Wednesday, March 10, 2010

#48 - Scallops, Shrimp & Veggie Paté With A Muscadet Tasting

Is any muscadet just a muscadet?

Last night, we did a scaled-back version of a muscadet tasting to find out.

Well, not completely. Not at all, actually.

The original plan pitted four muscadets against each other.

Then we came to our senses a bit. That's a lot of muscadet! Pinot noir tasting? Yes, please. Syrah? Sure, where's the line?


...That's a lot of muscadet!

It was another one of my brilliant plans that sounded good at the time. Hey, let's find out if more expensive muscadet is worth the price of admission when we already have a perfectly fine $7 muscadet we enjoy. $60 later...

We've had other muscadets including the entry level from Pépière (liked it), a wine culled from various vineyards. Last night's was of the single-vineyard (Clos des Briords) and Vieilles Vignes (old vine) variety at $15.

In the next corner was a Trader Joe's specialty, Château des Cléons, weighing in at $7, a wine we have a bit of a crush on during the summer.

Both were from the muscadet appellation Sèvre et Maine (80% of muscadets made are) and both were 'sur lie' (yeasty bits stayed in the barrel and went directly into the bottle without racking, imparting a more creamy and fresh taste).

The results:

Food: Scallops, Shrimp, Veggie Paté, Asparagus, Mâche and capers with a Dill Vinaigrette, Baguette and Icelandic Butter

Just a MOUNTAIN of food. And great food. Clean food.

Simple, medium-sized seared scallops and garlic shrimp from Whole Foods. We don't get the shrimp fixation. Never have. But we gave them a roll in order to fulfill our requirement to try them every five years. The contract was up. I can see why people like them. These were tasty. In a good sauce, I get it. Maybe that's the problem. For me, shrimp desperately need a good sauce, making it simply a vehicle for sauce rather than a tasty goodness in and of themselves. Good stuff but see you in five years.

Mâche with capers and dill vinaigrette = Freshy Fresh (wasn't that a late 80's rapper?). Gave Icelandic butter a go and Irish butter is still the defending champion in the Ney house.

Now to the vegetable paté. Much cursing was sent forth from the kitchen during the preparation of this. Mrs. Ney has always wanted to give the making of paté a try and vegetable paté seemed to be a good place to start before moving on to more meaty ventures. It seemed like a mountain of work that resulted in a mountain of veggie paté. If you want some, visit the break room of Mrs. Ney's place of employment today. Bring a bib because there's lots.

A layer of puréed celery root followed by a layer a slightly spicy puréed tomato followed by a layer of puréed leeks, all wrapped in a cabbage cocoon. Immensely fresh and delicious. We were kind of intimidated by it on the table. Looked like an oddly-colored loaf of upside-down banana bread. "Why is it green!"

We felt clean and full.

Wines: 2007 Château des Cléons ($7 - Trader Joe's) & 2008 Domaine de la Pépière Clos des Briords ($15 - Binny's)

The Pépière was a better wine, but $8 better? Meh. Not really.

Muscadets are typically drunk young but the good ones have huge drinking windows if you're into it. A guy at Red & White on Milwaukee told me that he had a muscadet from the 60's and thought it was glorious. I'm intrigued a bit.

The Pépière showed more subtle lemon and stony notes with nice minerality and a more refined acidity compared to the Château des Cléons, which was more raw and simple with a more bracing lemon finish but still nice for what it is. The Cléons is more yellow in the glass with the Pépière showing a more light, greenish tint.

If given blind, I could discern which was better but I don't think it would really matter. Also, muscadet is a spectacular summer wine to drink by itself. In that world, I think I'd take the Château des Cléons over the Pépière. It's more substantial in its sheer rawness, if that makes sense. And it we're choosing between two muscadets to drink on its own, $7 beats $15 when volume comes into play and the difference, while distinct, isn't distinct enough to fork over $8 more.

We're going to continue to try more muscadets, of course. This cute little tasting resulted in no conclusions with only two wines up against each other.

BUT...when I'm shopping and looking to blow $15 on whatever, that world where muscadet is an option...

...hmm...$5 more and I have a flurry of choices in the Vouvray world (great bargain world, that). I think I'd at least look there first. Oodles more complexity for just a few bucks extra.

Muscadets are great, versatile with food as the crispness coupled with the acidity can stand up to much, great with greens, good chicken wine, made for the oyster-sea world, good with salty butter.

Lemon, paper and salt. That's muscadet. Trends toward simple by and large but that's just fine.

I kind of compare it to Dr. Pepper. When I'm in the mood, that's good stuff. But I don't want Dr. Pepper everyday.

Pairing: Overall, nice stuff

The weather helped. First nice day in Chicago in months.

The Pépière was more delicate but held its own. Came up a tad short with the garlic. Both were good with the greens and dill. Scallops were better overall as a pairing than the more aggressive shrimp preparation. Pleasant with the paté, even with the hint of spice.

When talking about muscadet and pairing it with food, it's a more basic world. Muscadet is first and foremost refreshing, a sort of pairing that brings good simple, mostly lemon fruit, big acidity and bone-dryness that makes for a nice, quintessentially basic pairing, especially when it's brutally hot and humid. It will enhance most food that can be enhanced by the addition of lemon juice.

It's just nice. You don't have to be too matchy-matchy. Stay in the ballpark and you get a simple wine to drink with simple food and your world is better for it.

The kind of thing that hits you an hour later and you say, "heeeeeeey, that was pretty good."

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