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Bigger Than Your Head

Wine May Be Fine But Beer May Be Better
"Sometimes thatís just the way it works out. Some foods and dishes reject wine as a companion ó or certain wines ó no matter how good the wine is in favor of beer. Iím thinking particularly of Indian and Southeastern Asian cuisines, which with their combination of spicy heat and intensity and often exotic flavors defy a pairing with wine, unless itís a moderately sweet riesling, pinot gris or gewurztraminer whose keen acidity cuts through the richness of the dish and whose delicate sweetness balances the spice. Such a match is a cliche of the wine-and-food-pairing cohort, but as is the case with many cliches thereís a great deal of truth to the assumption..."

Unfortunately, that night I prepared the assertive Chicken Khao Soi, a recipe derived from north Thailand sources - it's the cover recipe for the March 2013 issue of Bon Appetit - I didn't have an appropriate riesling on hand, so I tried beer and a sauvignon blanc from California. It's not the wine's fault that it couldn't stand up to the intensity of the Chicken Khao Soi - I did ask a lot out of it - but beer just did a better job here.

The beer was Pistil, a unique seasonal product brewed with dandelion petals (as well as hops, malts, and oats) by Magic Hat Brewing Company in South Burlington, Vermont...

Delightful isn't a word one finds often in reviews and commentary on beer, but I thought that Pistil was delightful in its light, slightly brassy gold color; its mildly creamy but not prominent head...and its aromas of oranfe peel, lemongrass, slightly sour wheat and an earthy element that really develops in the mouth, along with some bitterness and fairly leafy, spiced tea-like flavor...

So, what about the wine that bravely held its head up like a good soldier? The Silverado Miller Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, is always one of my favorite sauvignon blanc wines, and for 2012 - that's right, the wine isn't even six months old - it shows itself in fine fashion. The color is a very pale straw hue; snappy yet stylish aromas of grapefruit, lime peel and limestone, fig and tarragon, thyme, sage and bay tantalize the nose; a few minutes in the glass bring in notes of fresh-mown grass and gooseberry. The whole enterprise is lively and vibrant, energized by crisp, finely-etched acidity and scintillating, crystalline elements of flint and steel. The 98 percent sauvignon blanc portion, fermented in stainless steel, is supplemented by two-percent barrel-fermented semillon that contributes just a touch of spice and a bit of suppleness to the lovely, slightly powdery texture. As you can see, a great deal of the success of this wine lies in its precise balance between the energy of the acidity and mineral elements and the ripeness and moderate lushness of its texture and fruit. After a few more moments, the Silverado Miller Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2012 unfolds hints of tangerine and jasmine, pear and caramelized fennel, all of these qualities expressed with delicacy and finesse...

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