This was a fantastic meal prepared by my sister and her boyfriend on April 2, 2007, already a half-year ago but still strongly etched in my mind.
It wasn't Easter dinner but it was a very sophisticated dinner, yet stunningly simple in execution. Lucky me -- I got to watch, and point my camera.
When I arrived for dinner, the strong smell of soy sauce met my nose. In the kitchen, fish fillets were marinating in a baking dish. The aroma was pungent and I got the idea of offering a pairing by way of one the Portuguese wines I brought with me.
The final dinner preparations were made as I nibbled and shared a Cheverny aperatif that I knew would be just my sister's style of wine and it was. I was more apprehensive when it came to selling a sturdy Portuguese Reserva with such a very white fish. But in the end, my Quinta de Cabriz Reserva Dão 2003 made perfect sense since the Portuguese diet is replete with heavily flavoured fish dishes, be they charred, smoked, grilled or broiled.
Our fish went into the salamander under the oven and was cooked to perfection. You can see this in the photo above, and how the tasty marinade worked its way into the fish flesh, generating a big flavour punch to the palate. A punch that my wine could stand up to and flatter as an accompaniment. And yes, even a blood orange garnish wasn't enough to throw off this wine, though you wouldn't except much from pairing a red with some citrus. Yet the signature profile of spice and orange confit in many good Portuguese wines permits this match too.
There was a gasoline-y note in this wine that some might call tarry or mineral. It coats the tongue in a certain way. You know it was you taste it. The assertive treatment for the fish penetrated this effect of the wine and then proceeded to dazzle the tongue with its own "umami" seasoning -- something I don't think my more restrained and elegant wine from WBW 38 would have allowed the food do as well because it is so much softer.
The Cabriz Reserva, which is composed of Alfrocheiro, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz indigenous grape varieties also offered strong berry fruit with palpable acidity to cozy up to the creamy pasta side and make some nice contrasts. But all I can really say is that we lucked out, because this was not only the first time I uncorked this bottle, but the first time I had ever seen it. I bought it at the LCBO moments before I walked through their door.
I love Portuguese wine.
Thanks to those who inspired this post: Ryan and Gabrielle of Catavino who hosted WBW 38 on such a great and ripe topic; Sonadora whose compliments on my dinner photos got me to go over a long-neglected food photo album; BrooklynGuy whose interest in deciphering these red blends put me into a pairing-analysis mood; and finally to Kristen and to John for their totally memorable dinner. It was a treat! Cheers.