I think that sometimes we get a little too precious about our wine pairings. Too focused on the ‘perfect’ pairing. Too fussed on which days are ‘ok’ to have a glass of wine (or two!) with dinner. Blah blah blah. Now I’m not saying I drink every night—sometimes one wants a break; sometimes one wants to drink something not wine (*gasp*) and that’s all a-ok too. But I recently cleaned out my wine cellar and dedicated one whole section to ‘weeknight drinking.’ Meaning, any day of the week either I or the man should be able to walk in and choose something and it should be fine. Choose something based on the food, the mood, the weather. Close your eyes point and say ‘ok.’ (Um…maybe not that last one…).
The following is a list of some of our weeknight pairings. These are not reviews of specific wines/wine brands per se. More my/our comments on styles of wines that, for us, seem to par well with classic Briscoe mid-week meals. The perfect pairings? Probably not? But, isn’t the perfect pairing the pairing you’re enjoying at the moment anyway? (Answer: yes.)
Fun fact: the word pecora in Italiano means sheet. The grape is so-named because in its traditional home of Marche and Abruzzo, the sheep would eat these petite grapes right off the vine. If you’re studying your WSET, the Diploma (D3) text makes a note that “[t]he wines tend to be high in alcohol (e.g. 14.5% abv) due to the low productivity [of the grapevine].” Not so in the case of this bottling that, which maintains a nice, light 13.5% ABV.
We paired this with our octopus salad dish, inspired by one of our trips traveling through the Mediterranean. The man par-cooks the octo in a bath of aromatics and then grills it to smokey perfection on our outdoor grill. Meanwhile, I roast fingerling potatoes which are then tossed in a mixed green salad along with fresh scallions, grape tomatoes, and a homemade citrus vinaigrette.
What we loved about this pairing? Pecorino has a naturally high acidity that cut through the meatiness of the octo, brought out the lemon zest, and cut through the sweetness of the honey (inside the vinaigrette) as well as through the pillowy puffiness of the potatoes.
A few tasting notes: fresh herbs such as sage and time, lemon-lime, green apple and pear. Despite that high acidity, that medium level of alcohol allowed for a truly smooth mouthfeel.
Hounds Tree 2015 Cabernet Franc
This one is a bit specific because I am quite specific about my Cabernet Franc. I think some folks wrongly assume it’s an ‘easy’ grape to grow and make—just not the case. Even the US’s East Coast ‘hot spot’ for CF has poor expressions. So, you have to know your producers. Enter Hounds Tree—a new for me brand hailing from North Fork, Long Island.
We paired this with an all-time classic in our house: salmon salad. Grilled salmon served over a salad of mixed greens, fresh strawberries, scallions, and feta tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette.
Our tasting notes: blackberry jam, plum compote, bramble and plum skin with an aura of green herbs like tarragon and basil and black tea along with a subtle line of earthy, wet forest-floor. Healthy dose of acid highlights those fresh fruit and herbal elements. Smooth, fine-grained tannins add backbone and structure without drying out the palate. There’s a judicious, subtle use of oak that gives this wine an added elegance. Tastes like an Old World wine.
Another of our fav pairings for that same dish is a light, crisp, super dry rosé from Provence. The delicacy of the fruit flavors allow the strawberries in the salad to really pop. The higher acid cuts through the natural fattiness of the fish as well as the tartness from the feta. And let’s not forget the natural herbaceousness that is found in the wines of the South of France—perfect pairing to any light salad in general.
Gavi di Gavi
I’m going to steal some of my own writing for this section. In this WSET D3 review for the region of Gavi, I wax on poetically about how much I love the region. You can read the full post here. Good news, I wasn’t on some kind of studying high. I really do love the wines of Gavi.
Do you ever find that something just strikes you when you’re studying? Maybe a grape’s origin story, the history of a wine region, or maybe you just like the way a word sounds. It strikes you, and you are just able to memorize it for no other reason than you just fancy it. That’s me and Gavi di Gavi. Just seeing that phrase, hearing it, saying it out loud, it always brings a smile to my face.
Taste with me. Dance with me.
Is there anything special about Cortese? Not necessarily. According to our text she’s a high-yielding variety with light intensity and typical light-white-wine aromas and flavors. She’s thin-skinned, but Gavi takes care of her. Located inland, but in proximity to the sea, Gavi provides cooling from altitude as well as from marine breezes. This means Cortese can have a long growing season, maintain her acidity, her pale complexion, her delicate aromas and flavors. Sure, there are many “basic” examples produced, but there are producers who love Gavi and care for the Cortese grape, taking her through pre-fermentation maceration to enhance her complexity—some producing expressions that can even age in bottle; those making Riserva must age Cortese in any vessel for at least one year.
Cortese di Gavi DOCG is made from 100% Cortese. Wines made from within the municipality of Gavi itself are the wines bestowed the name Gavi di Gavi. And that just makes me happy. And so we taste. And we dance…
The delicate oak in this expression gave the wine enough body and weight to match the meatiness that is a Chilean seabass fillet. But the wine maintains a high level of acidity that perfectly cuts through the fish’s natural oils. We served the fish on a bed of wilted spinach (because we were trying to be healthy, I guess) with a side of roasted cauliflower.
Perfect Music Pairing
If you’re not familiar with the pet nat style, I highly suggest you take a look at this article I wrote for Sonoma Magazine.
Pétillant naturel wines are light, typically dry sparkling wines produced from a single fermentation in the bottle. The result is often compared to beer or cider. And, as I’m not a huge beer fan, I often turn to pet nat when I want a lower abv alternative to my typical wine indulgences. You don’t get the bready, yeasty notes as you would with Champagne or Champagne style wines. The best, in my experience, come from grapes with a natural high acidity and an overt varietal character that can be maintained throughout the fermentation process. Like, Grenache Blanc. The bottle below was produced by my winemaker friend Cindy Cosco, owner of Passaggio Wines. Of course I highly recommend her expression, but I also encourage you to go out and taste around—different producers will certainly create different expressions of this very unique wine style.
I totally enjoy this wine style with spicier foods—think Indian or Indian-inspired cuisine. These are meals that I would ‘probably’ pair with beer. (Or even just sparkling water or a diet ginger beer—two of my favorite NAs.) But for those who want to imbibe in something different, grab a pet nat and go.
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