The Somm Journal

Dec 2015-Jan 2016

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Page 40 of 124

40 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } DECEMBER/JANUARY 2015/2016 { pairings } THE HOLIDAY SEASON SHEPHERDS IN A GRAND CORNUCOPIA of cuisine styles and flavors, from traditional to innovative—menus that incite debate over the merits of various wine pairings and regions (Old World versus New; dry versus sweet; white versus red). But fear not: For perfect pairing solutions, sommeliers need look no further than the wines of Spain's D.O. Ribera and D.O. Rueda for just the right combination of freshness, boldness and diversity of flavor to complement hearty holiday menus. "When the weather cools, meat and rustic root vegetable–driven dishes, as well as slower cooking methods like braising, roasting and grilling, take center stage," says Master Sommelier Alexander LaPratt, partner at Atrium DUMBO in Brooklyn. "These foods and cooking meth - ods are a natural accouterment for the wines of Ribera and Rueda." LaPratt describes the Verdejo-based whites of Rueda as bright and crisp without being simplistic, while the signature Tempranillo grape of Ribera del Duero delivers bold, rugged and ripe reds—two styles that beautifully bookend a festive fall meal that progresses from zesty or spicy salads and appetiz - ers to main courses that feature herb-crusted roasts and fowl with sweet and savory root vegetables and squashes. LaPratt says one of his favorite pairings is Rueda and salad made from crispy seasonal greens such as spinach, arugula and frisee. "I love a great mix of lettuce: something bitter, something spicy, something with texture, blended with tomato and cucumber and a touch of salt. The combination really draws the flavor out of the earth in a way that harmonizes so well with the mineral and citrus notes of Rueda." Charles Ford, Wine Director at The Bristol in Chicago, says that Rueda is an ideal alternative for people who love Sauvignon Blanc, as well as Chablis. "It's a wonderful, outside-the-box choice that introduces consumers to an expansive world of white wine beyond Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio." To further showcase Rueda's diversity, Ford suggests pairing Verdejo with autumnal dishes prepared with seasonal vegetables or gourds. "What distinguishes Rueda is its ability to be vibrant and fresh while being intellectual with depth." While Rueda whites are typically pro - duced in a crisp, high acid, and ready to drink style, Ford notes that some winemakers have begun to experiment with barrel aging, lees aging or fermentation in concrete eggs. "To be able to produce wines with such a wide spectrum of styles is a huge advantage that renders these wines a natural choice for sommeliers and a great value for consumers," he says. Autumn is also a time of awakening for the homely oven, beloved for the comforting and mouth-watering aromas it emits when fired up and filled with juicy meats and savory, caramelized morsels. "The reds of Ribera del Duero are such a fitting wine with roasted meats," says Ford. "Pork, beef, goat or lamb all benefit from big-bodied Tempranillo. I recently conducted a tasting of Ribera paired with takeout food, and Tempranillo works great with cheeseburgers, too." "Tempranillo is such a food friendly grape," observes LaPratt. "It possesses nuance and elegance but also power to hold up to hearty flavors and spices. I would love to pair it with leg of lamb, roasted in the oven with tomatoes and olive oil until it shrivels and takes on incredible concentrated flavor." Both LaPratt and Ford agree, the wines of Ribera and Rueda—while not new—are freshly exciting: complex yet approachable, versatile yet delicious. "These wines will appeal to people with open minds, who revel in discovery and have sense of adventure," muses LaPratt. And they are exceptional values, too, making them excellent by-the-glass pours. TWO TOP WINE DIRECTORS FIND THAT THESE FOOD-FRIENDLY WINES COMPLEMENT HEARTY HOLIDAY FARE RIBERA AND RUEDA: Dynamic Duo by Cliff Rames

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