilla on the nose. In the mouth it is full and surprisingly round and smooth for a young wine. Tannins are light, and it ends off mildly peppery and spicy on the tongue. Here is the surprise for me: It doesn’t taste like a French wine, more American or Australian, certainly New World style, medium-bodied, easy to drink and it will compliments most meals, not just meat dishes. Hence, the wine was a good companion for the lamb chops but an even better companion for the rich and vibrant Mediterranean tastes of the toppings on the bread.

Now, the focaccia I used, bought at a local grocery store, is not the sometimes crispy-on-the-outside and chewy-on-the-inside kind you get in Italian restaurants and then dip in olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar, but an already baked, one inch thick flatbread topped with a little parmesan cheese and mildly flavored with either garlic, olives or jalapeno chilies. The one I use was garlic flavored, but too bland for my taste and I then topped it with the following layers:

- ½ cup of Cucina Toscana Kalamata olives bruschetta (excellent stuff), but any tomato-based bruschetta with do
- Thin slices of tomato
- Garlic and onion powder
- ¼ cup of Paesana’s exotic marinated mushrooms in oil (drained on kitchen paper and chopped) or any other marinated mushrooms
- A hand full of sliced black olives
- More shredded parmesan cheese
- And finally, lots of fresh basil strips and some dried rosemary and oregano
The bread comes in an aluminum foil pan and I just cover it with more aluminum foil made into a tent, and then put it in a lukewarm area on the grill, away from the chops, where it slowly warms and melt the cheese while I grill the chops.

Sometimes, a simple meal of meat, bread and wine is the best meal you can have.


Boer said...

Lekker inskrywing van jou (in meer as een opsig). Ekself is lief vir Cotes-du-Rhone, hoewel die bestes van die streek gewoonlik 'n prys het wat nie my beursie pas nie. Ek hou baie van die erg peperagtige karakter van die streek se wyne, in teenstelling met die swaar, alkoholiese Shiraz-wyne van die Nuwe Wereld (veral Oz).

NS: Dankie vir die resep!

BluegrassBaobab said...

Ek stem saam. Sommige Australiese en veral Spaanse wyne kan baie swaar wees.