EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re pleased to introduce a new feature in the Herald Times, courtesy of local food and wine experts Vanessa Trout, owner of Blanco Cellars, and Scott Creecy, executive chef at Elk Creek Ranch.
By Vanessa Trout
Special to the Herald Times
RBC | If you are any thing like me, you love trying new things and being adventurous, especially in the kitchen! This weekend is no exception to embrace experimentation for a foolproof taste explosion of an obscure wine paired with a braised lamb dish to heat up a cold winter night.
Allow me to introduce Marselan, a not so common French red grape, compared to say Pinot Noir or Merlot. It is a hybrid grape that crosses two famous grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. It was bred in 1961 by a French agricultural institute to help vineyard growers steer away from high-yielding, low-quality grapes. It combines the small berry qualities and finesse of Cabernet Sauvignon, with the heat tolerance and high yielding capabilities of Grenache. So in the glass, you have a deeply colored, approachable, highly aromatic wine with soft tannins and tons of flavors. What’s not to love?
It hails from regions in Southwest France, and this featured wine, is made by Jean-Luc and Marie-Lise Dorthe of Domaine de Couron in Saint Marcel d’Ardeche, 45 miles northwest of Avignon. They use sustainable practices in the vineyard and winery, a method that views the vineyard as a self-sufficient whole, where insects are taken care of by natural predators, not pesticides, and organic waste, not chemical fertilizer, enriches the soil. They, among other “green” wine producers, steer away from industrial practices that use pesticides, herbicides and heavy irrigation all which bring about ecological problems and insipid, characterless fruit.
The Wine Advocate, a wine publication, describes this wine as “…Quality aromas and flavors of black currants, wild herbs, loamy earth, tobacco leaf and background meatiness to go with a medium-bodied, nicely balanced profile on the palate. It is quite good and well worth the price of admission.” A great food wine, which stands up to intense, savory dishes (like Scott’s braised lamb and polenta) and cold winter nights (see recipe).
Lamb has an intense interesting flavor and is one of the most wine-friendly meats. Marselan is a perfect wine to pair with braised (that is, cooking in liquid) lamb and creamy polenta because tannins in red wine crave fat in meat. Tannins are naturally occurring compounds in red grape skins and taste dry and astringent on the front of the tongue. However, these very tannins bond to fat molecules in meat to release flavor in your mouth and soften the wine’s astringency. Add in cheese, herbs and seasoning and Bam! a perfect pairing. So grab hold of your adventurous side this weekend; try a new wine and make something new in the kitchen. You won’t regret it!