Top 5 Californian Food Pairings
Want to find out how to pair Californian food and wine? As Roberson’s resident foodie, Operations Executive Max Edge couldn’t wait to discover what’s been tickling California’...
Operations assistant Max Edge continues his adventures in £10+ wines. Don't miss his previous post: Breaking Bacchus. Put a zin(g) in your step Something occurred to me recently. By actively buying wine only in the £6-8 bracket, I had been neglecting the 4th biggest wine growing nation in the world – the USA. You can bet your bottom dollar that is a lot of wine. Perhaps this ignorance had been influenced by some of the typical stereotypes associated with American Wine: Either it’s way too expensive, Or it’s under £6, found in abundance and probably best left on the shelf. So, in my next venture beyond the £10 threshold I shall heed the advice of the Pet Shop Boys and “Go West” to find an answer to the question: does delicious, great value American wine exist? The answers are fairly easy to find at Roberson. Having retained the title of International Wine Challenge Specialist Merchant of the Year for USA for the seventh consecutive year, our USA portfolio represents some of the most outstanding, respected producers, with quality wines across the entire price range. The difficulty comes in choosing which one to try. Roberson has a wonderful selection of wines in the £10-20 range. Cabernet Sauvignons & Zinfandels from Viano Vineyards and Marrietta Cellars, and Pinot Noirs by Backhouse and Moobuzz all represent astonishing value for money. My decision didn’t take too long. After all, there was an occasion in the diary and food to be matched with. A helping hand came in the form of a text message from Dad earlier in the week. “Saturday; Barbecue; Leg of Lamb; Bring Wine”. The Gastronomic cogs of my brain got to work. I’ve always had an affinity with the dark-skinned, high ripening varietals found all over Italy, and if I wasn’t venturing to the “land of the free” my go-to choice would be a Negroamaro or Primitivo of Puglia, where the warm Mediterranean climate creates super-ripe, medium-bodied wines with jammy dark berry fruits; perfect for the Summer season. A barbecue calls for something a little more full-bodied to spar with though. American red wine; full-bodied; high acidity; jammy dark red fruits; subtle peppery notes. There’s a clear winner. ZINFANDEL! I’m not ashamed to admit I only recently learnt that Zinfandel and Primitivo are more-or-less the same grape. I might be getting a few ‘side-eyes’ from my colleagues for this admission but expanding my knowledge of wine is the one of the reasons I traded in my bar blade and waiter’s friend. And until now, I didn’t drink American wine, so perhaps they’ll forgive me. I took the plunge and went for Sobon Estate Zinfandel, The Rocky Top (£19 a bottle). Oomph! The wine has a great complex nose of summer red berries (cherries, redcurrants & cranberries), notes of white pepper and cassia bark and has fantastic structure and depth. It’s one of those wines that lets you know you’re in for a good time. Thanks to the high elevation of the vineyard, the wine is fresh with great acidity, full bodied and rich along with some gentle spice. A perfect partner for the food being served up. Barbecued Moroccan Lamb Leg with Chickpea Tagine The lamb leg is boned and butterflied to allow for a quick cook time and marinated in a spice rub made of ras el hanout, hot paprika, cumin, pepper, parsley, coriander. These spices help create a mild aromatic flavour and form a tasty blackened crust when left over hot coals, while the meat is tender and pink inside. Served alongside chickpea tagine, packed with flavours of the Mediterranean and North Africa and a simple wild rocket salad. The jammy fruit notes in the wine perfectly complement the spiced crust and juicy pink lamb. Zinging acidity cuts through the naturally fatty meat and the velvety finish makes for easy drinking in the summer sun. At 14.5% however, I’d advise against committing to evening activities. Fortunately, I’d learnt my lesson from last time and came prepared with a second bottle. Evening sorted.
Breaking the £10 Barrier with Bacchus A few years ago, returning home from university and staring at the blank, terrifying canvas of career ambiguity that lay ahead of me, I decided to apply for the most sought after of Grad Schemes. Bar Work. I’d always been a keen home cook, passionate for the food and drink industry. Downtime in the restaurants would be spent at the pass with the Chef, discussing anything from the perfect searing time for a medium-rare steak, to the trendiest fruit to use in a salad (definitely still pomegranate). Since joining the Roberson family in March of this year, I have spent the last 3 months adjusting to an office lifestyle. Fortunately for me, I now have a good amount of overdue evening time to be selfish, reserved purely for doing the things I love. Like going to the supermarket, cooking tasty food from scratch, and washing it down with a glass of wine. My approach to wine has always been open-minded but limited by a distorted perception of what is value, never straying beyond £6 - £8 a bottle. So join me as I cross into the unknown territory of the double digit price tag. Let’s start close to home. And I mean literally. Just down the stairs from our office into London Cru. There’d been some buzz in the office about the Baker St Bacchus 2018. Many consider Bacchus to be England’s best grape for still wines - and this one is from England's so-called ‘Vintage of the Century’. “Aromas of Elderflower and gooseberry,” and “zingy acidity alongside luscious stone fruits in the mid-palate.” This looked like as good a place to start as any. So, I hurdled excitedly for the first time over the £10 fence. The ground underfoot remained steady. My mind raced on to the evening’s dinner. If four years’ worth of lunchbreaks picking the brains of chefs had taught me anything, it was that a Bacchus like this would be best enjoyed alongside fresh white fish. A hop and skip to the North End Road market that lunchtime flooded my mind with suggestions for the ideal cuisine to pair with this stunning English Bacchus. Light wines with zippy acidity and dynamite tropical fruits lean heavily toward Asian food, especially Thai. The complex blend of the sour, sweet, salty, and spicy, as well as bitter and aromatic mean the wine needs to have a sufficient personality to add to the chorus. There’d been a recipe I’d been dying to try for a while, a bit of a showstopper, and with some friends coming over, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for a Thai feast. Crispy-Seabass with a sour fruit and peanut dressing – marinated overnight in Thai Red Curry paste and blitzed coriander stalks (scoring the flesh to allow the marinade to work its magic). Deep-fried whole, the skin blisters and becomes crispy with soft delicate flesh underneath. Topped with a delicious sweet, sour, salty dressing made up of fish sauce, lime juice, chunks of pink grapefruit, light muscovado sugar & sesame oil, chopped toasted peanuts and freshly torn mint and coriander. Served alongside an aubergine Red Curry, Jasmine rice and Thai beef salad with a seared sirloin. As we tucked in, a relative quietness developed around the dinner table, allowing for an introduction of the Baker St Bacchus as I poured our glasses. Had I opted for the usual £6 - £8 purchase, the wine would have been lost among the flavours on our plates and drowned by the dining table conversation. Instead, the Bacchus jumped around our mouths like an overexcited toddler at Disneyland, cutting through the ensemble of flavour and providing mouth-watering refreshment for the next mouthful. The only downside - the bottle was swiftly emptied, and I hadn’t bought two! Stay tuned for more of Max’s double-digit wine adventures.
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