Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chilling white wines with salt?

Last weekend, I was hosting a party at home and some of my guests decided to arrive earlier to help me in my preparation. I suddenly realized that I am racing against time to cool down the white wines. Then, I remembered my college Physics about how salt will lower the freezing point of water (don’t ask why I thought of Physics in the middle of cooking), I quickly emptied half a packet of salt (the small packet that you can find from Cold Storage) into three wine buckets filled with ice cubes and some water. I left the 4th bucket with just ice cubes and water. With two digital thermometers that are always there to ensure that the wines are served at the ideal temperatures, I asked my guest take readings of the temperature of the two buckets – with and without salt. The results seem to prove that this theory has a direct application in this occasion. Here’s how it works:

First, we must all agree that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees C). So, those ice cubes we have in the bucket are supposed to be at the water freezing point. When salt is sprinkled onto the ice cube and water mixture, it lowers the freezing point of the mixture to below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. So, ice cubes will begin to melt. As the salt water is diluted in the process, the freezing point start to rise and the water will refreeze but this time, the equilibrium temperature is lower than 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Theoretically, the more salt we add, the lower the equilibrium temperature.

Now, back to our ice bucket experiment. I asked my guest to take temperature readings of the two different buckets in an interval of 1 minute for 10 minutes to get a statistical representation. The salted water bucket has an overall lower temperature than the unsalted water bucket. The delta is about 2 degrees C, and what impact does it have on the wine bottles? I suppose the ‘salt water bucketed’ white wine will be cooler than the ‘unsalt water bucketed’ white wine. Well, my guests seem to agree and we used up all the salt in my kitchen throughout the night!

Copyright of Wine Treasures Pte Ltd

By Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte Ltd


Pairing wine with Cantonese Cuisine

I have enjoyed thoroughly speaking in my recent wine event in Hong Kong. I have a wonderfully inquisitive audience and great companionship. We tasted altogether 8 wine labels, each with its own unique palate. The wines were selected to match with the food and its cooking style. As we know that Asian cuisine uses a large variety of herbs and spices, in addition to sauces made from dried plants or preserved meat, it is sometimes difficult to tell apart the quality of meat from the sauces used. With this in mind, I specially requested the chef to modify two of his dishes to accommodate a ‘minimum interference’ cooking style that I miss so much in restaurants these days.

It is a 10 course seafood dinner, cooked in the traditional Cantonese style that uses a fair bit of reduced meat soup to enhance the umami of the dishes. The rule of pairing utilizes two basic principles – a) to complement and b) to contrast.

Chinese culture is all about achieving a harmonious balance and it is most decorated in the use of ingredients in many Chinese cuisines. Wine can be considered an ingredient or a dish companion. In both cases, the objective is to achieve a balance in the palate. While most of the food and wine pairing focuses on using wines from different regions to be paired with a selection of dishes, I decided to introduce my favourite wine into both the food and as a pairing companion. Below is the highlights of the pairing given the limited space in this blog.

Sherry and Pan-fried Scallops
Sherry is my all time favourite aperitif and apart from drinking, Sherry is also versatile enough to be included in cooking. There are many recipes involving Sherry but the one I like best is to use a dry Sherry in pan-fried fresh scallops, sautéed with butter, salt and pepper. This is a simple and yet delicious dish that never fails to impress. The complementary wine is none other than the Fino Sherry which is dry with balanced acidity. The yeasty nose blends well with the flavour of the food.

Chablis and Braised Shark Fins Soup
A well aged Chablis Grand Cru has a complex aroma, sometimes smoky and has a long, mouth-watering finish. However, young Chablis may express the mineral and acidic aromas more explicitly and this is reflected in the Chablis we drink during the dinner - Grand Cru "Bougros" from William Fevre 2004, The wine has a very pleasant pale, green-tinged hue that immediately suggests vitality. The nose is mineral and clean, flavour is fresh, sappy with balanced acidity and a great savoury feel in the month. The finishing is of medium length and is very pleasant. The level of acidity is just perfect for the Shark Fins soup, giving the palate a refresh taste by cutting through the texture of the shark fins and its braised sauce. This is a good example of a contrast pairing.

Sauvignon Blanc and Steamed Fish
Cloudy Bay has put New Zealand onto the wine map with its Sauvignon Blanc. The Hong Kong style steamed fish uses soya sauce (diluted with some sugar), ginger and spring onions. There is sufficient umami in the dish and I am willing to use this fruity Sauvignon Blanc to match with it. Voila! The combination is magical as the tropical, less acidic wine brings out the freshness of the fish in a complementary manner.

Bordeaux and Braised Abalone
The emergence of second growths and second labels in Bordeaux are capable of challenging the First Growths in quality. Chateau Lascombes is a good example of a great Second Growth in the Margaux region. Although Lascombes is on the left bank, it deviates from the usual Bordeaux blend in terms of the grape variety apportionment. It uses a blend of 55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petit Verdot. The higher proportion of Merlot soften the palate of this wine, giving it a smooth texture. The nose is the usual black berries and cassis but the tannin is smooth and almost sweet. It is a medium bodied wine that is easy to match with almost any food. The braised abalone is very well prepared, soft on the inside and smooth on the outside. The wine simply integrates into the food seamlessly, bringing out the sweetness of the abalone.

Auslese and Birds Nest
I have chosen an Auslese wine to pair with the Chilled sago cream and Birds Nest egg tart to ensure that the wine is just slightly sweeter than the desserts but not overpowering it. Selbach-Oster Riesling Auslese Zetling Schlossberg 2005 was selected for its youthfulness, a tribute to the daughter of our host. It has abundant fruit aromas, probably apple and citrus fruits. The palate is lightly oily, reminds me of honey and caramel. There is a tiny hint of bittersweet at the back palate which makes it a complex wine. The finishing is long and elegant. Traditional Chinese desserts are medium sweet and it is important that the wines we select will do justice to the combined palate. I was a little hesitant when I first know that we will have chilled sago with mango and pomelo as the latter contributes a bitter taste to the combination and if the wine is of lesser quality, the bitterness in the dessert will bring out the flatness in the dessert wine. Fortunately, the wine stands the test with its complex palate and has been a perfect companion thus far.

Overall, the food and wine pairing revolves around the theme of complementary principles mirroring the works of great Chinese philosophers. It is with complementary strengths that the result turns out to be better than consuming the food and wine separately. As with most episodes in life, this is a good chapter in our long journey of gourmet exploration.

Copyright of Wine Treasures Pte(S) Ltd

By Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte Ltd


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Effects of Global Warming on Champagne

There has been much talk about global warming and its effects on our environment. It manifests in the form of climate change with rising temperature in many parts of the world, occurrence of draughts and unpredicted rainfall patterns. Food and beverages that we consumed will be amongst the first to experience this change as the health of agriculture and crops are the timely thermometers. Indeed, in agriculture science, vines are found to be most sensitive to climate change. So, for those of us who enjoy the fabulous fermented grape juice, we will be first to know how global warming is affecting even the little pleasure in life.

Amongst all the grape varieties, pinot noir is the most delicate and temperamental, although once the winemaker gets it right, the wine can be unforgettable. This grape is an important contributor to Champagne, in addition to Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Pinot Noir gives the wine an additional degree of complexity with an enhanced fruit character and when blended with Chardonnay, the heady aroma of baked apple and yeast can be a mouth watering experience.

So, what will happen when global warming sets in and will we still have the same style of champagne that we are so in loved with? While I am still researching on the viticulture impacts and possible solutions to champagne makers, I would like to ask the readers a few questions about your ideal champagne style and hopefully, using some of these feedback to mitigate the impact of climate change on our future champagne:

a. Based on your memory and tasting experience, what qualities are you looking for when drinking champagne?
b. What is the ideal style of champagne for you?
c. One of the possible effects of global warming on champagne production is that the wine may have a higher alcohol level. Is this something that you can accept?
d. If one day, Champagne decides to certify another region (Europe or Asia) to be its extended champagne production region, will you be willing to try the new wine (assuming the price offered is within 20% of the original champagne label of your choice)?

Please feel free to reply to this article via or you can simply reply to this blog.

Copyright of Wine Treasures Pte Ltd

By Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte (Singapore) Ltd