Thursday, August 19, 2010

Grüner Veltliner mit Wurst

As a general rule, I'm all for diversity when it comes to putting food on the daily table. After the better part of ten years as a strict vegetarian and another five as a vege-pescatarian, I've been an enthusiastic omnivore (some might say over-enthusiastic) for the last ten or so. I've been an equally enthusiastic culinary explorer, always willing and ready to try something new.

All of that said, there are certain dishes I'm happy to return to time and time again. That's especially true now, during my local growing and farmers market seasons. Just for instance, I'll happily eat blueberries every day when they're in season locally — and I've been doing just that, pretty much every morning, thanks to the folks at Blueberry Hill Farm, participants in my home farmers market. Same goes for the chicken pot pies from Lindenhof Farm; they may not be all that summery but they're delicious, easy for those nights when you're not up for actually preparing anything, and very wine friendly. The most recent addition to my regular rotation has been Birchrun Hills Farm bockwurst — mild yet intensely flavorful white sausages, a side project from one of my favorite local cheese producers. I wrote about them here not long ago, in the context of pairing them with a Cheverny Blanc from Thierry Puzelat. And I enjoyed them again just a few days ago — simmered in Guinness then finished on the grill, along with grilled onions and zucchini. This time I matched them up with...

Kammern Kamptal Grüner Veltliner "Heiligenstein," Weingut Hirsch 2006
$20. 12.5% alcohol. Stelvin. Importer: Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, NY.

There were some interesting parallels between Puzelat's Cheverny and Hirsch's Grüner Veltliner "Heiligenstein." Both showed slightly cheesy/yogurty aromatic character when first opened. In the case of the Puzelat, the lactic nose blew off; with the Hirsch it stayed. It's a trait that I've often found tends to appear when a white wine, particularly a higher-acid white wine, is beginning its downward spiral. I'd wondered, in fact, if I might not have forgotten this in my cellar for a year or so longer than ideal. That first sniff suggested that might have been the case. There was still plenty of life on the palate, though, where there was vibrancy in the acidity department along with a very appealing citrus-and-cream element — another similarity to the Cheverny, though this time it was lime rather than orange.

As borderline underwhelming as the wine was on its own, it was a completely different story when paired with dinner. One of those matches where the wine plus the food combined to give a heightened experience on the sum side of the equation. Subtle when served solo, in the presence of the sausages, dabbed with a little coarse ground German mustard, the wine really came alive. The acids electrified and danced, the fruit came out of hiding and that slight onset of cheese went into complete remission. So much for the wine being on the down slope; it just needed a willing partner to bring it back to full blossom.

The sausages may have come from Pennsylvania, the wine from Austria, but there's little question in my mind that this one goes down as a check in the column in favor of the success and importance of regionally inspired, traditional wine pairings.

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