I’m a devoted fan of Riesling, especially Ontario-born versions. The winemakers of our province produce world class Riesling, in fact. If you love to pair wine with food, this is certainly a variety worth exploring.
Riesling (pronounced ‘rees-ling’) was born in the Rhine River region of Germany and its history stems back to medieval times to 1546. German botanist, physician and author, Hieronymus Bock, mentioned this grape in his book called Herbal. Today, Germany continues to produce delicious Riesling. But so does Ontario and its nice to know we have world-class gems grown in our own back yard available for purchase.
The wine’s aromas and flavours can resemble fruits ranging from lemon and lime to peaches and apricots, tangerine and pineapples. Sometimes Riesling can be more petrol in character, as well.
What I love most about this grape is its versatility, producing white wines that can be bone dry, to off dry to late harvest to Icewine. Riesling has enough character to stand alone with screaming and refreshing acidity as its predominant taste sensation. Or it can swirl with an tanginess and sweetness in several levels.
I often see articles praising Riesling as a wine that works with spicy and Asian dishes. This is only partly true. It depends on the wine’s level of sweetness. The sugar code is key, determining whether Riesling will work with a particular spicy or ethnic dish.
If the dish has sweetness, one’s Riesling must be more sweet. If the dish is spicy, this white requires even more sweetness. But don’t be alarmed. When vinified correctly Riesling doesn’t taste sweet. That’s because of its backbone of acidity. When made by masters, the wine’s sweetness will show up on the forefront of your palate, but only to suddenly disappear as it dances with the sweetness. A tango of taste sensations.
Some of us cherish the bone-dry versions that complement foods offering similar tanginess or saltiness as primary bridging ingredients in the dish.
Dry Riesling works with yogurt and sour cream based dips and salty cheeses and charcuterie and cured meats. Pair Riesling with Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP, Grana Padano Aged, Pecorino Romano, Asiago, prosciutto, capocollo, Pancetta and Parma Ham, to name but a few. If you want to highlight Riesling with an entrée, choose one that uses lemon or lime as an accent flavour. Sole drizzled in lemon complements bone dry Riesling. Perfect partners.
I decided to create a chicken recipe to complement Riesling’s predominant lime flavour and zesty acidity. Pair this wine with Rustic Chicken with Coconut, Lime and Cilatro Jus. I use in the recipe coconut infused rum. Adding a spirit to the dish increases its level of roundness and depth of flavour called umami. The fresh lime flavour in the jus bridges perfectly with the wine’s lime acidity as well.
Here is the recipe:
Coconut, Lime and Cilantro au Jus Chicken
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 4 cloves of garlic minced, depending on preference
¼ cup of coconut infused dark rum
1 cup chicken broth
Juice from 2 limes
4 chicken breasts
4 small carrots, chopped
1 leek (white part only), sliced
½ bulb of fennel, sliced
½ sweet onion, sliced
½ yellow or orange pepper
½ cup fresh cilantro
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Saute garlic until aromatic. Sear chicken breasts. Set chicken breasts in oven proof baking dish. Deglaze pan with rum, scraping up browned bits. Add 1 cup chicken broth. Let simmer for 2 minutes. Pour vegetables mixture over chicken. Add cilantro. Add broth. Pour juice from 1 lime over vegetables. Set in middle of oven. Roast for 45 minutes or until chicken is desired doneness and white inside. Transfer chicken and vegetables to plate. Wrap with foil and keep warm in oven. Place juice in sauté pan. Bring juice to a boil. Reduce to medium and let simmer until reduced by half. Transfer chicken to serving tray with vegetables, drizzled in jus. Squeeze with fresh lime juice just before serving.
Suggested Wines: Find the perfect Ontario Cabernet Sauvignon at WinerytoHome.com:
Trius 2012 Riesling - $13.95
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