Welcome back to the Ultra Wine Racks blog! It’s that time again: that special day, every third Monday, when we share with you one of our favorite wine and food pairings. We’ve got a special treat in store for you today: a type of wine you may never have heard of (albarino). We’re pairing it with a classic (and spicy) Asian dish. Ultra Wine Racks proudly presents Valminor Albarino and Sichuan pork stir-fry!
The Sichuan (sometimes spelled “Szechuan”) province of southwest China is renowned for its spicy cuisine. Food made in Sichuan is famous for being pungent and flavorful. Sichuan food makes extensive use of both garlic and chili peppers, including the uniquely flavored Sichuan pepper. These impart to Sichuan cuisine a characteristic flavor and spiciness that makes for a unique dining experience.
- 6 leaves of stem lettuce, or celtuce, cut into 1/2-inch segments
- 1 pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons water
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/2 pound lean pork, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon rice wine (sake)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
- 3 and 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped pickled red chili peppers
- 2 teaspoons chili bean sauce, or toban djan)
- 3 spring onions, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 half-inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine stem lettuce and the pinch of salt.
- In a small bowl, combine water and cornstarch. Mix well, until a smooth paste forms.
- Move half the cornstarch paste into a large bowl. Add pork cubes, rice wine, and the 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Mix and allow to marinate for five minutes.
- In a fourth bowl, whisk the remaining cornstarch paste with the chicken stock, soy sauce, black vinegar, and sugar to create the stir-fry sauce.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the marinated pork and cook until the pork is browned, 3-4 minutes. Stir in the pickled chili peppers and the chili bean sauce. Cook until the oil turns red (about one minute). Add spring onions, garlic, and ginger. Cook another minute. Stir in the lettuce and cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Pour in the prepared stir-fry sauce. Toss until sauce thickens, about three minutes. Serve over a bed of rice.
View recipe here: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/246188/sichuan-pork-stir-fry/
Albarino (sometimes spelled albariño) is a white wine from Spain. It is both acidic and fruity: its dominant flavors are lemon zest, nectarine, honeydew melon, grapefruit, and salt, according to Wine Folly. The wine is primarily made on the Galician coast, in the Rias Baixas area of northern Spain. A Portuguese equivalent, alvarinho, is made in Portugal’s Vinho Verde region. Experts often recommend pairing albarino with seafood: ceviche, sushi and sashimi, crab, prawns, shrimp, oysters, steamed mussels and clams, grilled fish, and seafood pasta. Others, however, swear by albarino as the best wine to pair with spicy dishes. And that’s exactly why we’ve recommended an albarino to pair with spicy pork stir-fry.
Valminor Rias Baixas Albarino is a typical albarino in many ways. It has the characteristic saltiness that many Rias Baixas wines have, thanks to the region’s proximity to the sea. It has a yellowish hue, has aromas of grapefruit, melon, and apricot as well as subtle floral scents, and pairs seamlessly with fish, pasta, and seafood. However, there’s one other thing it pairs well with, according to reviewers: Asian food.
Katie Kelly Bell—wine, spirits, food and travel columnist at Forbes—writes that albarino is the perfect wine for pairing with spicy dishes, particularly Sichuan cuisine. She cites a 2012 experiment by a wine marketer from Atlanta named Bobbly Flournoy. Flournoy’s “White Wine Challenge” paired numerous wines against the most “mouth-numbing spicy food.” The experiment’s results were telling. Riesling, gewürztraminer, and chardonnay did nothing to alleviate the participants’ burning mouths. Tannic red wines only made the burning worse. Several white wines, however, helped to cool the fires: pinot gris, falaghina, and albarino. Of the three, albarino was the clear winner, with its perfect combination of fruitiness, acidity, and viscosity.
WHY THIS WINE PAIRS WITH THIS RECIPE:
We’ve already seen that albarino is one of the best choices to pair with spicy food. And according to informed sources, Valminor albarino pairs particularly well with Asian cuisine. As Katie Kelly Bell wrote in 2012:
“…it’s that perfect marriage of fruit, acid and viscosity that gives this wine the edge when it comes to spicy food. Viscosity is all about texture, or mouthfeel in wine, high viscosity adds weight to the experience. The acid cleans things up on the palate and the fruit leaves you with a nice memory. When you are shoveling in spicy, intense cuisine you need a clean-up crew combination that can refresh the palate and get it ready for the next bite; Albariño is your wine.”
Ladies and gentlemen, the authorities have spoken! Albarino’s acidity takes the edge off a spicy dish. The fruitiness provides a wonderful “dessert” when it follows the savory flavors of the pork and chili peppers. And the viscosity rounds the whole experience out, clearing up the lingering after-effects of the seasonings and spices and clearing the decks for your next mouthful.
If you liked our albarino and pork pairing, be sure to check out our previous pairing: pinot noir and salmon. And stay tuned for more delicious pairings coming at you on our Ultra blog, as well as informative and up-to-date wine news and winery recommendations.