Pairing wine and food is a rewarding way to discover personal palate preferences. With a focus on palate in mind, we decided to have a little fun with our continual old-world / new-world war by turning a celebratory duck dinner into a high-end Syrah Showdown!
Food and wine pairing is an amazing adventure for strong of heart individualists. Multiple variables come into play with each ingredient and component added, each interpretation of a recipe, and each individual wine choice. There are so many pairing guidelines that, realistically, they should not be interpreted as open-endedly as you might expect. For instance, “Fettuccini Alfredo and Chardonnay” has to be carefully interpreted, since a rich, buttery, oaky California Chardonnay is the appropriate pick, and not its French Burgundian cousin, which would be too bright and lean for the dish. Hence, grape variety, place and style of wine all factor into the perfect pairing.
The wines we chose were certainly based on pedigree and “wow-factor”, but also for their identical “cepages”, or varietal compositions. Both were built on a traditional Cote-Rotie model: 90% Syrah, and 10% Viognier— a white variety that classily lends aromatic pop and much-needed acidity to the dense and sometimes flaccid nature of even the best Syrah. The two wines are also closely priced on a retail shelf, one of them an actual French Cote-Rotie from a highly regarded Rhone vintner, the other a Walla Walla Washington Syrah from a winery so small and new that it barely has a rep outside of industry circles. A very exciting circumstance for the wine geek in us!
Reynvaan Syrah The Unnamed, 2008
Domaine Jean-Michel Stephan Cote-Rotie, 2009
Pan Roasted Magret Duck Breast with Pan Juices
Sautéed Turnip Greens
Spicy Eggplant Chutney
As the English language has exceptions to every rule, stunning wines that rival their European masters are being grown in the USA! Furthermore, such wines are just as capable (and aptly incapable) of marrying with flavors in traditional European fare.
Now the question “Do you prefer new world wines or old world wines?” comes with a big asterisk.