Thursday, January 31, 2013

yet again, dry versus sweet

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Top: 2010 Gustave Lorentz Réserve Riesling | AC Alsace
Bottom: 2009 Reichsrat Von Buhl Riesling Spätlese | QmP Forster Jesuitengarten | Pfalz

Routine is great. I like order in my life ... but then again, I like a bit of chaos too. And so you try to apply that same philosophy to the food you cook and eat. Yes, it's perfectly fine to drink the proper wine with certain dishes - dry, light white wines with your seafood, dark reds with your meats, whatever. But there should also be an element of mystery in food, of wonder and surprise. So when you're serving savoury foods - in this case, seafood - you surprise everyone with a glass of sweet wine. And suddenly the fog lifts, the sun shines through, and everyone around the table starts sighing in pleasure.

A contrast in styles.

When I was young(er) and still heavily involved in piano, I remember this guy I went up against once at a competition. He was about 3 years older than me, and I hated him the moment I met him. I hated the way he talked, I hated the way he played the piano, and I straight-up hated his face. We had completely different styles of playing. Having stronger hands, his whole thing was to pound the keyboard, banking on impressing the judges with waves of sound leaving little to subtlety or nuance, while I was the polar opposite, favouring a more delicate, structured approach - his sledgehammer to my yanagi-ba-bōchō (there's a new world/old world wine metaphor in there somewhere). We both entered a competition which featured the two of us performing the same piece, and I still grind my teeth when I think about it. Should not have stayed in the room when he was playing (2 spots ahead of me). It was a Chopin, and a big one - runs and pounding octaves, playing right into his style. On the spot, I decided to ramp up my own performance, so it would at least sound similar to his. Fatal error. While he didn't win, he ranked a full 4 places ahead of me. That fucking smirk on his face as we shook hands after ...

So you see, you shouldn't be afraid of contrast, of being true to what you are. There is no singular style of riesling - its beauty, like the beauty of all wine, lies in the variations on its theme. We were having a lot of seafood - fish, clams, mussels, sea cucumber. Differences, if subtle, in flavour and texture. So therefore although we wanted a wine that would drink well with everything on the table, it all had to contrast enough with the overall seafood theme for it to be interesting. The first wine, an Alsatian riesling, was fresh and vibrant, that lovely steely riesling minerality. The Pfalz, a spätlesen, with more substance on the palate, and balanced sweetness providing a great foil to the savouriness of the shellfish. Delicious all around.

It's going to sound all Disney and shit, but things would be so much better if everyone acted true to themselves. These wines aren't meant for everyone - there are still those (terribly, terribly ignorant) people who think sweet wines are all floozy and the antithesis of "serious" wine. But the point is to be brave enough to think outside what is supposedly the accepted wine to drink with a meal, and to infuse some excitement, some mystery into it all. Above all, don't be afraid of being different - to try the contrasting, rather than the complementing thing. And JS, you bowl-cutted twat - I'm up for a rematch, any day, all day.

DF

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