Here is the first (hopefully many to come) article on our on-going trials and tribulations of pairing our wines with food. Written by Harry Moen, the ONLY certified sommelier working at Locus Wines, this article tackles the questions.... Will the pairing work? Will there be clashing of textures and flavors? Will Harry survive the evening?
Sémillon: The Other White Grape
by Harry Moen
Locus Wines 2017 Sémillon
Grilled Bone-in Pork Loin Chop with Black Bean Purée, Corn Mash, and Mango Salsa
When it comes to wine pairing, we usually decide on our meal first and then we decide what we are going to drink with it. I decided to go the opposite route with this exercise: Try the wine and then design a dish to pair with it.
Taste first: Bright, acidic…. and creamy
As the wine hit the glass, I immediately noticed a distinct brightness, with aromas of lemon zest and white peach, rounded by lingering hints of tropical fruit (pineapple, mango, passionfruit). When I tasted the wine, I was immediately drawn to its acidity, which is perceived on our palates as a mouth-watering sensation. The acidity here is really crucial because while I personally favor high acid wines anyways, they actually pair easier with foods, especially fat and sweet flavors. The second aspect of this wine I’d like to mention, and the reason why I love Sémillon as a whole, is its creamy mouth feel.
The easiest way I have found to describe wines by mouth feel is by comparing them to milk. The light, watery sensation of skim milk (Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay), the rich thickness of whole milk (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay), and creamy roundness of 2% milk (Merlot, Sémillon) are my barometers for texture in a wine. Sémillon’s, and specifically this wine, have that heavier roundness, much like a chardonnay except it doesn’t taste like the lumber aisle at a Home Depot.
Due to Chardonnay’s reputation as oaky, buttery cluster%$!*, it is sometimes hard to defend richer white wines. However, I find that our Sémillon represents a common ground: For the adventurous soul, it is a gateway drug to bolder whites, and for the ardent Chardonnay drinker, it shows that lighter whites don’t always have to be underwhelming.
So were we pairing this with food or what?
I digress, back to the pairing! Once I tasted this beauty of a wine, I set out to create a meal. Most of the components were thought up as I was at the store, by looking at what was seasonal and of the best quality. It is the absolute beginning corn season and the staple has been present in almost all of my meals this past week. Corn Mash, a sweet and cheesy staple from Casco Antiguo’s menu - a dish I have been pining for since the pandemic started- had to be on the menu.
From there the other components took shape with an overall Mexican theme. Spicy black beans cooked in beer with chilies, and then pureed because it’s 2020 and everything must be in baby food form (or is it fine dining?). In hindsight, the puree was a bad idea because it gave the dish an overall softer texture. The puree did however create a slightly spicy and earthy counterpoint to the dish.
To not have a salsa as part of this meal would have been sacrilege, especially as we enter peak mango season. The deliciously ripe fruit in the salsa perfectly echoed the tropical note of the wine.
The part of the meal I was least committed to was the protein, and I almost didn’t pick one, until I was seduced by a chop in the meat case at the local butcher and, it did not disappoint.
Often, when it comes to pairings, the wine will enhance a certain flavor or aroma in the dish, or aspects of the wine and dish might contrast respectfully. But this was one of the first times that I experienced where the protein’s flavor was enhanced by the wine - the absolutely pure “porkiness” exploded when it came into contact with the wine.
The sweetness of the tropical fruit, the spice level in the puree, and the shameless fat in the corn provided for a superb pairing. So yes, a qualified success, earlier reservations be damned.
Flavor, not bust
“I cook with wine; sometimes I even add it to the food.”
W. C. Fields