Accidental genius food pairings. I have to say, they are my favorite. No expectations. No disappointments. Just survey the fridge for any wine that seems to harness moderate pairing potential with your meal, and see what happens.
That would characterize the other night for me. I was making one of my favorite Indian curries—an array of vegetables tossed in coconut milk that bubbled with turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne, ginger, and garlic. Though I typically like spicy Indian food with a sweeter style Riesling, a new world Chard from Oregon was all I had in the lineup (and I do so dislike wasting wine).
Whatever it was, these two sang harmoniously! Perhaps it was rhythm of the tropics—the coconut sauce joining the banana-pineapple duet in the white—whatever it was exactly, they were in sync, and my taste buds were not bored.
The 2008 Mirth Chardonnay has always been a favorite standby of mine. It comes to us from one of the biggest names in Oregon and Washington wine: Owen Roe. This side project, ‘Cordivae,’ presents more affordable sippers for everyday enthusiasts who work for a living and cannot shell out $50 every time they want to crack open a decent bottle.
To begin, I am intrigued by the name of this Oregonian Chardonnay: ‘Mirth.’ It really demands participation, a laugh or even just a smile. The packaging—simple and green—displays two magpies at the tip of a reed. It manages to emanate mirth—that feeling of suspended gaiety and calm. And to be honest, at about $10 a bottle, the price alone provoked a little smile on my face (with a slightly paranoid sideways glance to see if anyone was coming to tell me the price was incorrect). I feel like it’s one of the best-kept secrets… well, was one of the best-kept secrets anyhow.
Inexpensive, tasty Chard is a difficult task, my friends. Trust me, I smell and taste several (sometimes over thirty) in any given week on average. Chardonnay can make me swoon… but if mistreated, it can make me ill. I typically hesitate to bring in and recommend many Chards under $15 to my customers, as I feel there are several other grapes out there that wear that price tag so much better. Perhaps it is the cheap oaking methods they use for many inexpensive Chardonnay that cause them to be so poorly balanced and sappy. If I want fake buttered popcorn, I’ll go to the movies.
The Mirth, however, sees no oak. That’s why such gorgeous tropical fruit, ripened pear, apples, and toasted almonds have a chance to speak up. No powdery imitation butter is taking center stage with this one (maybe if it smelled like real butter…). Just clean, light, and refreshing. A surprisingly solid complement to Indian coconut curry.
Here are some other inexpensive Chardonnays to keep in mind:
2008 Foxglove ($15)
2008 Shannon Ridge ($13)
2007 Domaine du Chardonnay Chablis ($20)
2008 Chehalem Inox Un-Oaked Chardonnay ($19)
2008 Close Pegase (a little richer, but well done) ($23)
And all the Chardonnays from France I alluded a couple postings ago “Mmmmaconnais…”