Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Journey Between Georgia and Armenia

by Eric Bernardin

29.09.2012. As almost every day, I had homework to do. My task was to sample white Georgian wine and to think about what it could be paired with. One shouldn't think about Georgia as a new world type country which started producing wine after the fall of the Soviet Empire. Oh no. Rather, it is the mother of all wine lovers. It is the cradle of our good old vines. If we can be proud of the few hundred varieties or so we have in France, we are but a joke next to Georgia which boasts over five hundred of them!

They probably do not have a lot of oak trees down there. So instead they use a local material, i.e. clay, to make large amphorae, or qveri, which are buried deep in the ground in order to naturally cool fermenting musts (the Romans also used this technique: they probably stole the idea along with some grape varieties). The grapes are then destemmed and crushed before being thrown into the jars with their skin on, but also with the more mature stalks. And this, whatever the color of the grape (which is the BIG difference with Western wines where we only use juice to produce white wine). The jars are then sealed with a lid and wax and left to their own devices for 3 weeks to 6 months depending on the wine. After that, the jars are reopened, contents are filtered, and bang, the whole thing is bottled.

The domain in question, Pheasant's tears, was born of the encounter between a Georgian winemaker and an American painter, and is supported by Swedish wine enthusiasts. Check out their website, it’s simply divine!

The white wine in question is made from Rkatsiteli grapes. Because of its vinification method, its color is a slightly pinkish gold. The nose ranges between apricot and plum, with hints of walnut, almond and linden flower. The mouth-feel starts smoothly enough, although you might be surprised by the dryness of the wine, with juicy material, but you will quickly begin to perceive an increasingly tannic sensation (astringency) reinforced by equally increasing acidity. All this culminates in a powerful finish which is spicy and fruity. In short, an amazing wine.

The only thing left to do was to find what to pair it with. I thought it would go quite well with old Comté cheese, but it is impossible to find in my little village. So I opted for Parmesan instead. But I also wanted something that would play down the somewhat salty cheese, and I also wanted to bring in fruit. And thus, I found myself preparing apricot chutney.

I used dried apricot, as the fresh stuff is quite expensive lately. Not to mention the fact that I wanted something tasty to go with the wine.

So I used (approximately):

1 cup dried apricots
3 ¼ tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1 onion
3 pinches massala powder
¼ cup brown sugar

I first allowed the apricots to swell for two hours in hot water (at 70C/158F initially).

I put them in a saucepan, keeping the water to cover the apricots. I diced the onion and cooked it with the lid on very slowly for a good hour (after bringing to a rapid boil).

I added the sugar, vinegar and the masala gradually, tasting the mixture between each new dose to know where it was at. I then added salt for balance. I left to simmer a few more minutes and placed the whole thing in a jar. Once cooled, I placed the jar in the fridge.

All that was left to do was taste my creation...

First off, Parmesan with wine is really interesting; though I'm sure it would be much better with a thirty-month-old Comté cheese (the kind that is beginning to crumble). It's even better with chutney, what with the masala that stimulates and lengthens the wine. “A very nice pairing indeed”.

Other than that, seeing that the wine goes well with spices, it should go well with Indian-style veal brisket. In fact, the fat of the meat should be able to absorb the tannins of the wine.

Oh, and I forgot to tell you why I mentioned Armenia in the title of this post...

The Latin name for apricot is Prunus Armeniaca ;o)

I thought it would be nice to bring these two countries together.

Source (translated from French)

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