Pork Summit 2011
State and regional Taste of Elegance winning chefs attended The National Pork Board’s first annual Pork Summit 2011 in the Napa Valley. While most of the weekend was spent working with pork in the Greystone classrooms and kitchens, we also made time for a seminar at Cardinale Winery in Oakville. Here the chefs learned the basics of wine taste as well as the best ways to pair wine and food.
We discussed the basics. When tasting a wine it’s vital to really understand its structure before you even begin to consider the food items it might best pair with. We tasted six wines to educate the chefs on the basics of tasting as well as get an idea of how to best pair food with these wines. We then had the chefs doctor up thinly sliced, roasted pork loin with various flavorings such as agave nectar, herb oil, olive oil, salt, lemon, and hot pepper to see the effect they had on the wine.
First we tried Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Sonoma County. Sauvignon Blanc tends to have zesty bright acidity and a bit of an herbaceous character. Its medium body makes it very versatile and it can really be delicious with food items that have a bit of that herbal quality, green vegetables, herb oils and the like make good matches.
Next was a Kendall-Jackson Riesling Vintner’s Reserve 2009, Monterey County. Riesling often has a floral note on the nose and this particular Riesling has just a hint of sweetness and moderate alcohol, two qualities that can make a wine really great with spicy foods. High alcohol content can really intensify the feeling of heat from hot peppers; the wine’s sweetness can also help to ease that burning sensation.
Our final white was the Arrowood Chardonnay 2008, Russian River Valley, a rich toasty more buttery wine, definitely full in body with a lot of creamy texture and concentrated flavor. The oaky flavor of the wine makes it a natural with roasted pork or even smoky pork like ham. There was also a hint of tropical fruit in the wine; think the perfect “pineapple” note for your ham steak.
Pork can of course be great with red wines too. Kendall-Jackson Pinot Noir Vintner’s Reserve 2009, California was a nice medium bodied wine that is very good with lighter pork dishes. Pinot Noir has less tannin than other reds so it can be harmonious with less fatty dishes. I would love it with a pulled pork sandwich; it tends to have a bright high-toned fruitiness, like cherries, so think of those flavors mimicked in the dish.
The Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa Valley was a powerhouse with great concentration of fruit, blackberry and black currant but also a good amount of tannin. The type of wine that would be a natural with fatty cuts such as pork belly or shoulder and it also had an herbal note that would pair well with Porchetta with strong rosemary or herb rubbed pork roast.
Finally the Kendall-Jackson Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Syrah 2008, California had an incredible concentration, lots of black fruit flavors and a hint of spiciness. This wine would have been a classic pairing with hearty ribs, barbecue, and roast suckling pig. This wine had an incredible concentration and depth of flavor. It was really full in body, rich and meaty in its own way.
Pairing these wines with the food showed how very important balance is in a dish. Generally a balanced dish will pair well with a balanced wine. We found that tasting the wines along with this fantastic roast pork without any seasoning, created a noticeable livery after taste, but just a hint of salt on the pork and all was well again! Adding sweetness to the pork loin was tricky with wine. It’s always important that the wine be sweeter than the dish or the sweetness in the dish may strip the wine of its own sweetness and transform the wine into something that tastes sour like vinegar. On the opposite front, vinegar based sauces or items such as sauerkraut really need a wine that has a good clip of acidity or the wine may seem disjointed.
Chef Bill Briwa from the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone was on hand to help with the pairing and brought up an interesting point about herbs, herbs can be complementary, for example fresh rosemary and the herbal notes in Cabernet Sauvignon. But it’s important to really think about what herbs are in play. As Chef Briwa pointed out, “herbaceous is too broad a definition for herbs”. For example, rosemary is a more pungent and resinous herb as opposed to a sweeter, more floral herb such as tarragon or basil. Considering the seasonings, spices and herbs in a dish can be a great bridge to similar flavors in a wine. So the next time you try pairing a wine with a dish that is forward with fresh herbs, try that wine with a taste of several different herbs, and a little salt for balance, and see how it manages with the wine on hand.
Overall we learned that it’s important to experiment with both the wine and the ingredients used within each dish. Consider salt, sweet, sour, bitter and umami as well as heat from hot peppers.. Tasting the wine and food together and tweaking the dish can help to create a perfect marriage!