About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Wine Blogging Wednesday #25

picture by Michael Blamey

When I saw Wine Blogging Wednesday #25 being hosted by sam over at Becks & Posh and champagne, real champagne, was the subject, it was just so obvious that this was for me. I had written a previous post on the history of champagne in which sam had left a comment that the British could take some credit for its invention and this is indeed true! Sam also said in her hosting suggestions that we might consider a food pairing, another box to tick. There were also extra brownie points on offer for choosing from one of the lesser known champagne houses. Tick again.

So off we go.

Firstly to choose a champagne, for everything else would flow from the choice, so I headed over to Apellation Australia, my fave wine blog and asked Cam Wheeler, who incidently is hosting the next Wine Blogging Wednesday, for his advice and whether he would like to link posts and give a real wine perspective to go with my food suggestion. Not that that will stop me from saying a few words about the wine. Cam kindly agreed and suggested an Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Cuvee Non Dose, however when I went to purchase the wine I discovered that the name had been updated to Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Extra Brut VP, but was still the exact same wine.The Extra Brut and Non Dose on the labels is just a way of saying that no sugar has been added to fill the space after disgorgement. So expect a wine of this style to be fresh and racy, with a spine tingling backbone of acidity. Cam also asked for my seafood recipe so he could try the match for himself.

Champagne, being the northernmost vineyard area in France, has always produced wines of acidity, the coolness of the region doesn't allow for the build up of grape sugars. Before the English, err, French figured out how to make sparkling wine, all the wines from here were still, i.e. without bubbles, and would have required careful winemaking to make the wine palatable. With no dose of sugar in mind, food needs a certain richness to act as a partner with this style of champagne, but also must be delicate so as not to overpower it, which makes seafood such a great choice. To give it the requisite richness, the accompanying sauce needs to be a strong reduction containing butter. This allows the champagne to clean and refresh the palate between bites and the reduction of the liquids heightens the seafoods natural sweetness and along with the butter helps soften the wines natural acidity.

What I chose to do was feature a single fillet of fish, in this case wild barramundi, along with scallops and mussels. The sauce was a reduction of the mussel juices, vermouth and fish stock, gently coloured by a few strands of saffron and given shine and richness by the incorporation of butter.

picture by Michael Blamey

Because I've never featured photos of my own food, mainly for the lack of digital a camera, I wanted a great location featuring my own suburb and St Kilda beach fitted the bill nicely, tying into the seafood theme. My friend Michael Blamey, from St Kilda Today, agreed to do the shoot and in exchange, he had a very nice lunch with a glass of fizz.

picture by Michael Blamey

I didn't taste the champagne at the beach, for I wanted to share it with my wife over dinner, so after the shoot packed up and went home to do it all again. Michael had commented that he didn't find the wine overly yeasty, which was a plus in his book, but made me burn with curiousity.

When D and I sat down for dinner later that night, it was my first taste of the champagne. In the glass it was straw coloured and the bead was surprisingly fairly coarse. Michael is right, some champagnes have an over-the-top sourdough smell, but while there were some bready aromas, they were perfectly in keeping. My first taste revealed the anticipated acidity and not a lot of mousse. Some champagnes produce a kind of acidic heartburn that is off putting to some, but the acid in the Egly was pure and fine with exceptional length. My impression of the wine was of cleanness and elegance, well worth the $85 price tag. For Cam Wheelers thoughts on the wine go here.

I purchased this bottle from the Prince Wine Store and they went out of their way to get hold of a bottle for me after discovering it was on the stock list but not in stock. This wine store is one of the more serious wine shops in Victoria, with tastings of local and imported wines every weekend. They feature up and coming wineries along with established stars and their imported wine list is second to none. This is not your cleanskin type of wine retailer, they have far more interesting wines, starting from about the $20 level. At all price points, the wines they offer have more depth and complexity than other wines at the same price points in other stores, they are extremely well chosen. They also feature wine education courses as well as special wine dinners, often with the winemakers. If you have never been, The Prince Wine Store is well worth a visit.

picture by Michael Blamey

So here I am setting up for the photo shoot with the St Kilda pier and the rebuilt cafe in the background, with the gentle waves of Port Phillip bay lapping the shore. If you are wondering how I did it, the fish was cooked at the last moment, wrapped in silicone paper then aluminium foil. The sauce was made in advance, so I kept the mussels in the fridge and cooked the scallops just after the fish, warmed the sauce and mussels together, popped in the scallops and put all that into a prewarmed thermos. I also took a little sachet of chopped parsley, but judging by the photo, I need to chop a little finer. That camera lens sure doesn't lie!
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  posted at 7:39 pm

At 8:42 am, Blogger Reb said...

Wow! You need to get a digi cam Neil - that fish looks terrific! I'd love to see more of your creations even though your word pictures are always so evocative :)

At 7:11 pm, Blogger Jeanne said...

Hey - a bonus pic of the blogger himself! Nice to put a face to the name ;-) And kudos to you for your commitment in getting the photo. Looks like you were as much project manager than chef! That fish looks fabulous - and I'm a sucker for scallops.

At 11:55 pm, Blogger Ed said...

How can I compete with this. I'll leave you to be the sole St kilda entry this month and save that bottle of boring old PR for next time.

At 8:22 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi reb, thanks for that. Even though I really enjoy the writing I know deep down inside that pics are important too.

Hi jeanne, always remember that if you are going to have your picture taken, shower and shave in the morning!

Hi ed, so long as someone is flying the flag. Is the PR the sparkling wine from your 'competition' a little while ago?

At 11:42 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed the post and photos Neil - looks like we were on the same wavelength with the suitability of the pairing and the attributes of the wine itself.

At 1:27 pm, Blogger Ed said...

No, the PR was a duty free left over. the competition sent out abottle of true Aussie foxy's hangout sparkling. Nice stuff too and cheaper than PR.

At 1:37 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an excellent, excellent post, with a lot of history and facts involved.
It makes me feel ashamed of my attempt : (

At 4:39 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi cam, I'm not surprised that we felt the same about the food and wine - I pretty much agree with most of what you have to say about wines. It was good fun to do this one.

Hi ed, how 'bout another comp, I'll write a better answer next time.

Hi scott, thank-you so much for that, I'm blushing now. Mate, we're not competing, just having a bit of fun!

At 12:32 pm, Blogger Andrew said...

A great post - love the sharing the food/wine idea. talking of food and wine matching - ever considered joining in Combinations? Although perhaps the northern hemisphere emphasis would preclude your participation.


At 1:20 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have outdone yourself! This is a brilliant post that goes way beyond the call of WBW duty. And the photos! Great stuff. I can tell you are a man who likes his champagne, just like me. (Except, of course, I am not a man!)

I am aiming to get the roundup done before the weekend is out. Thank you for your patience.

Thanks for taking part with such heartfelt enthusiasm.


At 1:53 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi andrew, it just seemed like a natural connection. I absolutely will join in, maybe not this one as the pheasant with grapes is a little bit seasonal.

Hi sam, when I saw your post asking for entries, it was like a personal invitation just for me. It really was a pleasure to do.

At 1:55 pm, Blogger TexasGal said...

Australia does have some nice wines. I am in Singapore now and they have a pretty good selection at some stores. I have also had the opportunity to travel to Australia for work since I've been here and always pick some up in Duty Free on my way back since any type of alchol here is $$$$. Here is a site that I found back home that puts good use to used wine bottles: www.vinoglo.com

At 8:49 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the information. Food and wine pairing is very important for enjoying both of them.

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