The Taliban were busy little bees today, so much so that I thought I wouldn’t be able to produce today’s MRE pairing. But I don’t want to let them win even the tiniest victory on September 11th, so I’m pressing forward with the blog. Without further ado:
This beef dish of some richness would pair well with a full-bodied red, and for that we’ll venture to southern Tuscany. Here, in the vicinity of Montalcino, sangiovese achieves one of its highest expressions as Brunello. This designation indicates geography, use of only sangiovese, and an extensive aging requirement. As with other parts of Tuscany, some producers have adopted a modernist approach with the aging of sangiovese in new French barriques to create a wine that is more approachable in its youth and widely acceptable to an “international palate.” Other producers cling to traditional methods of aging their wines in large Slavonian oak barrels from Croatia, such that the influence of the barrel is the way that the developing wine interacts with its environment more so than any flavors imparted directly by the wood. Particularly for the wines produced in a more traditional manner, additional bottle age will help soften the tannins and bring out the secondary flavors of earth and tobacco to merge with the dark cherry fruit of the wine in its youth. Bottles consumed less than a decade after the vintage deserve decanting for an hour or more to bring out their best qualities.
For contrast, consider white wines made from godello, a native white grape of increasing popularity from the northwest of Spain, particularly Valdeorras and Monterrei in Galicia, and Bierzo in Castilla y Leon. Along with primary flavors such as white stone fruits and pineapple, in addition to spice notes like anise, godello is adept at expressing the minerality of its place of origin, and ends with refreshing acidity. Production ranges from aging in all stainless steel to extensive use of new oak, although the latter style is easily overdone with this particular varietal, so choose your winemaker carefully.
Complementary Pairing: Brunello di Montalcino, Toscana, Italy
Try: Baricci Brunello di Montalcino
The vineyards are well situated to the north of the town of Montalcino, on the farm Colombaio di Montosoli. This is pure tradition in the cellar with aging only in large Slavonian oak botti. There is no riserva, so the best grapes all go into the normale. Then again, when you are #1 of the original 27 founding members of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, you probably don’t need a riserva, or a website, or a fancy tasting room. You just need to make quality Brunello year after year, and the Baricci family is eminently successful at that.
Contrasting Pairing: Godello, Bierzo, Spain
Try: Luna Beberide Godello LB
[www.lunabeberide.es] From 60 year old vines, these grapes undergo a temperature-controlled fermentation, followed by aging in stainless steel tanks. The wine leads with diverse aromas, from flowers to fennel, followed by flinty mineral notes and spices on the palate. The acidity on the finish is the key to the effective pairing with the pasta and beef filling.