Raul Diaz continues his series of picking a classic, but simple recipe to go with the world’s most famous and widely planted grape varieties. This time round he turns to Chardonnay, much maligned by wine purists for many years, that has now bounced back to become one of the benchmark grape varieties and styles in the world. But what do you pair with it? For Diaz there is nothing better, particularly on a nice sunny day, to grill some sardines and serve with Chilean-style salsa – Pebre. Read and enjoy…
If you ever needed an excuse to go out and buy some fresh sardines, this is it. Oh, and pick up a bottle of Chardonnay whilst you are at it…
For years Raul Diaz has been asked to come up with the perfect wines to match the dishes being served at the various restaurants he has worked in around the world. Even when he moved over to the corporate side of the wine industry as a supplier, his skills as a sommelier were constantly leaned on to offer food and wine matching suggestions for the wines being supplied into restaurants and bars.
It’s why he has now decided to put those skills, honed over many years, and share them in a book – simply called Wine & Recipes that he released at the end of last year. The kind of book that looks just as good as the pictures of the recipes inside it.
In the first part of our regular series picking out perfect wine and food matches from Wine & Recipes Diaz explained just how he goes about picking the right food for different styles of wine – read here to catch up. In a nutshell it’s all about finding wines that can stand up to the different degrees of salt and acidity that we find in the majority of dishes.
As Diaz says: “When a food contains salt, we perceive the wine to be less bitter and acidic, more fruity and softer. The same is true for foods that are acidic. Additionally, many people find that pairing fatty, oily or fried food with wines with high acidity is very satisfying.”
Other basic rules include pairing food and wines that have equal flavour intensity. “If the wine is too delicate,” says Diaz, “it will be overwhelmed by the taste of the food”. And vice versa. To find out more you will have to buy the book…
Throughout the world, Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted and most successful white grape varieties. A big reason for its success is its adaptability. Chardonnay has the ability to flourish in nearly all climates suitable for vines. Not only does the character of the wine change with climate, but it also expresses differently with varying terroir. Winemaking techniques can also play a major role in the taste of the finished wine.
When unoaked, the wines range from those that are light bodied, high in acidity and predominantly display citrus fruits to those with fuller body, less acidity and stone/tropical fruit flavours. With the introduction of oak, expect a more complex, rich wine with hints of butter and/or cream. These wines still have good acidity and are more likely to have tropical fruit flavours. Chardonnay is a major component of many sparkling wines, including those from the region of Champagne.
Lemon, lime, peach, apricot, mango, pineapple, butter, toast, nuts, coconut, vanilla.
Chardonnay is now grown all over the world but if you want to find the best examples then you are best to buy from the classic regions of Burgundy, Margaret River and Napa Valley.
If you want to drill down a little deeper into the best regions in Burgundy for buying Chardonnay then you can always rely on Chablis, Chassagne-Montrachet, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet.
Grilles Sardines with Pebre
Sardines may be quite humble, but they are packed with an intense flavour and a satisfying oily texture. Keeping this recipe simple allows them to showcase their assets. Pebre is a spicy tomato salsa that comes from my homeland of Chile.
Eat this classic dish with a glass of chilled Chardonnay. For fun, given that there are so many different expressions of Chardonnay, make this recipe often and experiment with the many styles from different parts of the world to find the one you enjoy the most.
1 First, make the pebre by combining all the ingredients in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
2 Wash the sardines under running water to clean them inside and out and to remove any scales. Dry them well with kitchen paper.
3 Preheat the grill to very hot and oil a grill tray. Place the sardines on the tray, brush them with the pebre sauce on both sides, season with salt and put them under the grill.
4 Cook for around three to four minutes on each side until cooked through and nicely charred.
5 Transfer the sardines to a serving plate and squeeze plenty of lemon juice over them. Scatter with the parsley and serve with the remaining lemon wedges and leftover pebre, as well as toasted slices of ciabatta alongside.
Time: 20 minutes
16 sardines, cleaned and gutted
Olive oil, for greasing
2 lemons, cut into wedges
A bunch of parsley, finely chopped
Slices of toasted ciabatta, to serve
For the Pebre:
4 tomatoes, deseeded and very finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
Juice of ½ lemon
A small bunch of coriander, finely chopped
½ red onion, very finely chopped
1 large red chilli, deseeded and very finely chopped
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Silver Fox Wines, Tucumen Reserve Chardonnay, Mendoza, Argentina
Restaurant: The Greenhouse – 2 Michelin stars, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champ Canet, Etienne Sauzet Côte de Beaune, Burgundy, France.
Raul Diaz is author of Wines & Recipes, published in November 2020 (£30, www.winetraining.co.uk), shortlisted as a finalist for Wine Education in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2020 (to be announced in June). A Chilean-born sommelier who became a WSET-certified wine educator, he now runs his own business, Wine Training School. He has been a TV wine presenter for Sunday Brunch, Channel 4 for several years. He is UK Ambassador for VDP German wines, and in 2018 received the award for Rioja Communicator of the Year.