Monday, April 30, 2012

Perfect Pairings | German Wines & Asian Flavours

On the 25th I had the opportunity to attend a German wine tasting luncheon hosted by the German Wine Institute and Master of Wine Jeannie Cho Lee at  Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie. The press conference was a precursor to the launch of Jeannie’s  Perfect Pairings German Wines & Asian Flavours booklet and a German wine promotion in sixty of the BCLDB shops for the month of May.

Sichuan cucumbers 
The fifty page booklet encapsulates many of Jeannie’s concepts on wine and Asian food pairing from her hard to find book Asian Palate voted  Gourmand’s Best Food and Wine Book in the World. The original English version is currently out of print but available on itunes if you have an iphone or ipad.

Jeannie described her wine and food pairing concept based on the  five flavours of Asian cuisine:
Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, and Umami and how they pair with the cuisines or as this MW states “the terroir of cities” especially food from Canton, Shanghai, Northern China  (Xinjiang and Heilongjiang), as well as  Japan, Korea, Thailand, Singapore, and India. 
Marinated eggplant

Sweetness is found in fruit, palm sugar, and coconut sauces; sourness from tamarind or lime; saltiness from soy, oyster sauce, and  pungent shrimp or bean pastes. Bitterness from ginkgo nuts, bitter melon, and ginseng.  Umami or the "fifth" taste is the savoury quality of fermented beans, mushrooms, and seaweed. 

Jeanne opened my palate to her concept of “roving chopsticks” where during the course of an Asian meal you experience a combination of small bites with varied flavour combinations of  the communal  table. The flavours, textures and temperatures of main dishes along with a  myriad of condiments makes for a very complex food and wine matrix compared to western cuisine.

Tofu Skin
With multi course dishes Jeannie recommends  a wine that will pair with 60 to 70% of the dishes. The wine needs to be versatile and flexible and Riesling is the perfect bridge builder.

The first course of our luncheon was a combination of plates of pickles, Sichuan cucumbers, marinated eggplant and tofu skin. These cold and marinated dishes were elegantly paired with a Riesling Sekt.

Dr. Loosen Riesling Sekt Mosel $18.99
Straw yellow with fresh yeast and apple notes. Light-bodied, crisp lively acidity, apple, lemon, lime, and floral notes.
Cold Soft Tofu

Vegetable potstickers and steamed prawn and chive dumpling were nicely paired with a couple of Rieslings from the Nahe and Mosel.  I found the trocken better paired with the potstickers and slightly off dry Mosel a complex marriage with the steamed dumplings. 

2009 Tesch Trocken Laubenhelmer Karthauser Nahe $27.99

Straw green with subtle petrol notes.

Medium bodied, dry, with grapefruit, lime sorbet, and mineral notes.

2010 Urban Mosel $23.25

Steamed dumplings
Straw green with ripe apple and faint petrol notes. Medium-bodied, off-dry, with lime and flower blossoms. 

A complex dish of cold tofu with black bean, green Sichuan peppercorn ground pork, with Shimeji mushrooms and garlic chips as well as King pea tips with garlic and Shaoxing were paired up with a Pinot Blanc and an Auslese Riesling. The sweetness of the Auslese was the perfect pairing with the heat from the peppercorn pork. The Pinot Blanc battled the spice but was an excellent match with the tofu.

2009 Kruger Rumpf Pinot Blanc Nahe $33.99
Straw green with aromas of apple, petrol, and citrus pith. Medium-bodied and dry with grapefruit, mineral, and nectarine notes. 

2008 Fritz Haag Braunberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Auslese Mosel $37.99 (375ml)
Straw yellow with aromas of honey and barley sugar.  Medium-bodied, sweet and lush, with barley sugar, honey, and sweet ripe apple and a hint of petrol in the long finish. 

Crispy Pork Belly

Two Pinot Noirs, from the Pfalz and the Rheingau were paired with a crispy pork belly and lotus root dish.  The light tannins in the reds brought out the spice and earthy notes of both dishes. 

2009 Peter and Peter Pinot Noir Pfalz $18.99
Cherry red with simple aromas of herb, dried red currant, and a hint of meatiness. Light-bodied with hints of meat, cedar, red berries, and floral herby notes.

Lotus Root
2006 Schloss Reinhartshausen Rheingau $23.99
Ruby red with aromas of spice, smoke, and cherry.  Medium-bodied, quite complex with spice, autumn wood smoke and red cherry notes.

The final lunch pairing was Mosel Kabinett, that despite not having a lot of sweetness, was  perfect with the Youtiao (Chinese donut) and its light fresh bread complimented the wine wonderfully.

2006 Weingut Jakoby-Mathy Kinheimer Rosenberg Kabinett Mosel $30.15
Straw green with lovely lime and petrol notes. Medium-bodied, crispy acidity, petrol, green apple, and pineapple.

Pick up a copy of Perfect Pairings and try a selection of German wines paired up with small bites from Bao Bei this week at the BCLDB  on Saturday May 5th from 3 to 6pm at the 39th and Cambie Signature store. Jeannie Cho Lee's book is free of charge and of limited availability.

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie is located at 163 Keefer Street 
(604) 688-0876

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Naramata Bench Wines Spring Release 2012

Today was the spring trade tasting of the Naramata Bench wineries at the revitalised  New Westminster Quay River Market. The twenty-one member wineries presented a series of wines from the  2009 to 2011 vintages at their spring release. In a nutshell BC has five generic wine regions; Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver island and the Gulf Islands. The Naramata falls into the catch all Okanagan Valley designation. The region is in reality an eleven kilometre stretch from the town of Penticton to the village of Naramata. The "Bench" lies within a two and half kilometres of Lake Okanagan and benefits from its northern latitude for extended daylight hours, the moderating influences of the lake, and a complex soil make up of sand, loam, and lake alluvials. To the North, Nichol vineyards, and to the South, Perseus anchors the region. Production is relatively small with annual case production ranging from 2000 to 10000 cases. Overall  white wine production in my opinion is better than red. Whites have lively acidity and good aromatics; whereas the reds seem to develop premature tertiary notes in youth.  Some of my best finds include a selection of both red and white varieties. Must buys from todays tasting are:

2011 Poplar Grove Pinot Gris $20
Pale green with intense fresh pink grapefruit aromas. Medium-bodied, refreshing crisp acidity, and notes of pink grapefruit, melon, and apple.

2010 Laughing Stock Chardonnay $26
Straw yellow with a nose of restrained oak, nut, and mineral. Medium-bodied with a lush mid palate and crisp balancing acidity. Complex with "Meursault" like nuttiness, steely mineral undertones, and a long finish of citrus sorbet.

2011 LaFrenz Sauvignon Blanc $22
Pale green with balanced gooseberry and capsicum aromas. Medium-bodied, rich mouthfeel, and nice zippy acidity. Lovely fresh gooseberry and passionfruit flavours.

2010 Kettle Valley Gew├╝rztraminer $22
Straw yellow with lychee, grapefruit pith, and mineral aromas. Medium-bodied, rich,  dry, and Alsatian styled with rose, lychee and subtle bitter notes, Good value.

2009 Township 7 Syrah $24.99
Ruby red with classic bacon/meaty aromas. Medium-bodied with some tannins (2-3 years additional ageing), lushly textured with tea, spice, and meaty notes.

2008 Township 7 Reserve 7 $34.99
Ruby garnet with tertiary aromas of black tea and strawberry compote. Medium-bodied with soft tannins, cherry, tea, and plummy notes.

2009 Perseus Invictus $32.90
Dense ruby purple with  oak resin aromas. Medium to full-bodied with layers of secondary and tertiary fruit (cassis, tea, olive, and, cigar, subtle mint and garrique herbs). Complex and good value.

More information on Naramata Bench wines are available at or Twitter @naramatawines.  Most of the  Naramata Bench wineries have embraced social media and more information can be found on their websites, Facebook, Twitter, and the in the case of Perseus bottle QR codes. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pints & Pours: The White Horse Parson's Green

 Anticipation was the key word for our planned visit to the White Horse in Parson's Green on our recent London trip. I had been reading the wine, beer, and food menu's on the pub's website for a couple of months prior to our visit. What a concept;  a gastropub on the edge of a leafy green, well rounded wine list and a stellar line up of  draught and international beers paired up with  regional and national ingredients on their food menu. Following a short walk from the tube, the area has a slight rural feel to it like Hampstead, we came across The White Horse. The pub has Victorian feel with an interior of rich mahogany paneling, flagstone and oak flooring,  comfy and well worn leather seating, a warming fireplace along with  nooks and snugs to drink and nibble in private along with a  full dining room and bar seating area. The White Horse has had the nick name of the "Sloaney Pony" for its Sloane ranger clientele. On our lunch visit it was a mix of local professionals and a handful of tourists. With 30+ wines by the glass and a nice balance of old and new world varieties  and a  well thought out selection of aromatics that work well with the cuisine the wine list gets a nod for one of the better pub lists. The list looks heavy from the Adnams portfolio which would also account for a number of the  beers from this brewer and retailer. Draught and cask ales make up at least a dozen selection options along with "based on their website"  a 100+ bottle selection of international beers with a great variety from Belgium, Britain, and the USA. I never did see the extensive bottled beer list even after asking not only my server but two bartenders for it!

Where this pub failed and it failed horribly was service. My wife and I arrived just shy of 1pm for lunch and a pint and a glass of wine. We ordered a couple of pints at the bar to start, leaving our credit card details for a tab, and then sat and sat for 20 minutes before we were given menus and asked for a food order. Surly service, no keen passion to sell the menu and little interest in offering me wine or beer suggestions or even a drink list.

For starters I opted for the venison carpaccio. Delightfully tasty with heirloom tomatoes, grilled thin asparagus, and a grainy mustard crust. This was perfectly paired with a glass of Dry Creek Chenin Blanc with a perfect balance of acidity with the tomato and mustard. An English wine either sparkling or an aromatic (Bacchus) would be a nice drink list addition.

My mains was a Black Pudding Crusted Pork Loin with glazed Brussels Sprouts, and pearl barley. A hearty lunch option on a chilly day in February, the pork was slightly overcooked but nonetheless very well excecuted . The Duchess de Bourgogne, a Flemish red ale, with sweet/sour  acidity, hints of oak, balsamic, and brett paired extremely well with the pork. The White Horse is the only pub that I have seen this amazing beer on draught.

After the starter and mains we were too full for a pudding course but the selection looked wonderful especially with their selection of pudding wine selections or a fruit lambic.

The White Horse is a lovely pub and I will have to return for their outdoor BBQ and beer festivals in a future visit.  Ambiance, patrons, and drink selection gets high marks. Service FOH does need a lot of work. Lack of guest skills, table service, and lack of interest in the food and drink ruined our overall experience. When I have to order a drink using my iPhone to look up their  wine and beer list on the website it makes you wonder why they have service staff. After three attempts with three staff members to get drink menu's it was complete service fail.

Food ***
Beer and wine selection ***
Service *
Overall **(*)

The White Horse
1-3 Parson's Green  SW6 4UL
Opening Times:
Sun-Wed: 9.30am-11.30pm
Thurs-Sat: 9.30am-12am
Telephone: 020 7736 2115

Twitter @whitehorsesw6

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Poncha| a stiff drink made by a little cock

Madeira, a Portuguese gem in the Atlantic, three hours from London maybe known for  its famous namesake Madeira wine but it’s also known by the locals for its potent Poncha, served straight, on the rocks, or warm. It’s origin was  likely Indian made from arrack, lemon juice, sugar, herbal tea, and spiced water brought by the British to this Portuguese archipelago back in the 18th century. Today Poncha "punch" is made from 50% abv aguardente, honey, and fresh squeezed juice.  The traditional version is made from tart lemon juice but orange and passion fruit "maracuja ". A typical cocktail would be made from 1 teaspoon of honey, 2oz of aguardente (white rum), and juice of one lemon. This muddled drink is mixed with vigour with a mexelote or as the locals call it a caralinho "little cock". The drink has a number of variations and made with class at Reids Palace Hotel, impromptu at a fisherman's beach shack, or my favourite at a mobile poncho cart on the popular Avenida Arriaga. 7 Mares, a mobile pirate ship cart was my favourite with their stiff poncho for less than 3 Euros along with shots of strong espresso and Coral draught beer. Poncha and a balmy Funchal afternoon - classic cocktail drinking.