Wine Pairing Advice From World Class Winemakers
Exploring the World of Adult Beverages With Professional Guidance
I turned 21 this year; I'm officially of legal drinking age and haven't been able to enjoy the fruits of my labor. The only alcohol I've been exposed to would be Bud Light and boxed wine if the occasion were fancy. But something is alluring about the wine world-the drink of fallen kings and Greek mythology hero’s.
“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”
― Ernest Hemingway
Wine in the modern age is a symbol of dignification and class. Gone are the giant mugs sloshing with wine while people bustle and feast around ancient tables.
Now, I hear whispers of Rieslings and Pinot Noir, Moscato, or Chardonnay, but I couldn't even tell you the color of most of them.
This holiday season, I've resolved to liven myself up. No longer will I stare at someone blankly when they ask my wine preference. No longer will I look at the other restaurant guests to know how to pair my food and beverage.
“Compromises are for relationships, not wine.”
– Sir Robert Scott Caywood
And since I'm making this change and it's my first holiday season without my family. I've also decided to transport myself mentally to New Zealand.
Where its summertime, and the days are filled lounging by the lake and grilling barbecue. On Lake Wanaka with the wine enthusiasts. I can think of no one better to tell me what to eat and drink than Nick and Jo Mills. The two craft beautiful and decadent wines at Rippon (the 13th highest ranked winery in the world.) The two were kind enough to share their suggestions with me and create the perfect Christmas in New Zealand (mentally, at least).
“In 1975 Rolf Mills, the third of his generation on the family farm, started to plant a series of experimental Vitus Vinifera.”
Located on the beautiful Lake Wanaka sits Rippon winery. With cutting edge agricultural practices and stunning views. This land has curated life-changing experiences since the early 1970s. People come from all over the world to have their weddings and other adventures on the shores of Rippon.
The history of Rippon is wholesome. The land is family-owned and has been since 1912. The family holds great respect for the enchanting land. Stating outright that their main interest is to preserve and make the most out of it.
"A small, but important island of hard rock, sits out in front of the site where the vines are planted. This “Roche-Moutonee” has been left by the ancient glacier and is not only the centrepiece of Rippon’s view, but also a buffer against the harsh, prevailing Nor-West winds."
Rippon and the land it sits on is majestic. Even the stone that protects the precious vines is rich with intrigue. What a perfect place to take a mental vacation and enjoy some of the best flavors in the world.
The Perfect Afternoon Pairing
"Riesling wine has a colorful German heritage. Today, it has emerged as one of the most collectible white wines among top connoisseurs around the world."
Riesling wine is known for having an intense aroma featuring fruit profiles like nectarine, apple, and pear. The white wine is very citrusy with lime or lemon elements, ending with a hint of bitterness. Riesling wines are also one of the best wines to pick up the petroleum or wax scent.
"This aroma is one of the few aroma compounds that is almost non-existent in grapes and increases in wine as it ages. The wines noted with the strongest petrol-like aromas come from warmer vintages because the compound develops as grapes are exposed to sunlight."
"Hieronymus Bock mentioned Riesling in his delightful graphic book Herbal written in 1546. By this time Riesling had already been mentioned in various estate record books for nearly 100 years under the name Rießlingen."
Riesling wines are served cold and on the sweeter end of the spectrum. The sweetness is needed to counteract the acid with levels similar to lemonade. This wine has colors ranging from pale white to a darker yellow; Rieslings are very refreshing and crisp on the palate.
When Jo mentioned this to food to me, I thought she was referring to a drink. She called them a "Kiwi classic." Imagine my surprise to learn the Kiwis are the New Zealanders. Named after a native flightless bird that has become a symbol for the country.
"New Zealand whitebait can only be fished for a few weeks at this time of the year (mid-September to mid-November) and there are strict rules and regulations. They are the most expensive and prized New Zealand seafood."
The Whitebait Fritter tradition is also one native to New Zealand, where seafood is abundant and fresh. The Whitebait fish is eaten whole, bones and all, and normally consumed as a snack or appetizer lining a barbecue platter.
Why the two work so well together:
Riesling wine is bright and acidic, making it a refreshing addition to the savory fritter. Sip on the wine and savor the fritter, enjoy the crisp texture of the fish batter, and then cleanse your palate with the citrus wine that compliments the seafood flavor.
“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
The balance of acid and sweetness, combined with the wine's crisp coolness, makes an invigorating and refreshing experience. Combine that with the delicacy that is the Whitebait Fritter, and you will be experiencing some of the best flavor profiles the world has to offer.
The Best Dinner Pairing
Domaine Chevrot "Sur Le Chene" Maranges 2015
This Pinot Noir is made using grapes grown on the Burgundy hillside. France has a powerful stronghold in the wine world, but the Burgundy subsection cultivates a unique soil profile and climate that results in a selection of diverse and delicious wines. Pinot Noir is one of the few red grapes commonly made into red, white, and sparkling wines. Every bottle is its own adventure.
This wine is very fruity as well. But not in the more citrus way that the Riesling was. This wine features sweet red fruits. The raspberries and cherries of the world. It's known for being very aromatic and pleasurable on the nose.
"The mouth is dense, explosive of very ripe red fruits, mixed with a tannic and mineral structure which structures the wine until the finish. "
This wine is darker and unfolds onto deep red cherry and cranberry on the palate. You can taste a hint of the oak wood used to age the wine, and there are underlying spicy elements. Some wine connoisseurs were able to detect some chocolaty notes as well. The Domaine Chevrot "Sur Le Chene" Maranges 2015 is usually aged 10-50 years before it is consumed. A truly handcrafted delicacy.
Savory and Sweet
"As one of the wine world's most versatile, food-friendly red wines, Pinot Noir brings the rich fruit flavors of strawberry, cherry, and raspberry to the glass often in a mix of warm spice and earthy undertones."
For dinner, Jo recommended venison backstrap, asparagus, and new season potatoes, but since I have no deer lying around, I decided to swap that for chicken. To spruce up the meal a bit and enhance the Pinot's earthy flavor, I also added mushrooms.
You can't go wrong matching the sweet wine with the savory and smokey chicken flavor. The earthy elements of the mushroom and grassy flavor of the asparagus highlight those flavors in the wine as well. The oak becomes more prominent, and the spicy undertones bubble to the surface.
I've learned that wine is a good way to add some excitement and adventure to your meals. There's another layer of depth when your drink is designed to enhance your meal and vice versa. It can go as deep as you want it to. Wine is a drink for the college kid looking to get wasted and the mom soaking in her tub after a long day.
“Wine is one of the most complex of all beverages: the fruit of a soil, climate, and vintage, digested by a fungus through a process guided by the culture, vision, and skill of an individual man or woman.”
― Neel Burton, The Concise Guide to Wine and Blind Tasting
Wine is for wine critics, makers, and cultivators. Wine is at the top of socioeconomic circles, and it can be found at the bottom. Anyone can find a way to implement a chilled glass or something aromatic and room temperature into your life. It relaxes you and lowers your inhibitions. Creativity and conversation flow freer without the world's rules to confine it.
Thank you to the Mills family for helping me learn and guiding me along the way. Suppose you find yourself in need of an adventure. The kiwis on Lake Wakana are sure to show you a good time.
“[I]t is the wine that leads me on,
the wild wine
that sets the wisest man to sing
at the top of his lungs,
laugh like a fool – it drives the
man to dancing... it even
tempts him to blurt out stories
better never told.”
― Homer, The Odyssey