"This is a great food wine."
How many times have you heard those words uttered by a wine professional? Normally this happens when they are holding a bottle of Italian wine but it could just as easily be a Burgundy or a Bordeaux, or certainly a wine from the Loire. However, this is not a statement that is exclusive to European wines. Nor should it be. It is, though, a maddening and unnecessary statement.
ALL wine should be food wine. Wine is food in liquid form and should be a harmonious part of any table full of "solid" food.
So when people say that a wine is a "food wine," what are they talking about? Generally speaking, they are saying that the wine has tannins, acid, and moderate alcohol. Shocking! At least it is to most Californians after years of being subjected to a glut of overripe high alcohol flabby fruit bombs. Unfortunately people have become convinced that they are balanced and proper wines. But they couldn't be fit for pairing with food unless you are eating something with thick sauce slathered on it, or perhaps some half-baked pot brownies. Fine, enough ranting. Let's talk about the exception to this widely propagated paradigm.
We are fortunate to have many producers right here in our own backyard that tactfully tame the sugar feeding sunshine to produce beautifully balanced wines -- food wines (ugh) if you will. They plant their vines in cool regions where the ocean influence tucks them in at night under a blanket of fog. They harvest earlier while the grapes still have proper ph levels, and with them they make great wine. Some even dare to allow the wine to ferment with native yeasts that have hitched a ride on the grapes themselves.
One such daring producer is Broadside. From their website, "Broadside produces artisanal wines that are priced for people to drink, not collect." And with the 2011 Wild Ferment Chardonnay, they have done just that.
Fermented with native yeasts, the wine is allowed to finish with just a touch of malo-lactic. It is then aged predominantly in stainless steel with a mere 10% in neutral oak, making this wine appear to be the charming result of a hot sweaty night between a Chablis and a Macon-Village. It is a mouthful of bright, refreshing pineapple and stone fruit with crisp acidity and just the right amount of body. Pair this wine with anything from Coquille St. Jacques to a grilled cheese sandwich, or just drink it while you are mowing the lawn.
Could you call this wine a food wine? Yes if you must. But I prefer to simply call it a great wine.
Broadside's 2011 Wild Ferment Chardonnay retails for about $18 a bottle.
Photo of chardonnay and delicious food pairing by Flickr user naotakem.
Los Angeles resident Michael Newsome, a wine buyer for Whole Foods and a Certified Italian Wine Specialist, joins us every Tuesday for an exploration of California wine. See his previous posts here.