For most of us wine and food are intimately linked. And over in Europe, this is especially true. You’ll notice that many Italian wines have a fair amount of acid, which stand up nicely to a lot of the acidic foods. Chicken Picatta and a plethora of tasty tomato-based dishes come to mind. And these are some foods where you want something like a nice Tocai Friulano or Chianti. Seafood also takes well to acidic wines, like Sauvignon Blanc or Muscadet, or even Portuguese whites. Although seafood varies in its pungency and fishiness, it and often needs a wine with some real presence.

In my explorations into Portuguese wines lately I found a great little bottle from the Douro. Most of the grapes in Douro, of course make into Port wines, but a good number of those grapes make their way off the steep slopes and into table reds and whites. This particular wine, Quinta Seara d’Ordens Reserva 2005, is made from Malvasia Fina, Robigato, and Fernão Pires. These three are often grown at high altitude in the Douro, which helps give the wine crisp acidity.

While looking into what were, for me, three new grapes, I found a few interesting tidbits. There seems to be some debate or confusion over one of the grapes. You’ll recognize Malvasia from various Italian wines, such as Vin Santo. This is a family of grapes grown throughout the Mediterranean, from the Balkan Peninsula to the Iberian Peninsula. I found at least ten different varieties, some of which naturally had local names in order to add to the confusion. The question over one variety, Malvasia Fino, is over whether the grape also poses as the Boal grape on Madeira. Jancis Robinson identifies them as the same grape in her book Oxford Companion to Wine, but Richard Mayson makes states they are two distinct grapes in Port and the Douro. I'll have to write something more in-depth about that.

In any event, the wine paired well with my steamed mussels earlier this week.

20 medium-sized mussels
2 cloves garlic
1 small shallot
juice of half a lemon
1 plum tomato
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
¾ cup water
½ cup white wine (I used the Seara d’Ordens)
a couple turns of fresh ground black pepper

Mussels don’t take that long to steam, so I like to let the steaming liquid to boil with the garlic and shallots for a few moments, maybe a minute, before throwing in the shellfish, tomatoes, and parsley. This just gives a little extra time for all the flavors to come out. The mussels are finished when the shells open up. The simplest thing to do is place all the mussels in a bowl, pour the steaming juice over the shells, melt some butter, grab a baguette, and just go to town. And of course, don’t forget the wine.

The wine had medium-high acidity, with citrus and passion fruit aromas, along with citrus and apple flavors. It spent six months in French oak, which also gave it some hints of vanilla aromas and a small touch of that mouthfeel you get from tannins. Quinta Seara d'Ordens


  1. Natalie MacLean said...
    Great suggestion Doug! I'm going to add this to my wine-and-food matching tool on my site ( Please let me know if you have more matching suggestions... I have thousands in there already but I love discovering new ones and unusual cones (try champagne and potato chips sometime).

    If you're interested, I hope you'll join my free newsletter. Keep up the great work.

    Doug said...
    Thanks Natalie! I'm glad you liked the recipe. For the next Wine Blogging Wednesday, I'm thinking of doing something along the lines of a stuffed chicken breast paired with a Maconnais. Actually, I already subscribe to your newsletter. Lot's of good stuff! You have some good podcast topics, too.

    Champagne and potato chips, eh? I'll have to try that.

    Natalie MacLean said...
    Thanks Doug! I'd also like to send you some info off-line ... would you please e-mail me via my web site?

    RougeAndBlanc said...
    First time reading your blog. You seems to know wine and food pairing very well.
    For this recipe, although very close to what we usually do make steamed mussels, you specify the white wine used. Do you think the wine make a huge difference in the final aroma of the dish?
    Also, thanks for the recommendation of the white Douro. However, I can't seem to find it availabe in NYC. Where did you get yours from?
    Doug S. said...
    Sorry for the lateness on getting back to you. I wouldn't say the wine completely alters the aroma, but I definitely think it adds another dimension to the aroma. It adds a little brightness--a bit of a lift if you will. Wine is something great I love to add to a lot of foods!

    I don't see a lot of white Douro wines. I bought this one in Virginia, either at the Curious Grape in Arlington, or the The Vineyard, where I work part-time in McLean, Va.
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