Pork continues to be popular as a versatile non-wasteful food choice with all parts of the pig being utilized from head to tail. Remember celebrated Chef Jacky Robert of Amelio’s in San Francisco serving us in the mid-eighties his most innovative “ears & tail” pork recipes that always matched so well with the aperitif bubbles. Tenderloin, shoulder, butt, ribs (smoky BBQ!), ham, bacon, sausage – even cheeks & trotters – are among so many useful delicious food items. A piglet at birth is only around 3+ pounds but after 6-7 months grows into a 250-300 pound hog. In British Columbia they are regulated under the Natural Products Marketing (BC) Act with a BC Hog Marketing Commission using the definition of “hog” as “means a pig of any age.” The reality is that producers want to maximize the size and the weight of their hogs to obtain maximum selling prices. Small pigs are almost an unwanted specialty item for the Asian & Chinese market and restaurants with a much higher price/lb charged.

On April 29 at the increasingly popular Chef’s Choice Chinese Cuisine in Vancouver they prepared another outstanding dinner featuring a small suckling pig for six of us cooked first on the rotisserie and then finished by roasting in the oven. Amazing presentation and such succulent flavours so well done indeed!. Brought back lots of fond memories of similar but even smaller suckling pigs enjoyed in Spain with less restrictive laws for the protection of young animals. In particular provided nostalgia for your scribe of several memorial meals in Madrid featuring roast suckling piglet at Botin’s open since 1725 with the Guiness record for oldest restaurant in the world. Check out the photo of the mastery of this dish by the chef and his brigade at Chef’s Choice. What a crisp skin!

Lots of other interesting items served including spot prawns, razorback clams in black bean sauce, pork several ways, tasty beef on the bone, and a remarkable dessert of mango stuffed with taro root. Other big highlights were the wines so well paired with the food:

DOM PERIGNON 1990: Looked golden but no oxidation or maderization. Pure aged rich marvellous complex almost creme brulee toasted brioche and dried apricots bouquet with smooth balanced complex taste. Harvested 32 years ago on September 11, 1990 but still going strong. Brilliant now in magnums. Calling for more!

MANDELBERG RIESLING GRAND CRU 2018 TRIMBACH: This choice Grand Cru vineyard Mandelberg (“Almond Tree Slope”) is a hill sheltering the village of Mittelwihr from those cold northerly winds. One hectare cultivated by Trimbach since 1996 of 60+ year old vines with S/SE exposure on brown limestone-marl soil is early ripening but was not specifically labeled until their 2016 vintage release. This 2018 is spectacular with full rich noble breeding with distinct terroir from those unique soils plus fantastic lemon acid finesse. Still an infant but will age exquisitely for a very long time. Moreover it was a brilliant match choice for complementing roast suckling pig!

RIOJA IMPERIAL GRAN RESERVA 2015 C.V.N.E.: Only produced in exceptional vintages using mainly Tempranillo hand picked grapes from their oldest vineyard. Oak for 24+ months & 3+ years in bottle results in a wonderful typical attractive sweet elegant style that will only develop even more nuances with some more bottle aging. Paired magically with the beef dish. Lovely wine indeed.

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Ask Sid: What about the early drinkability of Madiran especially from producer Brumont?

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Question: A friend is invited to a tasting dinner of several wines from Brumont; of particular interest are the Montus Prestige and the La Tyre.  I’ve done basic homework and found that this is a true pioneer of Madiran and Tannat is the star grape. I’m jealous, as I’ve yet to taste anything from either property so I’d like to ask what your experiences are with these wines.

Answer: Thanks for shedding light on this relatively undiscovered wine region of Madiran in Gascony of southwestern France. Yes, tannat is “the star grape” tending to be aromatic, powerful, and quite tannic! Brumont led by terroir pioneer Alain Brumont is the leading producer of both Chateau Montus & Chateau Bouscasse (older vines) with top wines including south facing high elevation vineyard of 100% tannat in Madiran Prestige (1st in 1985) two years in 100% new oak and since 1990 their expensive south-west highest elevation (260 metres) select tannat grapes from top vineyard La Tyre.  Madiran and especially these best cuvees are dark deep big concentrated great wines with good underlying acidity that can benefit from bottle aging. However, more consumers now appreciate a young powerful black fruit statement that this provides in spades early on. With more bottle aging they become more refined elegant and complex. Therefore, are enjoyable at many stages of a long evolution. Tried Madiran a couple of times against tannat from Uruguay (their national grape) which showed a big difference with these in an easier more drinkable style early with much softer riper tannins. Also check out a top Tannat (planted in 2005) from Moon Curser on Osoyoos East Bench in the Okanagan, British Columbia for a very interesting example. The rich dense complex 2018 was picked at 26.8 Brix and comes in at 15 abv with an amazing texture. Excellent write-up on their website. Enjoy!

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Often dinner events are limited to serving wines just from a specific wine region or one individual winery. This is especially so for most wine clubs formed as their raison d’etre to focus more intensely only on their main wine theme. The International Wine & Food Society by their nature has been an exception to this general rule being a leader in matching wines from around the world with food courses at dinner events. It has worked out well. However, putting together passionate members of two different wine connoisseur groups like La Commanderie de Bordeaux and Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin was another challenge indeed. Fifty guests (25 from each organization) attended such a joint dinner on April 19, 2022 in Vancouver at the innovative New Fishport Seafood Bistro. The Culinary Director Sam Leung and his brigade did a marvelous job putting together a most interesting Menu to pair with some outstanding wines. Many thanks to the whole culinary team and the compatible organizers from both wine groups who did a great job – especially Kitty Lam.

DRAPPIER NV CARTE D’OR BRUT: 200+ year old Champagne House in Cotes des Bar using 80% pinot noir first press with 40% Reserve wines & only 6+ dosage shows softer easy drinking riper spiced peaches. “Y” D’YQUEM 2015: Shows the improved quality of these dry Sauternes. Here the 75% Sauvignon Blanc picked early (August 25-27) & 25% Semillon (September 3-4) with low 3.2 pH and only has 6 grams/litre residual sugar (similar to the Champagne) is lovely. Exciting geoduck clam starter that was fine with the unique ginger waxy lemony lemongrass wine but difficult pairing with a tad too much pungent wasabi in the special sauce. Recommend buying the 2016 Y one of the all-time best ever made!

SMITH HAUT LAFITTE BLANC 2015 PESSAC-LEOGNAN: Great label celebrating the Cathiards 25th anniversary using 90% SB plus 5 Sauvignon Gris (24 years old) & 5 Semillon showing freshness plus rich intense classy integrated new oak. Matched delightfully with a toned-down yet hot & tangy Portuguese-style blue crab served inside the shell.

CHASSAGNE-MONTRACHET 2010 PIERRE-YVES COLIN-MOREY (Power couple of eldest son of Marc Colin & wife Caroline daughter of Jean-Marc Morey) two 1er Crus with two excellent snow crab courses.

VIDE BOURSE: North of N6 on downslope from Batard usually rather 4-square but though reductive here shows an interesting character because of the superb 2010 vintage of restricted yields singing with the fresh snow crab claw & caviar.

LES BAUDINES: Superior site at South end above the road adjoining Santenay on the Coteaux (elevation mostly over 300 metres with good drainage) where most of the higher rated Chassagnes exist. Prefer this more elegant complex mineral classy terroir with brighter balanced acidity. Excellent match with the dish especially the cool gelee with lemon & pomelo. A matching hit!

CLOS DE VOUGEOT 2006 – BOTH ALAIN HUDELOT-NOELLAT & MUSIGNI (EN MAGNUM) BY GROS FRERE & SOEUR: You often see duck and/or mushrooms with red Burgundy – or game-birds. Less so with pork and especially Pescatarian options of sea bass and crepe of sole. Provoked some discussions. Before Charles H-N arrived in 2008 from vines planted on .69 ha in 1950 with two choice plots near the Vougeot chateau (sold third plot near RN74 earlier on) using 20% stems & 50% new Allier oak barrels. High quality indeed with deep dense young colour opening fine fragrant classy young fruit bouquet but no rush to open. Impressive. Magnum from Gros has a special site “Musigni” above the chateau below Musigny. Great format but lighter greener herbs & red spicy sappy fruits in a more accessible elegant style with some austerity.

Often see lamb served with red Bordeaux but interesting change here for “hotpot” using quick stir fry rib or mussels followed by Abalone but cleverly fused with ideal porcini. Worked. Concentrated successful hot vintage 2003 has real solid dark ripe sweet tobacco fruit with some vibrant energy despite lower acidity that brings some enjoyment already but needs time to reach a higher level. Tried the two nights previously the 2003 d’Armailhac Pauillac drinking lighter and beautifully already and 2003 Duhart-Milon very underrated classy Pauillac starting on a long fantastic plateau of brilliance. 1989 PLB is a favourite of this scribe and is Wine Spectator Wine of the Year. However bottles here coming from different sources and ours were quite musty and not showing well. Can be an outstanding wine.

This property run by Berenice Lurton presently is making outstanding Sauternes. 2009 is in that pure rich but rounder style from a hotter year resulting in only 2 picks (tries) with the first one providing 90%. There is botrytis and Barsac always seems to have that needed underlying balanced acidity. Glorious now with the ginger & rose petals of the dessert but will blossom even better from a few more years in the bottle. Big success with somewhat biased discussions depending on which Group you are a member of – either Bordeaux or Burgundy. Luckily your scribe is a member of both so remained neutral but was highly enthusiastic about the top wines from both regions! Wonderful idea for a stimulating event!

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Ask Sid: What is the correct temperature for Champagne service?

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Question: What is the correct temperature at which you should serve your Champagne?

Answer: Difficult to answer this question definitively because it really comes down to individual personal choice. The Comite Champagne (or Champagne Bureau) recommends service at 47-50F (just under 10C) which is a good guideline but seems a little cool. Your scribe usually tries for a range around 50-54F (10-12C) for vintage Champagne and prestige cuvees. However, remember that the bubbles start to warm up rather quickly right after pouring the Champagne into your glass. IMHO the higher the quality and the more expensive the bottle the less chilling is required, This rule of thumb should apply as well to all Sparkling wines but some with higher acidity or residual sugar benefit by being well chilled. Experiment by monitoring service at different temperatures to find the best window that you personally prefer. Enjoy!

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We are indeed fortunate here on the West Coast of America to have a variety of wonderful seafood available. Your scribe was reflecting on this incredible pleasure last week while enjoying two home cooked dinners featuring mains of fresh delicately nutty Brill (Petrale) Sole and one of thick firm sweet Halibut – first of the season! These dinners were delicious but helped out by the magical matching of two excellent Grand Cru Chablis Les Clos from Domaine Christian Moreau of 2012 & 2010. That 2010 again showed sensationally (written up here last year on May 31 & November 22) and is a proven testimony to the rewards of patience by storage of top quality wines. IWFS Vancouver Branch has been active yet careful in holding interesting events even during difficult continuing pandemic circumstances. Their latest one was held on April 12, 2022 for a seafood dinner plus Shellfish Masterclass at Fanny Bay Oyster Bar (part of the Taylor Shellfish Family of Farms) with a motto of “From Tide To Table”. You will see from the Menu that there were lots of varieties served to study and enjoy. The live large saltwater Pacific Geoduck (“gooey-duck”) Clam had admirers. Dungeness crab is always so special with those outstanding sweet flavours and unique textures. The simpler the dish the better the crab IMHO. Crab cakes can be tasty but often use a filler (not here) that makes them seem drier and less succulent. On December 15, 2021 note here Q&A Ask Sid: Best Wine Pairing With Dungeness Crab but the 2019 Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc from the Helderberg region in South Africa would have been a brilliant answer. Perfect complementary touch of ripe fruit sweetness with complex balanced acidity works marvelously together enhancing that cast of crabs.

A main class focus was on 3 different types of oysters served on a Tower:

  1. Taylor Pacific Smalls, Puget Sound Washington, USA: Salty briny sweet with a distinctive cucumber-like flavour.
  2. Fat Bastard, Willapa Bay, Washington, USA: Bigger sized Shigoku with smoother shells richer taste almost melony chestnut.
  3. Devil’s Bandit, Cocagne Cove, New Brunswick, Canada: Crisper (colder waters?) has attractive umani taste with a touch of miso-honey.

What is your favourite oyster variety?

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