By The Glass
Isle holiday staples call for perfect pairings
THE NEW YEAR'S celebration is a wonderful time to share a wonderful meal, good times and, of course, good wine.
Foods that traditionally make an appearance on the table are sashimi (always in short supply and expensive at this time of year); congee, chook or horas caldo (rice porridge in its many variations); pigs' feet soup (great when done right); and there are always long lines for the best roast duck and roast pork.
Here are wines that I would suggest with these classic dishes:
THE BEST sashimi is delicate and fatty -- so soft and luxurious that it melts, almost like a pad of butter. Big, heavy wines will just clobber its flavor. The best pairing I've had is riesling. With just a dab of soy sauce and wasabi, an off-dry riesling is a winner.
My recommendation is the 2004 Leitz Rudesheimer Klosterlay Riesling Kabinett ($16). It is just lightly sweet with a heavenly scent of ripe fruit and flowers; a lovely wine that drifts over the palate like a cloud, with an intensely ripe finish.
If you don't like sweet wine at all, try a bottle of 2004 Gysler Wienheimer Holle Sylvaner. At about $12 for a liter, it's a fabulous bargain and cuts the fattiness of sashimi beautifully.
FOR CONGEE, chardonnay is my choice. The roasted-poultry-based broth and its richness of texture need something just as full and flavorful. A bottle of 2003 Robert-Denogent Pouilly Fuisse "Les Reisses" ($27) is perfect. This French chardonnay hails from a single vineyard of old vines, 75 years old or more, giving it an awesome intensity. With a touch of new-oak vanillin, this wine is almost seamless for this dish.
A California chardonnay that would also do the trick is the 2004 Mueller Russian River Chardonnay ($25), an elegant and refined wine with a sense of class. It doesn't pound the palate with a two-by-four, so it goes better with this dish.
PIGS' FEET Soup is decadent, with plenty of richness and a ponderous amount of fat and flavor. You don't want anything wimpy. Big, buttery and rich chardonnay with plenty of oak is a good call. The 2003 Mer Soleil ($36) is just such a wine, scented with tropical fruit, with plenty of buttery vanilla and a voluptuous mouth-feel that can stand up to the soup.
For red-wine lovers, an Aussie grenache such as the 2004 Hewitson Miss Harry ($19) has plenty of stuffing from ancient vines, some almost 80 years old, to counter the heaviness of the soup.
Roast Duck is a classic match for pinot noir. California producer Jason Drew's 2004 Drew Gatekeepers Pinot Noir ($30) is gorgeous, with exuberant red and black fruits bursting from the glass and a sleek, silky texture that just screams "drink me!" With duck, it is a hedonistic pleasure.
Roast pork with crispy skin and salt is another hedonistic pleasure in itself, but with a bottle of 1999 Argiano Brunello di Montalcino ($55), it reaches another level. The tannin and sweet anise-like fruit meld with the fattiness to create something that can only be described as a party in your mouth.
Whatever you'll be enjoying on New Year's, you can make a great bottle of wine a tradition. And may you have a happy, prosperous and healthy new year. Cheers!
Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier and wine educator with Southern Wine & Spirits.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org