Wed 19 Aug 2015

What, No Sauvignon?!

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Janet Wynne Evans gets acid indigestion at a music festival…

Janet Wynne Evans

Janet Wynne Evans

Another festival season draws to a close and I’ve yet to sample Glasto and glamping. I just feel too old – though many who go, including some recent headline acts, are older even than me – for anything beyond one night only at a more intimate gathering, and only then if a walking miracle from my musically misspent youth is coming to town.

Lower-key events, where every penny of a limited budget is rightly spent on the music, can be a bit unsophisticated, infrastructure-wise. No trendy ‘pop-up’ eats, unless you count a bap shooting out of a toaster to ricochet off a burger, and forget the Bolly tent. It’s beer, beer and more beer, often as much vital sponsorship as social lubricant. One venue recently rebranded itself to honour a prominent lager brand (probably not the one you’re thinking of).

Whether or not keeping the bar open for the duration of the performance was part of the deal, it was unwise, given the dwindling capacity, elderly plumbing and compromised balance of superannuated jazz cats such as myself.

As yet another projectile of said lager shot from a tremulous paw down the back of my neck (‘sorry, babes!’), I wondered irritably why these things can’t be sponsored by Domaine de Chevalier (attention, Olivier Bernard).

Just one plucky refreshment stall was offering wine, a choice of four of the usual by-the-glass suspects. Already, one of these stalwarts had been crossed out and no prizes for guessing which.

Sauvignon blancYes, the sauvignon blanc tank had run dry – and before 6pm on Day Two of a three-day event.

It’s at times like this when I marvel at sauvignon blanc. Yes, it’s delicious but one of the joys of wine is its diversity and scope for consumer capriciousness. In my formative years, Vouvray and Bergerac were hot, or, in today’s parlance, ‘cool’. Sauvignon came either from the Loire or Bordeaux, or, at great expense, from California where it was called Fumé Blanc, another creature altogether.

Sauvignon blanc goes brilliantly with salty or piquant dishes, such as the salsa verde in the recipe below...

Sauvignon blanc goes brilliantly with salty or piquant dishes, such as the salsa verde in the recipe below…

But then, New Zealand galvanised the grape, with Chile and the Cape in hot pursuit, and a rightly rattled Loire and Bordeaux fought back in earnest.

How we’ve lapped up this war of the worlds, glass in hand! According to the Wine & Spirit Trade Association we Britons drank over 750,000 litres of it last year alone, placing it way ahead of any grape of any colour, and consumption is still on an upward trend.

Enough, surely! My inner wine merchant fervently wants the wheel of retailing to turn again, to other grapes that deliver equal excitement and gratification. But the real me, on that bright summer’s night, craved a glass of sauvignon blanc, and not just because there wasn’t any.

Of course, there was a bottle in the fridge when I got home, as, I suspect there is in most people’s, waiting for a chance to hit the spot, just as it is, or to shine even more brightly with impromptu fish and chips, cold chicken or a midnight feast of melted goat’s cheese on toast. Or, come to that, to wash down the supermarket smoked-salmon sandwiches we gratefully fell upon between sets.

Note to self: smuggle it through in a cool bag in future and don’t ever forget how much you love it.

Janet Wynne Evans
Fine Wine Editor

And Now For Some Salsa…
The salty and the piquant tend to make natural partners for sauvignon blanc. With three kinds of herbs, capers, mustard, anchovies, garlic, wine vinegar and lemon juice, a classic salsa verde is a cinch. I like to serve this vivid green supercharged sauce with white fish such as hake or cod. Serving it with oilier delights like salmon may be too much of a good thing.

Recipe: Grilled Hake with Salsa Verde
The ingredients below will make a generous tubful of sauce, and you should aim to finish it off within a few days out of respect for the fresh components, and the fact that with every passing day it looks more like pond-weed. But it makes such a sublime addition to cold chicken, baked potatoes, steamed greens and more besides that this should not be a problem.

• a couple of very generous handfuls each of parsley and basil leaves
• a similar quantity of dill or tarragon
• a smaller quantity of mint leaves (about ten big leaves should do it)
• 1-2 cloves garlic, to taste
• 1 tablespoon capers, well rinsed
• 4-6 salted or brined anchovies, rinsed
• a good teaspoon of Dijon mustard
• a dash of red wine vinegar
• a tablespoon of lemon juice
• Up to 100ml olive oil, to emulsify. No need for expensive extra-virgin.
• freshly ground black pepper, or white if you prefer
• 4 thickish hake fillets, about 150g each, skin on, scales removed

First make the salsa verde: Rinse the herbs and dry thoroughly on kitchen paper before mincing them in a food-processor or blender. Add the garlic, capers and anchovies, and blend again. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. The next bit is best done manually. Stir in the mustard, vinegar and lemon juice and then add the olive oil very gradually, whisking until you have a pesto-like consistency. Season with pepper and give it a final stir. The anchovies and mustard will provide enough salt.

Now for the hake: Run your fingers over the flesh to check for pin bones which should be tweezed out to avoid cruelty to guests. Lay them skin-side up in the base of a grill pan (lose the rack). Brush with a little oil and season well. Place at the top of a preheated grill, and remain on duty lowering the position or heat when the skin begins to bubble and blister.

Depending on the thickness of the fillet, it should take 8-10 minutes for the flesh to turn opaque. Be careful not to overcook. A fork inserted into the fillet should meet with no resistance.

Lift onto warmed plates and remove the skin, which will readily peel off to reveal the moist flesh below. Some (myself included) like to eat the skin, but it’s not everyone’s choice, so best assume the latter. Add a dollop of salsa verde, having the bowl on hand for reinforcements if required. Tender little new potatoes, simply steamed or crisp, thin French fries make delicious partners.

Any self-respecting sauvignon blanc on our List should handle this with aplomb. The verdant Marlborough style is especially well-suited, but the choice is yours!

Clearly, you can never have too much sauvignon blanc, and your Society has taken that to heart, with the result that we now need to liberate some warehouse space. For a limited period, members are invited to stock up and save money on a cosmopolitan selection of sauvignons from France, New Zealand, the Cape and Chile.

Find the wines by the bottle in our Summer Clearance or stock up on the Summer Clearance Sauvignon Blanc Mixed Case with a saving of £17.50.

Categories : Miscellaneous

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