the   T h e o r y   of   M a t c h i n g    S p a r k l i n g   S y r a h   and   C u i s i n e

We are stepping out of the bubble on this one.
Is sparkling wine just for celebrating?
Yes and no:  given that the purpose of life is to celebrate,
then, yes.
If celebration is drinking wine without food,
then, no.

So we have backed ourselves into a delectable corner which is...
to celebrate with wine and food.

With a premise in hand, let us present the deep background.

Krassimira and I came to 2 conclusions:

The Australians make exciting red sparkling wine, but darn, it's a little too sweet.
I'll betcha that we can make cool-grown Syrah into something that California can...

These conclusions came to us during Krassimira's 36
th Birthday Party,
which we had at Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford.
Just to prove that we are not snobs by being too anti-snob,
                   we go to the Napa Valley three to five times a year.                               
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And that's where Krassi wanted to have her birthday fete.
So we did it up right.  The first bottle of sparkling wine we ordered was
from Taltarni, and it was white.  The second bottle of sparkling wine we ordered was red,
and I can't remember the producer because of a slightly tense discussion with the sommelier.
He assured us that it wasn't too sweet, so we tried-it-on-for-size.
I was right, it was a little too sweet, and I didn't see the sommelier the next time I went to dine.
everybody on the terrace wanted to know what that red wine was in our champagne glasses.
Krassi and I looked at each other and thought... hmmm.
I had made about 7 vintages of sparkling wines, and I'm a sucker for improving things...
So, then-and-there, during that happy birthday celebration, we said, let's do it.
And that's the deep background on how a wine offering gets offered.

Now here's the theory of matching it to cuisine, but first some assumptions.
The matching theory assumes that: you have enough champagne glasses that match;
your are serving a multi-course meal; and you are adventurous.

Speaking of adventurous, there are no traditions, other than civility, that guide us
when it comes to matching sparkling red wines.
But here is my good old flag-d'-cusine, so I'll run it up the flag pole, one more time,
and see if anybody salutes.

Bubbles suggest lightness, Red suggests depth.

Then typically toward the beginning of the meal,                                                                                       
     but maybe at the end of the meal,                                       
                                                       it could even be an intermezzo,                             
                                                                                                    and perhaps an entree,

we want a course that is -
light but deep.

Such that it is light giving, but not airy; it is deep, but not heavy.

Suggestions would be:

A hearts of romaine salad with shredded jicama and
a dressing of blueberries, rice vinegar, white balsamic, whipped with a
little egg white, canola oil, salt, and a touch of tarragon mustard and black pepper.

A granite of slightly sweetened pomegranate juice and chopped black pepper corns.

A serving with no other side dishes of barbecued beef ribs that are finished with a berry glaze.

An aspic of pomegranate juice, bits of oranges, and blueberries... sweetened accordingly.

If you prefer to use recipes, rather than suggestions, then we must expand the theory
of matching Sparkling Syrah to food that is light but deep.
Now even though theory sounds like it's operating in the air, it must be grounded.
So the first thing we look for is what I call the 'indicator ingredient' to
see if a recipe might be useful to guide a match for this wine.
The 'indicator' is an ingredient that would be thinkable
to add to a given recipe.  It isn't to say that you
should do it.  It's just a mild litmus test.

I will advance that the indicator
is a blueberry.

If you added blueberries:
Would it even be thinkable to do that to the recipe?
Would it improve it?
What form would the blueberries take?

So with that test you proceed to think about the actual proposed recipe,
and consider whether it should be accepted as is, or how it should be modified.
These recommendations on a large array of ingredients, herbs, and spices should help -

Ones that Will work Easily –

Herbs - Fresh: Tarragon, Mints - Dried: Juniper berries, Mints, Lavender                               
Spices - The pie and cookie ones used judiciously, like cardamon, cinnamon, ginger, & cloves
Nuts - Any smoked nut is good as appetizer, particularly if they are home-smoked walnuts    
White Sausages - Being a little more refined they are good whole, but best as an ingredient    
Ham - Versions that are not too sweet and recipes that retain the smokiness                       
Jicama - Lightness is conveyed by this root because of its crunch                                          
Beets - They are deep, use them in soups and julienne in salads                                              
Oysters - If you really love them, it's raw & the small Japanese ones, but one still needs relief
BBQ - Any meats that are greasy and finished with a slightly sweet sauce                              
Pizza - With sauces that are not tomato based, try white bean sauce, or no sauce at all          

Ones that Will work with More Attention –

Spices & Herbs - Fresh: sage, thyme, coriander - Dried: cumin, nutmeg, lemon pepper blends, green
Fish - Chilled white fish, or warm white fish with a higher fat content like Chilean sea bass, maybe
Sausages - The greasy ones whole, where the sparkling aspect of the wine acts as a palate cleanser            
Pork - Fresh pork that is simply roasted works, as well as home-smoked fresh pork cuts                     
Beef - Ribs are the way to go where they are baked with some of the exotic spices, or just smoked   
Ground Meats - Making off-the-wall hamburgers if fun, pork is better than beef, turkey is ok          
Eggs & Cheese - For a luncheon, try warm soufflés and cooled quiches made with smoked cheeses
Beans - As an ingredient in modest amounts is good, with the exception of non greasy cassoulet.      
Ethnic Foods - It's hard to generalize here, if they normally are enjoyed with beer, that's a good start  
Cheese - as an ingredient in salads try the blues and goat cheeses rather than something salty like feta     
Fresh Corn - this can be fun bbq'ed in the husks with the right accompanying
Fruits - Berries, apples, and smoked cheeses make a nice plate, the tropical fruits are much harder to
make work

Ones that will Not work Easily –

Spices & Herbs - Fresh: dill, oregano, marjoram, basil, parsley - Dried: cayenne, oregano, basil                  
Beef and Lamb - The classic cuts as a main dish just have to much 'heavy' and other wines do a better job
Shellfish - Except for oysters, admittedly personal taste rules; clams, mussels, and crabs don't work           
Risotto - There is no point in making this dish if it's light, its nature is to be substantial and succulent      
Peppers of all types - They get too strong, or too hot, too fast - the green notes don't
Tomato - typically there is too much acid, flavor dominance, and/or they need strong Italian
Mushrooms - If they are really present, they tend to get too earthy or need distracting herbs for seasoning
Asparagus - Maybe cold and with some sauce that I can't think of... the green notes get in the
Cole crops - Brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, even kohlrabi don't work due to the sulfur compounds    
BBQ - Vegetables don't really work because they aren't sauced, or they are peppers and tomatoes             
Chocolate - Well you know, I've said it before and I'll say it again, why pass up a chance to eat chocolate?

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