Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rosé Champagne and Thai Food

The holidays are upon us, so it's time to celebrate with some special wines. For me, Champagne is the wine for celebration and while I love just about any example, it's Rosé Champagne that is my favorite. There are a few reasons for this; certainly the color, ranging from light copper to bright strawberry, is a festive one. Then there is the richness of the Pinot Noir in the blend, generally giving the wine a fuller, more luxurious feel in the mouth.

To kick off the holidays in style, I tasted out three first-rate Rosé Champagnes with two friends the other night at a Thai restaurant on the north side of Chicago. There are dozens of Thai eateries in Chicago that are BYOB, so the chance to taste some great wines with some beautiful food seemed to be a natural. The restaurant I selected was Siam Country, a typical small dining room with a wide array of selections. This has become comfort food for me over the years and given all the flavors in these dishes, I thought it would be fun - as well as educational - to pair Rosé Champagnes with this cuisine.

So I'm dividing this post into two parts: first, my notes on the wines. Second, notes on how the wines paired with various foodstuffs.

Perrier Jouet Blason Rosé (non-vintage)
Light copper color; aromas of Bosc pear, strawberry and orange rind. Medium-bodied with very good concentration. Good but not high acidity, as the finish is quite round and elegant. Quite flavorful with subtle notes of sweet red spice, such as nutmeg. Good persistent stream of bubbles. A very fine introduction to Rosé Champagne for those who are not familiar. A lovely food wine. Excellent (Suggested retail price: $75)

Gosset Grand Rosé (non-vintage)
Light copper color; aromas of strawberry, dried orange, currant and dried pear with a light yeasty note. Beautiful stream of very small bubbles- quite persistent. Full-bodied, this is a powerful rosé with an incredibly delicate feel on the palate - impeccably balanced! Beautifully tuned acidity and a long, rich finish. Wonderful complexity. Outstanding (SRP $80)

Bollinger Rosé (non-vintage)
Deep copper/reddish color; aromas of fresh red cherry, biscuit, currant and dried pear. The house style of Bollinger, which I describe as old-fashioned, with plenty of fruit as well as a toastiness is quite evident in this wine. Very fine bubbles with a persistent stream. Full-bodied, this has a generous mid-palate and a lengthy finish with excellent persistence and vibrant acidity. Plenty of class and breeding on display in this marvelous wine. Outstanding (SRP $100)

The Food

Tomkar soup
Tomkar is a classic Thai soup made with coconut milk, lemon grass and ginger (among other ingredients). We selected chicken for our soup. This was a perfect match with the Perrier-Jouet, as that wine has lower acidity than the others. Thus the round finish of that wine meshed beautifully with the creaminess of the soup.

Appetizers - Spring Rolls and Pot Stickers
The spring rolls, served with a mild plum sauce were best with the Perrier-Jouet, while the pot stickers were a marvelous match with the Gosset, as the earthiness and high acidity of this wine (Gosset Champagnes do not undergo malo-lactic fermentation and thus have a more vibrant acidic note in the finish) picked up on the richness of this appetizer. 

Entrées- Duck breast with ginger and carrots/ Noodles with green and red curry (separate entrées)
I had enjoyed the duck breast on previous visits to Siam Country, but it was never as beautifully prepared as it was this evening (in fact, my colleagues commented on how this was the best meal we had experienced here). I always pair duck with Pinot Noir, so why not a Rosé Champagne with duck? It worked beautifully, as this was a rich duck preparation with a crispy skin that paired superbly with the Bollinger - this was a perfect match. It also tasted out great with the other two wines as well. 

As for the curry dishes, my friend Bob preferred the Bollinger with the red curry, though he also liked the softer Perrier Jouet as well, while he favored the Gosset with the green curry entrée.

I had never brought Rosé Champagne to a Thai restaurant before, but I was confident this evening would be a success. It was, thanks to the lovely richness and balance of these Champagnes, which were complex and flavorful enough to stand up the the spiciness of these dishes. I hope many of you will think about Rosé Champagne with Thai food or perhaps with many other cuisines as well. Experiment and have fun this holiday season!

P.S. My friends and I prefer light to mild spicy Thai food, so these wines were ideal. If you opt for a spicier preparation, you would definitely want a Rosé Champagne with a high level of acidity such as the Gosset. As with all wine and food pairings, it's about marrying similar flavors and textures.

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