Thursday, May 7, 2020

A Rich, Deep 2015 Reserva Rioja from Beronia Meets It’s Perfect Food Pairing by Philip #. Kampe

At this most crucial time of separation from the ones you love, thanks to the Coronavirus, for some of us, it creates the opportunity to cook. In my case, for the past 26 years, I have been the sole cook in our household. So, the pandemic is only a stretch from reality.

My wife, Maria, just started cooking her Caprese mother’s recipes. Its a first since we have been married.  She uses her mother’s recipes and has cooked soups, primarily. lentil,  chicken and Pasta Fasul. All have been winners. Her mother, Anna, was an exceptional cook.

I realize that writing only about wine is fine, but, why not pair the wine with selected food. And why not share the recipe? I am one of the types of cooks who doesn’t use a recipe. I don’t measure amounts, but, take a pinch of this and a pinch of that. I grew up in New Orleans and learned the basics from my mother.

In Italy, where food is so important, most households choose the wine first, then cook a meal around it. That’s been the mantra in our house for years.

Today is no exception.

The wine we chose is from the Rioja region in Spain. It is the largest wine producing area in Spain, located in north central Spain, about a two drive from Bilbao. Red wines shine in Rioja and Tempranillo is the star.

The wine we chose to pair a meal with is a 2015 Beronia Reserva. It is 95% Tempranillo, 4% Graciano and 1% Mazuelo.  Spain, as like most wine producing countries has countless indigenous varieties. Wines that retail under $20 a bottle is my usual ‘go to’ price range. Big wines like this one at 14.5% alcohol pair best with beef, lamb, veal and poultry. I’m not much of a meat eater, but, I do love lamb.

Fortunately, I had a three pound lamb in the freezer, left over from Easter. It was intended for our 91 year old friends who spend the holidays with us. Due to the Coronavirus, Easter didn’t happen this year.

Cooking lamb is quite simple. The Greeks do it so well. I’ve adopted their style. I marinate the boneless lamb in olive oil, rub anchovies on the outside and make holes in the flesh and stuff them with sliced garlic and rosemary. I marinate the lamb for several hours or even days, After marinating the lamb, put it in your fridge. Take it out and hour before cooking it in the oven. Preheat your oven for thirty minutes at 300F. Put your lamb on an upper shelf and cook for an hour- if you like it medium rare. The Greeks eat lamb well done. If that’s the case factor in another thirty minutes in the oven. My wife eats lamb with mint jelly.

Pairing lamb with this Rioja wine was perfect. The gamey lamb needs a big wine. The 2015 Beronia Reserva is bold, dry, tannic and acidic. The wine evolved into another wine once it paired with the lamb. It became velvety and soft.  The lamb balanced the wine. It was rather magical. The leather and spice and oak in the wine appeared before the plummy fruit took over and lingered on the palate.

The 2015 Beronia Reserva was aged for five years. The aging developed notes of vanilla, cherry, spicy plum, chocolate, dates and leather on the palate. Frankly, all of these nuances appeared while it was paired with the lamb. Does that mean that this is a food wine.? Absolutely, yes.

Beronia Vineyards sources their grapes from two-hundred growers. Vines range from thirty to sixty years old. Winemaker Matias Calleja selects the grapes, parcel by parcel. Its as if the vineyards are his. He has complete knowledge of Beronia’s 70 acres of vineyards and the 2000 acres Beronia sources in Rioja Alta. All of the growers are within a six mile radius from Beronia’s vineyard.

Philip S. Kampe

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