It’s party time and it is Spring! Let’s greet our guests with a drink which will set the mood right… shall we?
There are countless refreshing apéritif options we could use here, but because it is Spring, my mind is set on something extremely simple (and may be even a bit pedestrian) – a bright looking cocktail called Mimosa. Mimosa, which is an official cocktail of the International Bartenders Association, is made of equal parts Champagne (or any other Sparkling wine) and orange juice, and is served in a traditional Champagne flute. Why Mimosa and Spring? The bright yellow color of Mimosa associates with yellow flowers called Mimosa (aka Wattle), which usually bloom early in the spring. When you see Mimosa in flower – yes, spring has arrived!
Mimosa can be made with any Sparkling wine. I would recommend you use either dry Prosecco or any of the French Crémant wines – no need to use your best Champagne here. Freshly squeezed orange juice will be the best (using fresh fruit is a rule for best tasting cocktails), but of course, there is nothing wrong with orange juice from the can/bottle.
Now that your guests are happily situated, it is time to serve our Appetiser:
The star of this dish is of course Smoked Salmon, and in supporting roles we have Asparagus, Radishes and Arugula. Of course we shouldn’t forget the dressing, which is made from Red Wine Vinegar, Garlic, Salt and Pepper, French Wholegrain Mustard and EVOO.
My top choice for this pairing would be a Rosé – primarily a Provençal Rosé, or something similar in style. Light, dry, with good acidity and typically, minerally undertones. We need acidity to complement the dressing and cut through the fattiness of the salmon, but we don’t want anything too fruity in case the flavors fight; minerality would play well with the flavor profile of the salmon. There are lots of great producers to chose from – Château du Galoupet, Château de Landue, Château La Jeanette Fleurs, Château Saint Maur, Château Les Valentines and many many others. You don’t have to stick with Provence Rosé, but again, you are looking for a light wine with good acidity. My other reason for including Rosé here is that it also says “Spring!” with its bright and uplifting appearance, signifying the arrival of the warm season.
If you’d prefer not to serve Rosé, some alternative choices could include Italian Verdicchio or Pecorino; New Zealand or Oregon Pinot Gris; Chenin Blanc from South Africa – all of these wines typically have nice minerality, good acidity and restrained fruit.
Now, it is time for the Main Course:
To decide on the pairing, let’s figure out our flavor profile. First of all, we have Rack of Lamb, which was marinated with EVOO, Garlic, Lime, Pink Peppercorns, Lemon Thyme, Cinnamon, Pul Biber/Aleppo Pepper and Sea Salt. Goat Cheese Aioli will extend our flavor profile here with Garlic, EVOO, Lemon Juice and zest, Goat cheese, Creme Fraîche and Salt.
The main flavor components of this dish is the slight gaminess of the lamb, along with an earthy and spicy profile which will be brought in by the Pul Biber. Goat Cheese aioli will also command some restraint in the fruity profile and will also will require some acidity. To me, all of these flavor elements can be collectively found in the wines called GSM – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre. Best known examples of GSM wines are French Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, as well as Australian and California and Washington GSM versions. In addition to GSM, pure Syrah/Shiraz and Mourvedre/Mataro wines will also work quite well, as they usually deliver that earthy, spicy profile with good acidity. There are plenty of excellent producers for both GSM and Syrah/Shiraz wines, from all over the world- we just have to keep in mind that we are looking for the earthy, spicy profile. For the Côtes du Rhone and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, look for M. Chapoutier, E. Guigal, Delas, Ogier. For the Australian wines, look for Penfolds, Grant Burge, d’Arenberg, Hewitson and many others.
Dessert time! And our dessert today is:
Cheesecake! One of my favorite desserts (well, yeah, I’m stepping into dangerous territory – my “sweet tooth” is very big, so I have a lot of favorites) and always fun to pair with wine. Here, instead of listing all the ingredients, let’s just think about main components – we’ve got lemon and coconut in the cheesecake itself, and of course, strawberries. To come up with the pairing here, one thing for sure – we don’t want our wine to be very sweet and very heavy. We want our pairing to elevate and brighten up the dish, adding a bit of acidity.
My favorite pairings for cheesecake are two of the traditional Italian light sparkling wines, both of which are traditionally paired with desserts. I’m talking about Brachetto di Acqui and Moscato d’Asti. Brachetto di Acqui, which is made of the red grape called Brachetto, would be my first choice – the wines are typically lightly sparkled, have good acidity and strawberry profile, which will be perfect here. Moscato d’Asti, made out of Muscat grape, will also work very well due to the light effervescence and backbone of acidity.
You can go with any of the producers for both types wines. If you need recommendations, Banfi Bracheto di Acqui “Rosa Regale” would be my top choice for the Brachetto di Acqui wines, but you can look at other producers such as Icardi or Tütidì. For Moscato d’Asti, look for Fontanafredda, Gianni Doglia, Saracco from Italy. As sparkling Moscato wines are extremely popular worldwide, there are plenty of Australian Sparkling Moscato wines to chose from – Jacob’s Creek, Lindemans, Brown Brothers and many others.
And we are done here. I hope your dinner will be an absolute success. And of course I want to know how your pairings worked, so don’t be shy, drop us a note. Cheers!