Pairing Wine & Late Summer Bounty
Late summer bounty at Ottawa’s ByWard market is on full display. Dazzling array of vibrant colours, aromas and textures, a true sensory overload. I can never resist the urge to buy a little bit of everything and then try to come up with some creative ways to use it all up before it passes its prime. Golden corn, juicy red tomatoes, shiny plump eggplants, sunny-yellow squash and sunset-hued ripe Ontario peaches, it’s hard to choose.
This time of the year is also a perfect time for effortless entertaining and relaxed patio dinning before cooler days roll in. Everything is so fresh and full of flavour, it makes it easy to deliver a punch while keeping it really simple and with just a few ingredients. My most favourite meal at this time of the year is “Salad of the Island of Capri” or in Italian simply Insalata caprese.
A delicious and super easy dish to prepare just by slicing ripe, plump, juicy tomatoes and creamy Buffalo mozzarella, arranging the slices in a circular shape in the centre of the plate and drizzling with the best virgin olive oil money can buy, a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and fresh basil leaves and it’s done. Made to resemble the colors of the Italian flag, it’s usually served as starter or antipasti. I enjoy it with a piece of crunchy Italian bread as a perfect late summer lunch when the tomatoes are at their very best.
And the wine that accompanies it should be exactly that; simple and effortless. Matching vegetables with wine can be a daunting task. However, with a few pointers it becomes easy and effortless. Tomatoes, with their high acid content are perfectly matched with acidic wines, such as Italian Pinot Gris, or if you prefer reds, go with Sangiovese. If you decide to roast them, they become sweet and candy-like, while still maintaining a touch of their natural tartness. Try them with a dark-fruited rosé such as Rhône’s Tavel.
One of the best examples of a late summer dish is probably ratatouille, a delicious Provençal vegetable side-dish originated in Nice. It’s made with individually sautéed sun-ripened vegetables of the Mediterranean; zucchini, pepper and eggplant before simmering them together with tomatoes and a generous amount of herbs de Provence, a blend of dried savory, thyme, oregano, marjoram and rosemary of the region. Pair it with juicy blends of syrah, grenache, mouvèdre, carignan and cinsault of the region, with pronounced notes of black fruit, lavender and olives.
Leafy, dark green vegetables, such as spinach and chard work really well with light reds such as Gamay and mellow fruity reds like Zinfandel work wonders with spicy dishes with hot chili peppers. Pair light vibrant greens, peas, green beans and fresh greens with unoaked whites. Asparagus, probably the trickiest vegetable to match with wine works well with “green” whites such as Austrian Grüner Veltliner and Sauvignon Blanc.
Savory, earthy mushrooms pair beautifully with Pinot Noir as it matches earthy notes in wine perfectly. Roasting vegetable at this time of the year is a perfect way to impart even more flavor by caramelization. Pair with fuller bodied whites, such as Chenin Blanc or a Chardonnay with a touch of oak. Here is an assortment of a few wines from home and around the world to try with your veg and start experimenting.
Henry of Pelham Family Tree White 2015, VQA, Niagara
VINTAGES#: 251116, $ 14.75
A delightful white blend of 35% Viognier, 25% Chardonnay, 25% Gewurztraminer and 15 % Chardonnay Musqué. The fruit for this blend comes from the vineyards across Niagara Peninsula. Fresh, lively and crisp, it displays aromas and flavours of orchard fruits; apples, pears and apricots with subtle tropical notes. Beautifully aromatic with well-balanced acidity and lingering finish. Perfect pairing with grilled fish and seafood. Tasted March 2017.
Norman Hardie County Pinot Gris 2013, PEC
Vinified with 100% County fruit this fantastic white comes with a great concentration of aromas and flavours due to exceptionally small yields, use of natural yeast and further maturation sur lie. Dry and aromatic, it’s bursting with citrus aromas of lime drops and lemon zest on the nose, followed by ripe peaches on the palate. It closes in a long, clean mineral-toned finish. Fantastic with grilled seafood. VINTAGES#: 359547, $ 25
Huff Estates 2012 South Bay Chardonnay
An elegant Chard from the warmer South Bay vineyards of Ontario’s Prince Edward County, the winner of 2015 National Wine Awards of Canada. Big and bold with excellent fruit concentration, depth and complexity. Aromas and flavours of lemon drops, apples and nectarines with a whiff of that unmistakable County minerality. Rich, luxurious mouthfeel, closes in a long, lingering, vanilla-almond-tinged finish. Drink now through 2020. A given as a pairing with seafood in creamy, buttery sauces. Lip-smacking delicious!! LCBO# 88955, $ 29.95. Tasted May 2016/91 points.
La Vieille Ferme Rosé 2013, AOC Luberon, Rhône
The grapes used for this crowd-pleasing rosé come from the northern Rhône’s cooler climate vineyards at the altitude of 300 meters, on the slopes of the renowned Mont Ventoux. This is an intense and well balanced blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Lovely pink in color with rose petals on the nose and an intense burst of cherries and strawberries on the palate, followed by a fresh finish. Served at 10-12 C, it’s great as an apéritif or a perfect companion for a light summer lunch. Reviewed August 24, 2014.
Pinot Noir “JCR” Rosehall Vineyard 2012, Prince Edward County
Vinified with 100% county grown Pinot Noir that beautifully showcase that unique sense of place and character of the County wines. Medium-bodied, dry and fruit forward, it’s bursting with aromas and flavours of red fruit; sour cherries and cranberries with a touch of earthiness. It closes in a long, lingering, smoke-tinged finish. Try it this year with the Thanksgiving turkey and a home-made tangy cranberry sauce or with gloriously crispy duck confit with plum sauce. VINTAGES# 326504, $39. Tasted September 2015/91 points.
Cline Cellars Big Break Vineyard Zinfandel 2013
This juicy, fruit-forward Lodi Zin is full in body with smooth and velvety mouthfeel. Crafted at Cline Cellars, the largest solar-powered California winery. Fleshy, generous and intense, it’s bursting with ripe black cherries and raspberries a touch of spice and a long, lingering vanilla & chocolate-hued finish. It will further develop over the next few years. Fantastic with grilled meats, a perfect crowd-pleasing BBQ wine. LCBO# 985176, $37.95. Tasted April 2016/90 points.
13th Street Winery Gamay Noir 2014, Niagara, Ontario
Vinified with hand-harvested 100 % gamay grapes grown in Niagara’s Sandstone and Whitty Vineyards. It’s bursting with aromas and flavours of ripe raspberries and strawberries with a touch of spice. Fresh and lively with well-balanced acidity and smooth tannins. Closes in a lingering, polished finish. A great match to a gourmet sausage pizza. Serve slightly chilled. Tasted April 2016/92 points. LCBO# 177824, $ 19.95.