It’s been far too long since I’ve featured a food and wine pairing!
I find that pairing with food is one of my favorite ways of analyzing a wine. So many New World wines seem to be more suited for stand-alone drinking, with food seeming to be an after-thought. It’s therefore always nice to see how these wines stand up to certain cuisines.
This recipe for Grouper with Cucumber Salad and Soy-Mustard Dressing came from my usual recipe source of FoodandWine.com, although I am thinking about considering looking to other recipe sites. The advertising and pop-up ads on their website have gotten a little out of control! It makes me feel cheap and dirty!
Anyway, as with any of the recipes I choose, it always seems that there’s at least one ingredient which I never heard of before. This recipe went one step further and gave me two ingredients I’ve never heard of: Mirin (photo on left) and Daikon (photo on right).
I had already prepared myself to visit an Asian grocery store, looking for Daikon and Mirin, so imagine my surprise when my local grocery store (Publix) carried both! It gave me a renewed faith in them!
Mirin is a clear, golden colored sweet cooking rice wine, which according to one source ”helps mask the smell of fish and seafood.” Hmmm, not exactly what I was looking to achieve since I bought this fish extremely fresh, but whatever….
Daikon is that crazy-looking thing in the photo on the right. I say that, but maybe Daikon’s are a mainstay ingredient in your household, but it was the first time I’ve even seen one of these guys!
After a little research, I discovered that the word Daikon comes from two Japanese words: dai (meaning large) and kon (meaning root). Makes sense I guess! Daikon is is root vegetable said to have originated in the Mediterranean and brought to China around 500 B.C. All-in-all, it’s essentially just a big radish.
It was also my first time cooking with Sake. Luckily The Mrs. had bought me some a while back, which I seemed to keep forgetting to drink.
Oh, and before I forget, a quick shout out to Atlantic Coast Seafood where I bought the Grouper from. If you live in Jacksonville check them out, the seafood is about as fresh as it gets! I would never buy from anyone else.
On to the wine!
The Vina Robles White is a Paso Robles (California) blend of Vermentino, Verdelho, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. You’re forgiven if you haven’t heard of one or two of those grapes; especially when coming from Californian wineries.
The Vina Robles winery is located approximately halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco in northern San Luis Obispo County. The winery team has strong European roots, which is very much evident in the wines they produce.
The Vina Robles White showed orange blossom, peach, ripe apricot, good minerality and a little nutty and slight yeasty quality. Crisp and refreshing, with zero evident oak.
I would have almost guessed the wine contained a little Muscat, if I didn’t know better. The flavor profile reminded me very much of Conundrum (white Californian blend).
I picked up the Vina Robles for $15, quite the bargain I thought! Overall I was very impressed with the Vina Robles. I know the winery makes a bunch of other wines, and I think a little searching is in order to see how the rest shape up.
I have to admit, I was a little concerned about the alcohol (14.2% stated on the bottle), as I thought it may have overpowered the dish, luckily this wasn’t the case. Maybe if the recipe had contained a little more spice it may have been a problem (pouring gasoline on a fire), but as it turned out the wine matched perfectly with the dish.
To be brutally honest I wasn’t totally thrilled with this recipe. Granted it was indeed healthy, but aside from the sauce, there wasn’t much in the way of flavor. I do like healthy recipes, but I don’t think that flavor should be sacrificed. The one thing it did have going with it was that it was fairly quick and easy to prepare.
Since the Grouper didn’t actually have any accompaniments, I went out on a limb and served it with bok choy, which I just threw into a sauté pan with water, some of the Mirin and a dash or three of soy sauce. The taste was surprisingly good for a first attempt at cooking bok choy!
With all of that being said, I’ll rate this pairing as a:
~ My Food & Wine Pairing Guide ~
The interaction of wine and food when tasted together has a negative impact on the senses. This is common when the food item is high in acidity, salt, bitterness, or spiciness.
Many times wine serves simply as a satisfying refreshment to accompany a certain food choice. The refreshment match may be appropriate when the food severely inhibits a good or synergistic wine choice.
These pairing situations are average and pleasant, but are missing an element of individuality and thus cannot provide a superior gastronomic experience.
In this situation, you have found a wine that matches the food item’s basic components (sweet, sour, bitter, salty) and overall body.
This essentially means the combined effect of the wine and the food paired together is superior to the sum of the individual parts.