French whites and fresh fruit

* The following article was first published on-line in Saturday’s edition of the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Fresh French Whites!

Fresh French Whites!

With the advent of spring, the farmers markets and produce aisles are rapidly starting to fill up with the bright, luscious fruit of the season. And as our eyes are tempted and lured-in by the vibrancy and freshness of these colorful fruits, it becomes a suitable time to pair them with some nice and inexpensive white wines.  Just as strawberries and champagne make for great pairings, so too do these French wines and fresh fruits.

The grape variety Picpoul has been picking up steam in our market over the past few years.  Produced in the southern most part of France’s Rhone Valley, it will often come from a growing appellation known as Picpoul de Pinet. Here you will find some of the best examples of the variety.

The Domaine Delsol 2012 Picpoul de Pinet is a stunning representation of the wine. Not only do the grapes come from a single vineyard but the wine itself is estate bottled, giving the Delsol meticulous care from start to finish. Its golden pear color isn’t typical when compared alongside many of the other Picpouls.  The Delsol’s balanced acidity is its secret weapon, as citrusy notes like grapefruit persist from start to finish.

Picpoul is universally paired with shellfish, but I’ve found that the Domaine Delsol offers a bit more balance and roundedness without losing its edge. So look to enjoy it with some sliced kiwi fruit or even something sweeter like honeydew when it starts to roll in later this summer. Imported by the Marchetti Wine Company, the Domaine Delsol Picpoul de Pinet sells for around $10.

Other Rhone varietals to seek out include Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier.  The first two can shoot up in price in a hurry so it’s often better to track down a blend to save money or as an introduction to the wine. The estate of the Saint Cosme vineyards is a great place to start; it dates back over half a millennium and today offers a host of traditional regional wines including a blend of the aforementioned grapes.

Saint Cosme’s Cote-du-Rhone Blanc has more of fleshy texture than a Picpoul and shows off delicious pear and apple flavors. Something tropical, like pineapple, makes for a nice partner to the Saint Cosme and it tends to be more forgiving with various red berries than most still white wines. The Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc retails for around $20 and is imported by the Virginia based County Vintner company.

Although I have an obvious partiality towards French white wines and fresh fruit, that predilection is not limited to the Rhone Valley. Case in point is the very lovely, Chateau Pilet 2012 Bordeaux Blanc. Comprised of 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Semillon, the Pilet shows off an exotic bouquet and some lip-smacking acidity. The citrus side of the Chateau Pilet Bordeaux Blanc requires a similar natured fruit like tangerines or navel oranges, so here’s to hoping this year’s Florida crop stays warm. Chateau Pilet is imported by HB Wine Merchants and goes for $13.

 

Fartisan Pizza Rewind

* This is a re-post of the blog’s most popular post for the first half of 2013. Enjoy!

The one thing I loathe the most about the modern “food movement” in America is the trite use of the word artisan or artisanal. Really, I’m just adverse to the word in general. It’s crap. Fartisan crap!

I first heard the word used in a food context about four or five years ago at a wine dinner. Some guy was waxing on about how the food was artisanal and the chefs were artisans and their artwork (food) was better than a regular chef’s food because well, once again, it was artisanal. Blah, blah, blasé.

I love Frito Lay brand chips. They now have “Artisan” chips. Haaah! And, quite possibly, the crust in tonight’s dinner and wine pairing might just have been made from mis-purchased “artisanal” dinner rolls. Artisan is the new black. So much, in fact, that it’s almost been worn out and faded to gray.

Fartisanal Pizza

Nonetheless, this evening I used my wife’s five hundred pound marble rolling pin to re-roll the dough of a half dozen dinner rolls into a Fartisanal shaped pizza crust. Looks pretty good, after all it isn’t perfectly square or round or rectangular. Must be artisanal!

Picpoul

My Fartisan pie was topped with some of my Nonna’s recipe white sauce as well as a mixture of the “six super greens” like kale, spinach, chard, and romaine. Finish with mozzarella, parmesano and a few strategically placed but artisanally hatched hen eggs and you have a protein and fiber rich pizza that would have been done half an hour earlier if I’d only paid attention and purchased the desired rectangular pizza crust that rolls out a whole helluva lot easier.

To pair with it, I chose the new vintage of a French wine I fell for last year. The Guillermarine Picpoul de Pinet has simple citrus notes and some delicate apple flavors that don’t overwhelm the eggs and greens in the pizza. Plus, it’s French and different and hard to pronounce. If only it were artisanal.

Fartisanal Pizza and Wine

The one thing I loathe the most about the modern “food movement” in America is the trite use of the word artisan or artisanal. Really, I’m just adverse to the word in general. It’s crap. Fartisan crap!

I first heard the word used in a food context about four or five years ago at a wine dinner. Some guy was waxing on about how the food was artisanal and the chefs were artisans and their artwork (food) was better than a regular chef’s food because well, once again, it was artisanal. Blah, blah, blasé.

I love Frito Lay brand chips. They now have “Artisan” chips. Haaah! And, quite possibly, the crust in tonight’s dinner and wine pairing might just have been made from mis-purchased “artisanal” dinner rolls. Artisan is the new black. So much, in fact, that it’s almost been worn out and faded to gray,
Fartisanal Pizza Nonetheless, this evening I used my wife’s five hundred pound marble rolling pin to re-roll the dough of a half dozen dinner rolls into a Fartisanal shaped pizza crust. Looks pretty good, after all it isn’t perfectly square or round or rectangular. Must be artisanal!
Picpoul
My Fartisan pie was topped with some of my Nonna’s recipe white sauce as well as a mixture of the “six super greens” like kale, spinach, chard, and romaine. Finish with mozzarella, parmesano and a few strategically placed but artisanally hatched hen eggs and you have a protein and fiber rich pizza that would have been done half an hour earlier if I’d only paid attention and purchased the desired rectangular pizza crust that rolls out a whole helluva lot easier.

To pair with it, I chose the new vintage of a French wine I fell for last year. The Guillermarine Picpoul de Pinet has simple citrus notes and some delicate apple flavors that don’t overwhelm the eggs and greens in the pizza. Plus, it’s French and different and hard to pronounce. If only it were artisanal.

Wine and beer pair with whatever you’re grilling

The first holiday of the grilling season is upon us, and if you master anything this weekend let it be that salty, savory grilled meats and tasty beverage treats go hand in hand. Whether you’re a burger traditionalist, a health-conscious outdoorsy type that’s refined the art of preparing your favorite saltwater catch or a beef-mastering, brisket-loving devotee, there is a beverage to pair with your barbecue of choice.

I’ve teamed up with the beer king of Knoxville, Chris Morton of Bearden Beer Market, to present appropriate parings of both beer and wine.

With all the innovative ingredients we Americans put on our hamburgers these days, it might seem tricky to find the right wine to match. The simple key to a good selection is versatility. Two red blends have recently arrived in local stores that will have your burger screaming for a little more wine and a little less of anything that takes away from the true flavors of the beef.