Friday, March 20, 2015

Sauvignon, Sotolon, and Science | Taste Buds and Molecules by Francois Chartier

Taste Buds and Molecules by Quebecois sommelier Francois Chartier is a fascinating read into the world of food and wine matching based on molecular compounds and their aromas rather than the tried and true method of pairings based on contrasts, complements, and regionality. The book is divided up into sixteen chapters focusing on particular flavour compounds, ingredients, or molecules.  The book is laid out in a format that should appeal to a chef or sommelier, rather than the typical wine or cookbook reader. If you are a fan of chalkboards, mind mapping, bulleted text, and handwritten text and diagrams you’ll love the layout and flow of the book.

My initial sommelier training involved the now dated four taste theory of salty, sweet, sour, and bitter then followed by the concept of a fifth taste umami (savoury created by glutamates) and now possible sixth and seventh flavours of fat and kokumi (heartiness caused by calcium).

Francois’s book focuses on the effects of volatile molecules which effect  all fragrances we encounter in wine and food. Using concept of similarities of various molecules he has thought out new and intriguing wine and food pairing options. I read through the book once and then followed up on some of his wine and food suggestions with great results.

Chapter Four | Mint and Sauvignon Blanc

Cold Taste Sandwich

This chapter made the most immediate and time tested sense to me. Mint has always worked with Sauvignon Blanc when I cook. Mint is a bridging ingredient allowing food and wine to marry. An herbaceous Sauvignon naturally pairs with the herb mint.  Francois points out that mint belongs in a family of anise-flavoured molecules that also includes tarragon, basil, celery, and apples. These flavours work and are found in cool climate unoaked chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Albarinho. I used this concept to create his “cold taste” sandwich and a pea and mint risotto with the two Sauvignon Blancs. A perfect marriage of flavours occurred in the sandwich made with goat’s cheese, wasabi mayo, Granny Smith apple, green bell pepper, and mint when paired up with a British Columbia La Frenz Sauvignon Blanc.  New Zealand's Spy Valley Sauvignon perfectly paired up with a pea and mint risotto. 

Sotolon & Sauternes & Tokaji
Chapter Five | Sotolon The Molecular Chain Linking Vin Jaune, Curry, Maple Syrup. Sauternes, Etc.

This was a fascinating chapter where I paired up some top quality ready to serve curry dishes from Vij’s with aged Sauternes and a Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos. The molecule sotolon  4,5-dimethyl-3-hydroxy-2(5H)-furanone gives curry, walnuts, Cuban cigars, aged teas, maple syrup, and over ripe grapes their distinctive flavours. The sotolon rich fenugeek in the curry bridged the food and the sweet wines. The oxidised quality of the Tokaji was a perfect pairing along with the high sugar level which counterbalanced the spice heat. Sotolon also works well with Oloroso Sherry, mature Champagne, Malmsey Madeira, and Vin Jaune. 

Lamb with Aged Riesling
Chapter Twelve | Rosemary A Southerner…With An Alsatian Profile!

This chapter deals with the wonderfully aromatic Mediterranean herb rosemary, which I discover is rich in terpenes. This family of volatile molecules includes eucalyptus, petrol, lavender, pine, saffron, and thyme to name only a few. Francois recommended pairing lamb raised on the herbs of the Mediteranean with terpene heavy whites especially Riesling, Muscat, and Gewurztraminer. I paired up a roast herbed lamb with an aged Chilean Riesling for a wonderful complimentary experience. This chapter was a clear winner. 

Other chapters that have intrigued me include the  "oak and barrels", "Saffron",  and "Capsaicin" components. I think a chapter that may have me bewildered is that of Chapter Seventeen "Capsaicin The Fiery Molecule in Chili Peppers" I have a hard time with reds and heat so Im looking forward to trying some of the suggestions and cooler red serving temperatures to see and taste the effects. 

After years of trial and error, along professional training in wine and food pairing,  it is intriguing to add an additional repertoire of concepts from this book to my day to day dining experiences and wine and food pairings professionally. Science was never my strong point at school, but this was a fascinating and eye opening read. 

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