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Robin Garr

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WTN /WineAdvisor: Fire extinguishers (Bruno Verdi 05 Sangue di Giuda)

by Robin Garr » Wed Sep 13, 2006 1:25 pm

Fire extinguishers

I love fiery fare, the hotter the better. From five-pepper Thai or Sichuan to Indian vindaloos and on to searing Jamaican, sweat-provoking Cajun or the lovely earthy heat of Mexican chile peppers, I say, "Bring it on!"

I love wine, too.

But I rarely love fiery dishes and wine together. What's the problem here?

Let's review a little food chemistry: The active ingredient in hot chile peppers is called capsaicin (pronounced "cap-SAY-uh-sin"), a flavorful substance that prompts your trigeminal nerve to release "substance P," a chemical messenger that tells your brain something's burning. The brain responds, scientists say, by producing endorphins - natural painkillers that generate a sense of well-being. It's something like a "runner's high," without the exercise.

So far, so good. But here's the bad news: Following that happy heat with a gulp of wine can turn this mellow burn into a less pleasant pain. It's not unlike pouring alcohol on a burn, and in fact that's pretty much what you're doing.

Of course, I <i>still</i> keep trying to find wines that work with heat, or at least that won't absolutely war with more modestly hot-and-spicy dishes.

If you want to join me in the quest, here are a few tips I've learned for matching wines with hot stuff:

<LI><B>Fizz helps.</B> Carbonated bubbles seem to scrub some of the heat from your palate, whether it's beer or bubbly. Try a sparkling wine.</LI>
<LI><B>Low alcohol.</B> If part of the problem is that alcohol intensifies the burning sensation, go with lighter wines with alcohol content below the 12 percent level.</LI>
<LI><B>A little bit of sugar.</B> I'm not sure what chemical process is in play here, but in my experience, off-dry to gently sweet wines seem more friendly to spicy fare than bone-dry items.</LI>
<LI><B>Tangy acidity.</B> If alcohol exaggerates the "burn," it seems that tart acidity might be a problem too. In practice, however, high-acid wines seem to create a mouth-watering effect that can dilute the fire.</LI>
This set of criteria pretty much rules out inky blockbusters like big Shirazes and roughly tannic reds such as California Cabernets and immature Bordeaux. But it leaves sparkling wines, German Rieslings, Italian Moscato d'Asti and even high-acid food wines like Chianti and fruit-forward items like some of the less powerfully alcoholic Zinfandels very much in play.

But here's something to think about: Does any wine incorporate <i>all</i> of the above criteria ... fizzy, low-alcohol, slightly sweet, acidic and fruity? Well, yes, as a matter of fact. The Italian Lambrusco fits this description to a T, and that rhymes with "P" and that stands for, well, "peppers."

Now, Lambrusco is not a niche that most wine enthusiasts regard highly, particularly because mass-market Riunite and Cella have flooded the international market with very inexpensive, industrially produced models that wine geeks (not entirely fairly) rate as swill. Artisanal Lambruscos can be delightful, though; and a somewhat similar, much more obscure treat from Lombardy, <b>Sangue di Giuda</b>, makes an even more intriguing low-alcohol, fizzy red quaff ... if you can find it.

I reported about this time last year on the 2004 Sangue di Giuda. For today's tasting, I tried the just-arrived 2005 with a fiery Sichuan tofu-and-ground-beef stir-fry. Its frothy, sweet-yet-acidic fizz and very low alcohol made it a surprisingly good match, and its fresh fruit and bitter-almond flavors couldn't have been better with the dish.

<table border="0" align="right" width="120"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/verd0911.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Bruno Verdi 2005 Oltrepò Pavese Sangue di Giuda Paradiso ($12.99)

Clear dark ruby with glints of reddish-orange, it pours with a quick froth, and tiny bubbles ring the glass. Dried plums and warm fruitcake spices provide aroma interest, and the flavor is softly sweet but not "sticky," very quaffable with low (7%) alcohol and a touch of bitter almond in the finish. Meant as a compliment, it's a Coke for grown-ups. U.S. importer: Rosenthal Wine Merchant, NYC. (Sept. 11, 2006)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> The wine's frothy fizz, sweet-tart flavor and low alcohol make it a startlingly effective companion with fiery chile-pepper dishes. It was not merely quenching but an intriguing flavor match with a fiery Sichuan tofu and ground-beef stir-fry.

<B>VALUE:</B> Never mind that you can get cheap Lambrusco for $5: This one's a worthwhile experience at an entirely reasonable price point.

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> It would be silly to cellar this fresh, fruity treat. Drink it up over the next year.

<B>PRONUNCIATION:</B>
<b>Sangue di Giuda</b> = "<i>San-gway dee Joo-dah</i>"

<B>WEB LINK:</B>
Bruno Verdi has an in-depth and informative site about the family winery, its history, vineyards and wines, online in Italian and English. Here's the English-language home page.
The U.S. importer has similar information in English plain-text format.

<b>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</b>
Bruno Verdi's wines aren't widely distributed. I get them from Chambers Street Wines in NYC.

To find other vendors and check prices for Bruno Verdi wines, click to the databases on Wine-Searcher.com.
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Paul Noga

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Fire extinguishers (Bruno Verdi 05 Sangue di Giuda)

by Paul Noga » Wed Sep 13, 2006 2:12 pm

I remember when microwaves first came out. The uncontrollable urge of some was to figure out how to cook everything and anything in one, from seared steaks to baked goods. Well, after years of being on the market, that urge has all but disappeared, and we've discovered what a microwave is good for, and what it is not.

The same should be true for wine. I haven't tried the lambrusco suggestion, but it strikes me that we are constantly trying to shove the square peg of wine into the round hole of spicy foods. I think you can get a passable experience by avoiding the worst matches, but I doubt you'll ever find a great one.

I suggest sticking to beer on those occasions, whose thirst quenching attributes match the food. I'm not much of a beer drinker at all, but as much as I love wine, when confronted with spicy Indian or Thai food, that becomes my drink of choice and I truly enjoy the combination. I've never found a wine that did much more than have me say "well, that wasn't too bad . . ."
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Fire extinguishers (Bruno Verdi 05 Sangue di Giuda)

by Ian Sutton » Wed Sep 13, 2006 2:59 pm

If the heat is oil based, then whisky or the like will take the heat away quicker than water. So I'm told...
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Fire extinguishers (Bruno Verdi 05 Sangue di Giuda)

by Lis Hamilton » Wed Sep 13, 2006 4:44 pm

I've had very good reults with an inexpensive Chatl Neuf du Pape (Chante Cigale, vielle vignes, 2001) with VERY spicy southwestern style chicken.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Fire extinguishers (Bruno Verdi 05 Sangue di Giuda)

by Robin Garr » Wed Sep 13, 2006 4:47 pm

Thanks for the testimony, Lis (and welcome to the forum!) I would say your experience falls into the "high-acid" category ... and I do love Chateauneuf-du-Pape!
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Isaac

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Fire extinguishers (Bruno Verdi 05 Sangue di Giuda)

by Isaac » Wed Sep 13, 2006 4:50 pm

Paul Noga wrote:I remember when microwaves first came out. The uncontrollable urge of some was to figure out how to cook everything and anything in one, from seared steaks to baked goods. Well, after years of being on the market, that urge has all but disappeared, and we've discovered what a microwave is good for, and what it is not.

The same should be true for wine. I haven't tried the lambrusco suggestion, but it strikes me that we are constantly trying to shove the square peg of wine into the round hole of spicy foods. I think you can get a passable experience by avoiding the worst matches, but I doubt you'll ever find a great one.

I suggest sticking to beer on those occasions, whose thirst quenching attributes match the food. I'm not much of a beer drinker at all, but as much as I love wine, when confronted with spicy Indian or Thai food, that becomes my drink of choice and I truly enjoy the combination. I've never found a wine that did much more than have me say "well, that wasn't too bad . . ."
I'm sure that works for you, but I've yet to taste a beer I liked.

Oddly enough, perhaps, I love big, fruity red wines with my spicy food. Zins, high-alcohol or not, and Syrahs are my favorites. Merlots tend to be overwhelmed, and cabernet sauvignon doesn't usually fit, perhaps because they tend to not be made in a fruity style. Grenache and tempranillo tend to work well for me, too, as does petit sirah. I don't mind the rush of heat that comes with the wine. In fact, I relish it!

It's true, though, that the wines I love with my spicy fare share some similarities with those Robin recommends. They tend to be fruity, which means they also tend to have a sweetness to them, even if fermented to complete dryness, which I doubt many are. While not usually fizzy at all, nor necessarily low alcohol, a bit of acidity does help. This may be another reason that merlot doesn't usually make the cut. Robin didn't mention tannins, but that's another thing I think is out of place, which may be another reason cabernet sauvignon isn't often a good idea.

Anyway, that's my slightly different take on it.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Fire extinguishers (Bruno Verdi 05 Sangue di Giuda)

by Lis Hamilton » Wed Sep 13, 2006 4:58 pm

Thanks for the welcome, Robin. Since you love C. du Pape...The best I have ever had was given to me by a French friend. Too bad they don't sell in the U.S. It's Cuvee de Boisdauphin , Jacumin Pierre, 1993.

Lis
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Fire extinguishers (Bruno Verdi 05 Sangue di Giuda)

by Rahsaan » Wed Sep 13, 2006 5:50 pm

I've yet to taste a beer I liked.


Wow. Extreme statement! I assume you've sampled all the styles and regions of the world, and still didn't like one! Wow.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Fire extinguishers (Bruno Verdi 05 Sangue di Giuda)

by karenann8sons » Wed Sep 13, 2006 7:15 pm

Living so close to Louisiana cajun country, we eat a lot of cajun food and though it isn't nearly as spicy as the native cajuns and creoles eat it, it adds a bit of fire to our life, or at least a spark.

One good match that I've found is shrimp gumbo with Beringer's White Zinfandel. Not a lot of hot, not a lot of sweet, no bubbles but a pretty decent combination nonetheless.

I've also had a sublime Crawfish Ettouffee with a beer that is higher in alcohol (8.2% I think?) called 411 (if I recall correctly). This beer is CHEAP but it doesn't have your typical beer flavors and the first time I drank it, it had something of a chardonnay character to it. Never could put my finger on it but I had that on hand with the ettouffee and it was a terrific match, though the dish had only a spark of heat.

Last one... we attended a crawfish boil and someone brought a bunch of indivual bottles of White Zin in a cooler. I love wine so I was game to try it. NOT a good match!!! Too much heat, too little sweet and a clash in flavors that only Coors would wash away. Leading to the overall battle cry of the crawfish boilers on duty "B-TripleC -FC" interpretted as "Boiled Crawfish Cries for Coors!"

But it sure is fun to experiment!!!

Karen
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.
Ernest Dowson (1867–1900)
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Fire extinguishers (Bruno Verdi 05 Sangue di Giuda)

by Robin Garr » Wed Sep 13, 2006 7:31 pm

Isaac wrote:Anyway, that's my slightly different take on it.


Not really all that different, Isaac. I have no quibble with any of your observations, although when it gets to the bigger Shirazes and Zins, I think individual cases have to be judged on the basis of their fruit and acidity - which are on the plus side in a fiery-food match - against their alcohol and, if any, tannins, which might be a minus. It all comes back in the end to individual pairings ... and individual tastes. But I don't see your overall comments as being out of synch with mine. Thanks for a thoughtful post.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Fire extinguishers (Bruno Verdi 05 Sangue di Giuda)

by Isaac » Wed Sep 13, 2006 8:50 pm

Rahsaan wrote:
I've yet to taste a beer I liked.


Wow. Extreme statement! I assume you've sampled all the styles and regions of the world, and still didn't like one! Wow.
You misread my statement, Rahsaan. I didn't say that there are no beers I might like, nor did I make any blanket statements. I merely said, as you quoted, that I have never tasted a beer that I liked. What's so extreme about that? I might have tasted only two beers in my entire life, and the statement would be true, if I didn't like either of them. In fact, I have tasted far more than that, and never liked any of them. Some were tolerable, but none really gave me any pleasure. Given that, I see no reason to go out of my way to try tasting other drinks which I consistently find unpleasant.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Fire extinguishers (Bruno Verdi 05 Sangue di Giuda)

by Rahsaan » Wed Sep 13, 2006 9:03 pm

In fact, I have tasted far more than that, and never liked any of them. Some were tolerable, but none really gave me any pleasure. Given that, I see no reason to go out of my way to try tasting other drinks which I consistently find unpleasant.


Obviously everyone had their own tastes, and I was assuming you had tasted more than two beers, which is what makes it extreme in my view, as there is such a wide range of flavors and textures to be found in beer, it would seem that everyone could find something to like.

Not necessarily something to go crazy over or to spend hours writing about the internet as we do with wine, but, at least something to like.

Anyway, I concur about not going out of your way to taste drinks that you consistently find unpleasant, and I practice a similar motto myself..

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