A Mediterranean Meze Lunch with Loire Wines:
Food and Wine Pairing
Having lived in Cyprus and run a restaurant there for several years, I am well versed in the Mediterranean Meze lunch; at the restaurant I used to co-host and run, we had a fabulous meze menu, of which I prepared and cooked many of the dishes. And, the meze doesn’t just exist in the Mediterranean either, many countries all over the world also serve little appetisers before a simple main course. There are Tapas in Spain and Mexico, Italian Antipasti, the famous multiple appetisers in Chinese Dim Sum, small dishes of Sushi in Japan that often precede a main rice or noodle course, and Indian pakoras and samosas which are eaten along with sambals before the main curried event. These are just simple examples, but many cultures offer “amuse bouche” before the main dish, and I have always loved these “edible bits and bobs”.
So, when it comes to pairing wines with these sorts of meals and dishes, what are the recommendations? It is usual for beer or local aperitifs such as Raki, Pastis or Ouzo to be matched with small pre-dinner dishes such as these, but, I think we are all missing a trick here, as wine makes a wonderful accompaniment for so many reasons. I was recently asked if I would like to pair some Loire Valley wines with food, and was sent two bottles of the region’s wines to “play with” and pair with food of my choice. I was very pleased to accept, as my favourite wine region in France is the Loire Valley, and all of my favourite wines come from that area – Anjou, Vouvray, Chinon, Muscadet, Sancerre, Touraine, Pouilly-Fumé and Saumur to name but a few. In fact, I rate a sparkling Vouvray higher than most champagnes, and it is my “fizz” of choice.
I was sent two bottles of Loire Valley wine, a bottle of Domaine des Ratelles, Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine sur Lie, 2011, ( a white wine) and a bottle of Gwenaël Guihard, La Grille Rosé d’Anjou, 2011 (a rosé wine). The press wine tasting notes for both wines are shared just below, before I share my own wine and food pairing notes with you all……
Gwenaël Guihard, La Grille Rosé d’Anjou, 2011:
• Appellation : Rosé d’Anjou A.C.
• Region : Loire, France
• Grape varieties: Grolleau, Gamay
• Origin:C ollege-trained oenologist Gwenaël Guihard has used specially selected grapes from the schist and granite of the Western Loire for this delicious off-dry rosé. Using cool fermentations to bring out all the grapes’ appetizing fruit flavours and aromas
• Taste: Bottled with a light natural spritz, the wine has a refreshing, summery zing. Strawberry and hints of peach fill the palate, with their flavours brought out by the wine’s laid-back, off-dry demeanour.
• Enjoy: Great on its own, as an apéritif, or with sweetly spiced, creamy curries
• ABV: 11%
• Price: £7.99
• Retailer: Majestic
Domaine des Ratelles, Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine sur Lie, 2011:
• Appellation: Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine sur Lie A.C.
• Region: Loire, France
• Grape varieties: Melon de Bourgogne
• Origin: Owned by brothers Daniel and Gérard Vinet, this domaine comprises around 30 hectares of prime Muscadet vineyards in the heart of Sèvre-et-Maine, to the south of Nantes. The little village where the Vinets are based, La Haye Fouassière, is actually the origin of the wines of Muscadet. Daniel tends the vines and winemaking is carried out by Gérard, his younger brother
• Harvest: With the influence of the Atlantic, the harvest generally begins in early September. The best plot here, made up of old vines, is called Les Ratelles. Overall, the Vinets succeed in producing very classic, mineral Muscadet with good fruit and firm structure
• Soil: This wine is made from sustainable agriculture vineyard on gabbro and gneiss soils with a moderate climate due to Atlantic ocean
• Taste: classic, dry, firm tasting muscadet with good fruit and structure
• Enjoy: The best match for shellfish, but good with salads or simply cooked fish too
• ABV: 12%
• Price: £6.99
• Retailer: The Wine Society
Lavender and Lovage Pairing Notes and Suggested Food/Recipes:
Let’s start with my favourite of the two wines that were sent to me, a wine I enjoy myself, the Rosé d’Anjou. It was a surprisingly dry, well, drier than most Rosé d’Anjou wines I am used to drinking when in France. It was still very fruity with a hint of musky vanilla, but still had that slight “fizz” that I always associate with this wine, which makes it so suitable to drink as an aperitif as well as being served as a dessert wine. I was tempted to serve the wine with a fresh fruit dessert, or even a cherry clafoutis or cherry pie, but with the wine being drier than usual, I decided to pair it with a Mediterranean inspired meze luncheon. It would be a fabulous start to the meal, so I served it with a plate of Serrano Ham, some soft goat’s cheese and Green Olives. It made a wonderful pairing – the saltiness of the ham, olives and cheese were enhanced by the fruity, almost peppery taste of the wine, and I imagine that it would have gone very well with pâtés and terrines too. My suggested food pairings for this particular wine are:
Pâté & Charcuterie, Cheese – especially Goat’s Cheese, Olives, Antipasti, Dry-Cured Hams, Savoury Dips, Fruit and Nuts
Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine sur Lie:
This is also another wine I use and drink a lot; mainly with seafood and fish, and I often use it when I cook Moules Marinière. The Domaine des Ratelles, Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine sur Lie was extremely crisp with hints of lemon and grapefruit. It was a lovely pale straw colour and at 12% had great “legs” when poured. The temptation was to serve it with fish, seafood or indeed moules frites, but the PR company who sent me the wine had asked us to think of more unusual pairings, and so I decided to serve this as my second wine for the Mediterranean Meze Lunch I had prepared. Having enjoyed a few glasses of the Rosé d’Anjou with the Serrano Ham, Olives and Soft Goat’s Cheese, we then opened the Muscadet to drink with the rest of the meze…….there was a Turkish Fava Bean Dip with Bread, some Ratatouille and a Salad of Mixed Grains with Roasted Vegetables. The dishes were rich with olive oil, spices, herbs and seasoning and we thought that the dry, crispness of the Muscadet made for a refreshing pairing by cutting through the richness and refreshing the palate. My suggested food pairings for this particular wine are:
Savoury Dips, Legumes, Salads, Grains, Seasonal Vegetables – especially when cooked in Olive Oil and Antipasti such as Olives and Roast Peppers, North African and Mediterranean Style Food – with spices and herbs
For more information about wines from the Loire Valley, visit their website here: Vins de Loire. There are maps, photo galleries and even some recipes there which would pair well with any wines from the region. As part of my review and pairing notes for these two wines, I am being entered into a competition to win “A three-day trip to Loire for two. The trip includes travel, overnight accommodation a driver, a guided walking tour through Loire vineyards tasting wines and trying local cuisine, which includes and 2 gourmet dinners”, and, if I am lucky enough to win, I promise I will be back with lots of photos, wine tasting notes and some new recipes that would be wonderful when paired with a bottle or two of Vins de Loire! Wish me luck and I leave you with a simple recipe that would be fabulous with either one of these wines, Cassoulet salade d’été avec confit de canard (Summer Cassoulet Salad with Preserved Duck) - the original post was published last year, but I am sharing the recipe here once again, as we enjoyed this dish with a glass of Rosé d’Anjou. See you soon, Karen
Cassoulet salade d’été avec confit de canard (Summer Cassoulet Salad with Preserved Duck) Recipe:
Disclaimer: I was sent two bottles of wine as described above in order to pair them with food to enter a contest to win a weekend in the Loire Valley wine tasting.
The Loire Valley wine region includes the French wine regions situated along the Loire River from the Muscadet region near the city of Nantes on the Atlantic coast to the region of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé just South-East of the city of Orléans in north central France. In between are the regions of Anjou, Saumur, Bourgueil, Chinon, and Vouvray. The Loire Valley itself follows the river through the Loire province to the river’s origins in the Cévennes but the majority of the wine production takes place in the regions noted above. The area includes 87 appellations under the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), Vin Délimité de Qualité Superieure (VDQS) and Vin de pays systems. While the majority of production is white wine from the Chenin blanc, Sauvignon blanc and Melon de Bourgogne grapes, there are red wines made (especially around the Chinon region) from Cabernet franc. In addition to still wines, rosé, sparkling and dessert wines are also produced. With Crémant production throughout the Loire, it is the second largest sparkling wine producer in France after Champagne. Among these different wine styles, Loire wines tend to exhibit characteristic fruitiness with fresh, crisp flavours-especially in their youth. The Loire Valley has a long history of winemaking dating back to the 1st century. In the High Middle Ages, the wines of the Loire Valley were the most esteemed wines in England and France, even more prized than those from Bordeaux. (Wikipedia)