Chocolate & Zucchini: Luscious Syrah and a little recipe to match it

Abbotts Cumulus Minervois 2000
Happy Super Bowl Sunday everyone! (Betcha Clotilde has never said that.) As annual festivities wind down, I'm interested in finding out what wines party-goers enjoyed during the Pittsburgh win. I don't have cable (or a satellite), but as a Canadian I got to do the football spectacular thang during the Grey Cup way back in November 05. It was well-documented. Some Canuck wine bloggers, including myself and Tim at The Crush, put the party wine on the line, i.e., What to uncork for that momentous event (see The Crush's Sixpack of 2005 Grey Cup Tasting Notes or Weingolb's Go too deep and you may fumble). Now I ask what might've made the Seahawks loss go down better a little better? Que Syrah... Syrah. And what was the elixir that put the cap on victorious Steelers fans, a fifth title, and the all the hope for next season? Que Shiraz, Shiraz!

Pictured above is one of the bottles that footballers might have favoured during the game. It is yet another good-value-for-the-money Syrah/Shiraz and one I would suggest adding to the "Super Bowl Sixpack" of wines for next year. (Affordable wine is a must during sporting extravangas, for obvious reasons.) This particular Syrah, Abbotts Cumulus Minervois 2000, is an especially big one: built like a Steeltown linebacker, basically as big as they come. Hence its current drinkability. I would hazard that this Minervois would still be plenty drinkable for 2007's Super Bowl XLI in South Florida.

Well, let's see... Nope, there's nothing South Florida about Minervois, which come from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France. The Cumulus is deep garnet to purple in colour with a little faded brick around the edges. The bouquet is astounding: chocolately-cocoa bean and just full of black fruits. On the palate, there are nice hints of licorice. Like the Deakin Estate Shiraz or a Goats do Roam in Villages, which are other Syrah variations, the essentials of fruit and spice are very much present.

This Cumulus is not a wine that develops much by decanting, but that's probably because it was already at its peak when I opened it. In terms of a rewarding pairing, I would offer barbecued or roasted dinners: bell peppers baked in the oven with carrots and parsnips; sirloin grilling steak, flash-fried on a grill pan, or in milder weather, on the barbie out back. A word of warning: I would avoid pepper steaks since this type of wine has some heat, and adding to it will amplify mouthfeel at the expense of fruit flavours. It's almost like a Madiran in that way. As a result, Mediterranean cooking, with its spotlight on ripe and savoury vegetables, is always a safe bet. For an entirely vegetarian alternative to pair with a lusty Minervois such as this, I suggest a pasta parmesana dish that is built around grilled zucchini.

Slice zucchinis lengthwise into strips that are about 1/4-inch thick. Toss them with olive oil and drop them on a smoking hot grill pan or other heavy-bottomed skillet. It's hard to screw this up because any kind of searing here is going to render flavours that are rich, sweet and tender -- zucchini at its best. If you think the slices in the pan are browning too much, you can tell it's time to flip them over when the top side glistens and gets a little translucent. Wait another couple minutes after flipping and then remove from heat. Cut the zucchini into straw-shaped ribbons if desired and throw them into your cooked pasta sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan. Add some other herbs if you feel like it but it's basically good to go with little fuss. Not only is the dish a rich and flavourful counterpart to the hot wines that so many mistakenly pair with peppery food, it is also the base of a great summer salad. So who's ready for a new season?

Montpellier, France. 13%.


Tim Jacobs said...

Thanks for the linking action, Marcus. You know, I missed this entry when you posted it.

I love Goats do Roam in Villages, and you describe it perfectly: fruity and spicy, that's totally it.

How much does the Abbots go for at the SAQ?

g58 said...

Maybe it was my strange urge to post on a weekend that caused you to miss it! To tell you the truth Tim, I can't recall the last time I tasted Goats do Roam Villages since it is not offered by the SAQ -- I trusted heavily on your fine judgment published last November. And besides, it's hard to call a Syrah-based bottle a success if it ain't got some good fruit and spice happening. As for Abbotts, it's about $15, down from $18.