Taking Time to Smell the Ingredients!
Originally published in The Heart of Hillsborough, December 2017
The holiday season in our little town of Hillsborough is a beautiful time, and one of the things I love most is connecting with friends over dishes reflecting their many traditions. My wife and I enjoy entertaining and one meal that we often serve is our own version of the well-known Vietnamese staple, Pho.
A simple, elegant dish, Pho reflects our love of fresh, spicy, and aromatic ingredients which warm us and that we can make together. Yet, one thing we have never done is formally pair it with a wine we feel would best compliment the dish’s beautiful array of flavors. It is a question that we finally decided to answer, for wine paired well with a favorite food is often a more memorable experience, especially during the holidays!
Rather than just selecting a bottle that I thought might work, I was more deliberate, opting to begin with the ingredients and working toward a suitable wine. Paying a visit to Weaver Street Market, I spent time smelling the ingredients that are the recipe’s foundation: mint, cilantro, lime, and chilies. As I did this, I thought about the scents and flavors in the context of wines I had experienced: the heat of the chilies would need a white wine of higher acidity to allow the subtle flavors to emerge, and the aromatic herbs would do best with a delicate wine that was more nuanced.
Satisfied, I decided upon Sauvignon Blanc for the varietal as its characteristics compliment spicy, aromatic dishes well, and one region in which it is grown, the French Loire Valley’s Sancerre, for how its terroir and climate leave a unique citrus-based signature upon the grape. Weaver Street Market’s wine portfolio is excellent and I chose Domaine Sautereau’s Sauvignon Blanc (priced at $15.99), taking it home to taste and pair!
What immediately got my attention was the golden hue of the wine which took on the appearance of a pale Chardonnay. Having experienced Sauvignon Blanc from other regions, many of those styles are always much lighter in color and to see this difference was intriguing. As I poured a glass, the bouquet provided entirely unexpected notes of Granny Smith apples, tart and crisp, which mingled with green herbs and lime. Tasting, my palate was greeted by a quick bite of acidity that took the form of lime and, like the bouquet, tart, crisp apples. This released into wonderfully light hints of jasmine, lemongrass, and dill, lingering with the fruit, well-balanced and delicate.
The pairing went quite well. What worked – and was most satisfying – was the complimentary flavors of both the wine and pho, especially the herbal components of each. Neither overwhelmed the others and both were delicate enough to showcase the uniqueness of flavor, giving much more character and depth between the wine and pho. Ultimately, individual taste should influence selection, but building a “nose” for the ingredients will make the experience of wine pairing much more exciting!