Friday, 13 July 2012

Wine with Risotto

One of the things I love about risottos is that (like curries) there are so many different ways to make and flavor risotto.  My wife also has a method for making risotto now using the Thermomix, that produces a great risotto in 20 minutes instead of the hour it was taking before, using more traditional methods.

While this is not a blog on making risotto, I am going to take a minute to cover off making risotto the traditional way versus using the Thermomix as I did not believe risotto made in a Thermomix could be nearly as good, but it is.  It did take her several trials to get it right in terms of exact timing and amount of ingredients to put in and some risottos work better in the Thermomix than others.  However, for the working couple who does not have the time upon returning home from work later in the evening, using the Thermomix to prepare a mid-week risotto meal is a real treat!

You can look to my bride's blog "DAZ in the Kitchen" to find out more on her risotto recipes and making them the traditional way and with the Thermomix.  Now back to the question of "which wine goes best with which risotto?"

One of the basic principles I try to follow when selecting a wine to go with food is to ensure that the wine and food are "in balance."

What does this mean?  For me, it means that neither the food nor the wine overpowers the other nor minimizes the other's role in the meal.  If food is smooth or creamy, then the wine (usually) should be also; if the food is more gritty (like lasagna), then the wine should be more gritty (have more tannins, be unfiltered, etc.) like the 2006 St Peter's Shiraz I recently had with a good meat lasagna;  if the food is complex with many ingredients, the wine should be complex (usually this means more time in the bottle); if the wine has some sharp tastes (sometimes with fish or seafood for example), then the wine should have a bit of an edge to it also.  There are entire books written on this subject, but hopefully you get the idea.

Risotto becomes creamier in texture as it is cooked and creates a bit of sauce to go with it.  We often make a chicken and mushroom risotto using white chicken meat and button mushrooms.  I have found that a medium-bodied Chardonnay goes well with it.  I would recommend something like the 2009 or 2011 Two Rivers Reserve Chardonnay.  While there are certainly many different Chardonnays in this category that would work, the Two Rivers is simply one of the very best Chardonnays you can get for the money.  I would recommend it over all others for this type of risotto.

But if the risotto is made with a combination of white and dark chicken meat or dark meat only and you are using multiple types of mushrooms, such as portabella and shiitake, or you are mixing in a bit of truffle oil, then I would use a more aged and complex Chardonnay.  Chardonnays in this league would include the Penfold's Yattarna, the 2000 Waverly Estate Chardonnay, or even a Puligny or Chassagne Montrachet.  But note these wines are three to ten time more expensive than the Two Rivers, which would still go very nicely with a more complex chicken and mushroom risotto!

Last night I tried the 2009 Pepper Tree Pinot Gris with the chicken and mushroom risotto and it did not match as well as the Chardonnays I have had with the dish previously, but I believe it was the particular Pinot Gris.  I think a true Italian Pinot Gris such as the 2010 Jermann (which is a far better Pinot Grigio on its own!) would have matched beautifully as it is a bit smoother, yet much more intense and flavorful than the Pepper Tree.

However, the Pepper Tree, being a bit more bland and metallic, would have gone very nicely with a (non-spicy) pumpkin risotto, which is something I plan to verify the next time we make a pumpkin risotto.

My bride also makes a magnificent prawn and gorgonzola cheese risotto, with both the prawn and cheese bringing out a more metallic and sharper taste than the chicken and mushroom risotto.  Therefore, I match up a nice Riesling with that risotto.  I would recommend the 2009 Hugel Alsace Riesling or any good Riesling from the Clare or Eden Valley in South Australia.  There are so many good Rieslings in the $15 - $30 range that would go well with the prawn and gorgonzola risotto.

The important thing again is "balance".  Had I matched the Riesling with the chicken and mushroom risotto, the Riesling would have overwhelmed the risotto and had I matched the Chardonnay with the prawn and gorgonzola risotta, the wine would have been overpowered by the food.

When eating and drinking wine, if either the food or wine is dominant, then you have made a poor choice in the matching, but if both are in balance and blending nicely together, then you have made good choice.  And if they are competing back and forth without either one winning, then you have made the perfect choice!

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