Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cross-Cultural Explorations

At the weekend market in Epernay yesterday, I picked up a dozen No. 4 Fines de Claires for lunch from my usual oyster lady. I normally buy No. 2s from her, but she was sold out by the time I arrived. I had half a bottle of champagne at home in the fridge from last night, a chardonnay-based blend from an obscure grower in the Sézanne, and a lunch of oysters and champagne is just about my idea of a perfect Saturday afternoon activity.

The champagne, though, wasn’t quite the right fit for the brininess of the oysters. The Sézanne tends to give wines of relatively broad texture and earthy minerality, and the 30 percent of pinot noir in this wine only amplified that feeling. I considered going down to the cellar to fetch a Côte des Blancs chardonnay, but I happened to have a bottle of sake in my fridge, the excellent Manjyu Junmai Daiginjo from Kubota. I knew that Niigata sake, with its rounded, polished character, would probably not be the ideal match for briny oysters either, but hey, a lunch of oysters and sake is just about my idea of a perfect Saturday afternoon activity as well.

The sake was delicious and the oysters were too, and I had no problem downing my baker’s dozen of bivalves (she always throws in an extra one). Later on that evening, however, I unexpectedly stumbled upon a much more intriguing pairing. I had cooked up some boudin blanc from Rethel, and on a whim, I began drinking the Manjyu rather than opening something else. It turned out to be an excellent match for the boudin—the soft, almost velvety texture of the sake seemed to complement the fatty texture of the sausages, with just enough of a subtle bite of alcohol and acidity to keep everything lively and prevent your palate from being overwhelmed with richness. In addition, the delicate flavor of the Manjyu, with its quiet, understated character typical of Niigata sake, provided a backdrop that was suitably engaging without being overly assertive, as after all, boudin blanc is hardly the most pungent or intensely flavored of sausages.

I love it when things like this happen. There’s something to be said for classical traditions, but it’s wonderful to be surprised by multiculturalism as well.


Samantha Dugan said...

As a French wine and Champagne buyer I have always been shy to admit that one of my favorite pairings is King Crab legs with an icy cold Gin Martini. There I said it! Liberating, thanks!

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