Mustard and Vine

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Winter can be a dull time to visit a vineyard, especially if you have visions of leafy canopies heavy with fruit dancing in your head. However, in many parts of the wine making world—including the well-trod regions of Napa, Sonoma, and Burgundy—winter brings its own measure of delight in the form of a waving sea of yellow-gold blossoms: the dance of the mustard flowers.

Mustard and wine share an affinity on many levels—there is the delight of grilled chicken in mustard cream sauce paired with a crisp Chardonnay, for example—and the flagship of all mustards (Dijon, of course) is made with wine. The plants themselves—the mustard flowers and the grapevines—get along famously as well.

The vine: When used as a cover crop between rows of vines, mustard plants can provide the benefits of any cover crop such as protecting the soil from erosion, improving the ability of water to penetrate the soil, attracting beneficial insects, and increasing the organic matter in the soil.

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Mustard plants have a few specific benefits as well. For one, they are very hardy—the seeds of the mustard plant can survive in the soil for up to 40 years, and spring to life after a late fall rain. Mustard plants also produce biofumigants (natural chemical agents) that suppress nematode (nasty little roundworm) populations. The plant also recycles and redistributes nitrogen in the soil, making it more accessible to the vines.

The mustard: About that famous mustard from Dijon…I was fascinated to learn that “Dijon Mustard” is not a legally protected name, nor an approved designation of origin. It seems that mustard from Dijon had been so widely used—and imitated, in the highest form of flattery—that by the time a geographical indication for Dijon was suggested (in 1937), it was determined that the term was being used for products made in Dijon as well as products made in the style of mustard made in Dijon. As such, the term had already entered into the lexicon as a generic term, and therefore there could be no protection for “Dijon Mustard.” This makes sense currently, as the last of the Dijon mustard manufacturers left the city of Dijon about ten years ago—and even then they were using some mustard seeds from Canada alongside those that were locally-grown.

However…there are plenty of mustard plants and lots of mustard production in the region of Burgundy surrounding the city of Dijon. There is even a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) for Moutarde de Bourgogne (Burgundy Mustard). The PGI was granted in 2008, but the Brotherhood of the Moutardiers-Vinaigriers of Bourgogne (Héritière de la Confrérie des Moutardiers-Vinaigriers), originally founded in Dijon, dates back to 1600.

The following regulations are included in the documents of the Moutarde de Bourgogne PGI:

  • The mustard seeds must be grown, harvested, and stored within the boundaries of the Burgundy region (most of it is grown in the eastern part of the Côte-d’Or department, with additional plantings in the far north of the area [around Yonne])
  • Two specific species of mustard are allowed: Brassica juncea, and Brassica nigra
  • The wine used to produce the mustard must be a Chardonnay or Aligoté from a Burgundy or Beaujolais PDO
  • It is descried as (via Google translate) “a strong or extra-strong mustard with white wine, light yellow in color with a thick, homogeneous and unctuous texture. It is characterized by a strong and typical smell of Burgundy white wine, an intense spiciness and a pronounced taste of Burgundy white wine.”
  • In addition to mustard seeds and wine, the mustard may contain sugar and spices, but it is not allowed to contain artificial colorings, thickeners, or mustard extracts

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If you’d like to try the legendary Burgundy mustard and Burgundy white wine pairing for yourself, I suggest this delectable Mustard Roasted Chicken recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, which I would pair with a nice, casual white Burgundy such as a Saint-Véran, Pouilly-Fuissé, or white Beaujolais. I do recommend you sub-out the suggested Grey Poupon for an authentic Moutarde de Bourgogne (shhhh….don’t tell Ina).

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

Food, Wine, and True Love

Wine and CharcuterieWhat do you think makes a great pairing of food and wine? 

Some people like to base a food and wine pairing on aromas, textures, or intensity.  Some like to match or contrast flavors.  Others ponder occasion, quality, and variety.  Many people prefer to keep it simple and think the best thing is to just “serve what you like!”

As with beauty, whether or not a pairing is “good” or “bad” is in the eye of the beholder. But the truth remains, food and wine transform each other, and in many cases, this transformation is predictable.  When food meets wine, you can be certain that one of the following things will happen:

The food will exaggerate a characteristic of the wine.  For instance, salty foods can turbocharge the acidity of a white wine, and matching a big red wine with a mild cheese will emphasize its fruit flavors.  Both of these matches would most likely be pleasant combinations to most people.  However, sometimes this reaction will throw a wine out of balance.

The food will diminish a characteristic of the wine.  This is especially obvious with the basic taste components of acid and sweet, which tend to cancel each other out.  Serving a wine with an acidic food, such as lemon, vinegar, or tomatoes, will make the wine taste much less acidic.  This is considered a “good” match by most, if your wine has the acidity to stand up to the food.  However, if the wine was low acid to begin with, it may taste flabby and dull.  Sweetness has the same diminishing effect – sweet foods and sweet wines make each other taste less sweet. (Try saying that five times fast.)

Cabernet and ChocolateThe flavor intensity of the food will obliterate the wine’s flavor, or vice versa.  In my classes I call this “Godzilla versus Bambi.” Think about pouring chocolate sauce on a salad.  Or serving Albariño with blackened ribeye.  Imho, this combination would render the wine flavorless; this might be a good time to “serve what you like” or crack open a beer.   

The wine will contribute new flavors to the food.  If your Trout Amandine tastes a little bland, you can give it a squeeze of lemon.  Or, you can serve it with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc and add a squeeze of acidity along with the flavors of lime and dill.  If your steak is boring, you can reach for the A-1, or, better yet, pour a glass of Red Zinfandel and add the flavors of black pepper and red berries to your meal.

The wine and food will remain neutral.  In this scenario,nothing turns more acidic, or more harsh, or less sweet.  Everybody just goes their separate ways.  It’s ike going to the movies with your parents.  Better than nothing, but kind of dull.  You would have had more fun with your pals, but at least your stalker ex didn’t show up.  

The wine will provide a refreshing “jolt” to your palate and make the flavors of the food more clear, forward, or noticeable.  One of the great pleasures of wine is its acidity and its tannin, both of which make for excellent palate cleansers, allowing you to experience your food more fully.  The acidity of many wines also stimulates saliva flow (gross, I know…), which ups your ability to taste foods and experience their flavors.

The wine and food together can create an unwelcome third flavor.  I call this the “third wheel”.   I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but bad pairings do happen. Which can be helpful, in the case of unwanted guests. Break out the salty snacks… serve up a big, earthy, tannic Syrah…soon everyone’s mouth will be filled with the lovely flavors of tin can, dentist’s drill, detergent, and copper penny.  One by one, your unwelcome guests come up with clever excuses to leave.  Which is good if you hate them.  It’s really bad if you were hoping (ahem) they would stick around a while.  

Chenin Blanc BottomThe wine and food combine to create a totally welcome new flavor. This is the magic moment of  synergy! A match like this is often so individual to the flavors and textures of each dish and each wine that it can’t be predicted.  But when it does..its great! For instance, Ruby Port  and Roquefort Cheese combine to create butterscotch and vanilla flavors, or the combined forces of Prosciutto ham and dry Riesling create a dried fruit, clove, and cinnamon symphony (cue the violins).   

Confusing?  Yes indeed.  Anyway, it’s magic and can’t be reduced to a formula. It’s like true love.  You can’t explain it, but you know it when you find it.  

Then again, you can always just serve what you like.

Click here for more information on Food and Wine Pairing!

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas  missjane@prodigy.net

 

Pairing Food with…Beer?

Beer and FriesAs you may know, here on The Bubbly Professor, one of my favorite subjects is the sublime pairing of food and wine. For those people who say, “Just drink what you like!’ – or – “Don’t overthink it!” All I can say is, I stand accused! I’m an overthinking, techno-babbling, paralysis by analysis food and wine geek.  Girl can’t help it.

I also can’t help the fact that – despite my obvious interest in, and bias towards wine, there exist on this earth people who prefer beer to wine.  As of late, some have even snuck their way into my social circle.  So, in the interest of being an all-inclusive, the-more-the-merrier, gather-round-the-table kind of friend, I’ve figured out a few things that make beer taste even better with food.

In general, the same rules apply for pairing beer and food as apply to wine and food.  Keep the basic principles concerning taste, flavor, and texture front-and-center in your mind. 

  • Many beers are downright sweet, and pair nicely with desserts.  Other good choices for the sweet course include higher-alcohol beers and very dark beers.
  • Most beer is very acidic, which can be a good match for acidic foods and salty foods.
  • While the adage that “bitterness in food increases bitterness in your beverage,” holds true for beer, there is hope for “high-hop” beers. I like to say it like this, “If you have bubbles, you’ll have no troubles.”  If a beverage has bubbles (and this holds true for sparkling wine as well), you don’t have to worry as much about all the “rules.”  It seems that bubbles just wash bitterness (true in food, truer in life.)
  • Beer and shrimpHops can help beer to “cut through” rich foods, making a hoppy beer a good match for rich, meaty foods, much like tannic wine and rich food.
  • As with wine, keep in mind the texture, or weight of your beer.  Beer can be classified as light-medium-full bodied in much the same way as wine.  Lighter-bodied styles of beer include German Beers, Wheat Beers, Steam Beers, Light Beers, and Pale Lagers.  Medium-bodied beers include Amber Ales, Pale Ales, Vienna Lager, Cream Ales, and some dark Ales. Full-bodied beers include Bocks, Imperial Stouts, Strong Ales, Barleywine, and Trappist Ale.
  • Beer’s amazing diversity and complexity of flavors allow it to pair well with a wide range of dishes, including the fiery-hot and super-spicy…these foods are sometimes tough on wine.

Don’t let anyone turn their nose up are your beer and food pairings.  If you must, remind them of some of these reasons why beer is great with food:

  • There are far more styles of beer available than wine. No matter what the food, chances are you can find a beer that goes great with it.
  • Beer has bubbles, and if you have bubbles, you’ll have no troubles.
  • On average, beer has half the alcohol content of wine, so you don’t have to worry about the alcohol clashing with food.
  • Beer, due to its always-cold, always bubbly, low-alcohol, and sometime spicy characteristics, will always be a good choice for hot, spicy ethnic foods, such as Indian, Asian, and Mexican dishes.
  • Nothing says “tail-gate” or “beach party” better than beer.
  • Beer tends to be more of a socio-economic leveler.  Translation:  it’s cheaper than wine.

The Bubbly Professor, still a wine lover, is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net