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