Beer, off-dry (sweet-ish) white wine, and cognac and 7-Up (a favorite Vietnamese wedding 'cocktail') are not the only alcoholic beverages that go with Vietnamese and Asian food. I should know. My father started me drinking when I was seven years old. He would pour me a little bit of wine into a cordial glass and I'd sip my glass judiciously, sometimes liking the flavor and sometimes adding water to dilute it if it tasted yucky. I never became a lush, as some of my family members predicted. But rather, I developed a love for having a good quaff of something alcoholic with my Vietnamese food. Drinking liquor, like smoking cigarettes, is not a Vietnamese female thing. But I'm not great on observing social traditions, only culinary traditions. That said, I'm launching a new part of this blog dedicated to pairing beverages with Vietnamese food.
What got me thinking were those braised lamb shanks with star anise and lemongrass from a couple days ago. I'd braised six shanks and we're a household of two people. We had three meals of the shanks. On the first try, we had a Petite Syrah from Castoro Cellars, on the second meal, it was a Cahors from the Languedoc in Southwest France. Those inky, lush wines are some of my favorites but they were a bit fruity for the more acid, tomatoey, spicy shanks. What to drink for the third meal of lamb shanks?
I asked Roberto Rogness, general manager of Wine Expo in Santa Monica, CA, an excellent wine shop known for its extensive Italian and champagne selections, and amazing deals. (Look, we're in a slow economy so value drinking and drinking at home are more important now than ever.)
Back to Roberto. He responded right away with recommendations that are differentiated by weather conditions. These are selections and infectiously enthusiastic tasting notes from Wine Expo. Do note the range of prices, which reflects an excellent and thoughtful wine shop:
Chateau Feuillet Fumin 2005, Valle d Aosta $36.99
Have you had your minimum daily requirement of Fumin today? This, deep dark, spicy, violet and pepper scented Rhone-ish variety from the steep mountain vineyards of Val d’Aosta provides 100% of the following vital elements: Intense Raspberry Fruit, Smoky, Meaty Depth, Exotic Anise and Spice Aromatics and The Sheer Joy of Discovery. It is also sure to be a hit with lovers of the zestier end of the Syrah, Grenache or zinfandel spectrum. Hit it with something hearty and watch the smiles bloom….
Gabbas Cannonau di Sardegna Lillové 2005 $23.99
Giuseppe Gabbas just lets his granite soiled vineyards speak for themselves: old vine fruit gets a 20 day maceration for extra oomph then is fermented in large old wooden casks to preserve that precious funk. Both are 100% Cannonau (the Sardo clone of Grenache) with the Dule coming from older vines and getting a longer maturation in wood (they used to put Merlot and Cab in it but they are feeling better now and have returned to their roots). These deserve at least a leg of lamb if not a whole roast pig….Mangia!
Jaun de Alzate Graciano 2006, Rioja Alavesa $23.99
Graciano is a plump, meaty and juicy variety that is usually blended into Rioja to up the bumptuality factor. Some of you may have unwittingly consumed some when you bought a bottle of Sardegnan Cagnulari here and it may even be closely related to our beloved Tintillia from Molise. At any rate, on its own, it is a fun alternative to Syrah / Montepulciano / Zin whenever some hungry man food needs a hand at the table.
In warmer weather (which can happen in December here! [Santa Monica is in Los Angeles]) I'd go with:
L. Aubry Premier Cru Brut Rosé à Jouy-les-Reims $58.00
We agree heartily with the importer’s assertion that “I love pink Champagne and sometimes even wonder how seductions ever proceed without it”. The NV is made with 60% Chardonnay for superb finesse and drinkability then given a firm kick in the ass by Pinot Noir left on the skins for color, heft, verve and flavors ranging from ripe peaches and blackberries through menthol and pine into a rich biscuity finish. Superb!
Cà Nova Colline Novarese Nebbiolo, Rosato Aurora 2006, Piemonte $21.99
If you think of rosé as thin and wishy washy, try this one on for size: 100% Nebbiolo (the variety they make Barolo out of!) gorgeous color, deep berry flavors and violet perfumes backed by good acidity, it could easily take the place of a mid level Pinot at your table in a pinch. Ten cases only, get yours before it’s gone.
Wine Expo ships but I didn't have time to order the wine. My husband uncorked a Cotes du Rhone and we inhaled the wine with the shanks. Lovely.