Monday, August 27, 2012

MRE Menu 6: Beef Roast with Vegetables

For harmony with the beef roast, we can travel to the northwest of Italy, where nebbiolo reigns supreme amongst the reds.  Rather than stopping in the communes in and around Barolo and Barbaresco, we’ll continue even farther north, almost to the edge of the Valle d’Aosta.  On the slopes in the area of Carema, the local version of nebbiolo known as picountener, takes a lighter form compared to the Alba expressions, exhibiting an elegant and perfumed side to this noble grape.

For contrast, attempting to pair a white wine with this rich beef dish is a challenge, so fortify yourself and explore the possibilities brought by Madeira.  For ready availability, you can’t beat a 5 to 15 year old Madeira from the white varietal boal (or bual in English).  Despite a bit of residual sugar, the balancing acidity turns that sugar into a perceived richness of the wine rather than a cloying sweetness.  For an even more unique experience, try terrantez, widely planted and much revered before phylloxera, but little replanted since.  Expect richness with a slightly bitter finish, to reflect your bitterness at eating beef from a foil pouch.

Complementary Pairing:  Nebbiolo, Piemonte, Italy
Try:  Ferrando Carema Etichetta Nera
[]  From steep hillside vineyards, this wine offers ripe red fruits with a bit of spice.  It is only produced in the best vintages, and represents the pinnacle of the tiny amount of production from this northwest corner of the Piemonte.

Contrasting Pairing:  Madeira, Portugal
Try:  Blandy Madeira Terrantez
[]  This now rare grape is more likely only available by vintage year rather than in a blend.  Remember that the late 1970s Madeira you drink next year may still not be bottled yet!

Not the preparation for sniffing the bouquet of fine wines I would have hoped for.  Seen to the author’s left is the ‘poo pond,’ a common feature in and around many bases in Afghanistan.  This continuous olfactory assault may well render me incapable of someday passing the aromatic portion of the Master of Wine practical test.  I can only hope the government will consider that a war-related injury.