Wine and deli?
Who doesn't like a deli sandwich, at least every now and then? Corned beef, hot pastrami, beef tongue or chopped chicken liver; maybe a little lox? Pile it high on thick, seeded rye bread, add a fat dill pickle, and you've got enough lunch to fill you up right through dinner.
I learned to love the stuff as a wide-eyed teen-ager from Kentucky in Queens and the Bronx, discovering gustatory wonders that I had never known existed. And it's still hard for me to go back to NYC without at least sampling a deli or two (preferably something real like Second Avenue or Katz's, not your Midtown tourist destinations). And every now and then, even if my home town of Louisville can produce only a wan replica of the real thing from Gotham, I'll succumb to a craving and bring home a big bag full of the good stuff.
One thing about NYC kosher-style deli, though: In contrast with its equally delicious if less exotic (at least to me) cousin Italian deli, you rarely hear of anyone accompanying it with wine.
As a dedicated wine lover who believes that most food goes better with wine (and vice versa), this makes no sense to me. So, the other night, suiting action to words, I brought home a hefty pastrami-on-rye and started thinking about a bottle to match.
What would work? Let's face it, kosher-style deli meat is fatty - this is part of its succulent appeal - so an acidic wine would be mandatory, providing a palate-cleansing edge to cut through the grease. Pastrami is as salty as the ham that it emulates without violating the principles set down in Leviticus, so it needs a robust yet quenching wine. And it's beef, so it really needs a hearty red, with no marks taken off for tannic astringency. A hint of earth would do no harm, particularly in the presence of an enticing schmear of hot mustard.
We're zeroing in on the Rhone, Provence and Languedoc here, and - since it's also the subject of our monthly Wine Focus in our online forums this month - I reached out for the Languedoc, uncorking a robust, earthy Syrah-dominant blend with some Mourvedre and a splash of Grenache.
Bingo! The <b>Domaine de Nizas 2001 Coteaux du Languedoc</b> made a perfect match, for all the reasons enumerated above. It would have worked as well, I think, with corned beef, tongue or even chopped chicken liver. I think I'd pass on it with lox, though, and as for that dill pickle, fahgeddabout it.
Domaine de Nizas is a relatively new producer, a collaboration of John Goelet and Bernard Portet, who founded Clos du Val in the Napa Valley in 1972. Goelet is also the owner of Taltarni Vineyards in Australia, where Portet's brother Dominique was the founding wine maker. They've planted about 120 acres in Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.
In this 2001 at least, they've come up with a very good, very typical Coteaux du Languedoc. It's fruity, acidic, softly tannic and touched with more than a whiff of earthy "barnyard" aromas. And it goes great with hot pastrami. My tasting notes are posted in the Wine Focus section
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