Friend and fellow blogger Catherine at Food Musings has tagged me for a new meme created by Beau at Basic Juice. My mission: name the best wine I've encountered in the past 30 days (and the best wine-friendly food, if food's my thing ... which of course it is).
This is quite a challenge, for a couple of reasons. First, I love wine, but I'm not a wine connoisseur. I've been known to travel for wine (Piemonte 3 times in 3 years -- I favor reds), I read wine lit, love to browse at wine stores, and eagerly peruse the wine list when dining out. But I'm too lazy to put much effort into refining or sharpening my palate, I've never taken notes (even if it's a great bottle), and when I'm imbibing the grape I rarely pay enough attention to anything other than what's in my mouth, when it's in my mouth, to remember a label. I am the wine consumer version of the sort of ignorant art buyer whom artists, gallery owners, and art consultants (I know because I used to work for one) hate with a passion: I don't know wine, but I know what I like.
Second, I live in Malaysia. This country has got it all over most everywhere else when it comes to food, but the wine selection is rather limited. And how is it possible that a wine we used to enjoy in northern California -- or Saigon -- can cost 3 or 4 times as much, here in Kuala Lumpur?! I know all about the ridiculous duties levied on alcohol by most Asian countries ... but it is discouraging to find a wine we enjoyed as a "daily drinker" in the Bay Area priced at splurge levels in KL.
So, Dave and I are drinking a bit less wine these days.
Luckily, I have a fallback that allows me give this meme a go. That is, every memorable wine experience I've had has been influenced nearly as much by environment and company as by what was going on in the bottle. To whit: I remember clearly the spritely Ceretto Blange Roero Arneis (year? forgot) by which Dave and I, on our first trip to Piemonte, were introduced to this ingenious bit of Italian by-the-glass etiquette: your glass is filled, the bottle is left on the table, and at the end of the meal you pay for what you drank. And the crisp Pouilly-Fuisse (details? you gotta be kidding) that accompanied an unexpectedly delicious anniversary dinner in Siem Reap at the height of the SARS epidemic, when we had not only the restaurant, but the temples nearly to ourselves.
And so, in that spirit, my best in the last 30 would have to be a humble unwooded chardonnay from CV, western Australia (2003). Adopting my best wine-speak, I would describe this light straw-colored wine as a sharp, crisp, delightfully uncomplicated fruit-forward chardonnay with nary a trace of vanilla and the dreaded (by me, when it comes to white wines) oak.
The CV made an appearance at our dinner table a couple of Saturdays ago. Dave and I and a few friends journeyed down to Kuala Selangor, a nondescript one-horse-town sort of fishing village a couple of hours from KL, for the sole purpose of buying fish, and a lot of it.
KS's fresh-from-the-boat seafood market opens around 2 or 3pm, and we gathered up as much seafood as we figured we could cook and eat that night. We packed it all into 2 huge ice-filled coolers, raced back to KL, then split up to prep our respective catches. Several hours later everyone regrouped at our house -- a few more willing mouths in tow -- and fired up the barbie and the ovens and the gas and electric burners. When the smoke cleared we sat down to the sort of seafood feast I hope to repeat often. A big snapper-ish monster rubbed with Indian spice paste and laid on a bed of coriander and tomato-curry mash, BBQ'd clams, mantis prawns cloaked in a luscious sweet and sour concoction, a "love fish" (leatherjacket) steamed Asian-style with ginger, a big mackerel with sambal and lime leaves over the coals ... side dishes and desserts as well. Eight people around a table laden with way too much food makes for a festive evening, and -- for those of us imbibing -- the CV was an excellent and wholly appropriate (if not the most refined or prestigious) accompaniment. It's a bottle I'm sure I'll remember for years to come.
Most wine-friendly dish of the evening had to be the fish -- a sea bass and a some small mackerel --marinated in a Middle Eastern chermoula and cooked over the flames. The marinade's garlic, parsley, coriander and lemon juice high notes were a perfect match for the CV's citrus bite.
Many thanks to Catherine for tagging me to participate in -- and to Beau for starting -- this great meme. And now to pass the baton -- I'm tagging a couple of folks eating and blogging about it on this side of the globe. Aun of Chubby Hubby and Santos of Scent of Green Bananas, hope you're up for it!