Paul Kosacz - Oracle of Bachus
Paul Kosacz is New England originated, Ivy League educated, middle aged wine biber and sometime foodie, I spend my weekdays at a desk and no insubstantial part of my off hours indulging my passions for good food and drink in and about Los Angeles, where I currently reside with my Jack Russell terrier, and other places hither and yon.
I’ve known the scoundrel known locally as the Austin Wine Guy for a number of years, and happily made him the oft unwilling recipient of this that or the other particular rant originating out of whatever cultural mosquito bite I happen to have received most recently. He has also been an involuntary sounding board for my own take on a subject that my detractors say I too often ponderously pontificate, namely indulgence. Now, to know me is to know that I don’t lack strong opinions, particularly about those things I find near and dear. Love me, love my dog, as they say. So you would think, n’est ce pas, that the last thing I needed was encouragement to broadcast them to a wider audience. The truth is, I have had to be cajoled for the better part of an entire year to do this. But now it is too late for regret.
The Oracle has been awakened, and plans on delivering to you (on a more or less regular schedule) his views on wine and food, in hopes of amusing, scintillating, educating and provoking you. I hope you enjoy reading what I post as much as I enjoy writing it, and find it valuable or helpful in choosing a wine to pair with a particular food or in better understanding what it is you like…or don’t like.
Stop the Presses!
November 24, 2010My initial post, gentle readers, was to be a leisurely jaunt through one of my favorite regions of Italy, namely, Campania (the vacation spot of choice for wealthy Romans in the know). But the other night I made the mistake of tuning in to a repurposed Martha Stewart program about How to Prepare the Perfect Thanksgiving Feast, or some such, and ended up fuming. Now, don’t get me wrong. I admire Martha deeply. She is a survivor, and one who has, in spite of the various vicissitudes of fortune thrown her way, managed to successfully bamboozle a substantial part of the Republic’s feminine citizenry into thinking that they are completely incompetent to cope with a particular occasion or event without first consulting her various public pronouncements on the subject. The particular thing that got me going was the segment on Choosing the Right Wine for your Perfect MS Thanksgiving Feast. The redoubtable MS interviewed two persons who wrote (do they still do?) for the WSJ, a publication I used to admire a great deal when it still took itself seriously. But back to my story. The approach of the said representatives of the WSJ to the wine selection process was moronically simple: Thanksgiving is an American tradition, ergo we MUST drink American wine. Second, they called their purveyors of choice, and said: “Bring me California bubbly and American cabernet sauvignon made before 1995!” How’s that for a critical selection process?
Before proceeding further down this dark corridor, let us pause for a moment to consider the nature of the typical Thanksgiving dinner: It centers, of course, around the Bird, which, if standing alone, would be a no brainer when it comes to wine pairing. But Tom usually sits surrounded by an obstacle course of flavors that throw even your esteemed Oracle a curve ball when it comes to considering the wine to drink. Consider, for example, cranberry sauce. Cranberries pack more tannin than an over-oaked Napa Cab (or do I repeat myself?), which is then overlaid with lots of sugar. Ditto on the sweets for candied yams. Stuffing may contain one or more of the following: spices, sausage, oysters and other goodies. All these cause your Oracle to shake his noggin in bewilderment.
In spite of this general ambivalence, however, the one thing your Oracle does not drink with Thanksgiving dinner is cabernet, domestic or foreign. Now, in spite of my own personal views on cab-based wine, which are generally unfavorable (the Oracle does not like over-oaked vegetal weediness from some soggy valley floor in Napa), I realize some people do not share this prejudice, and actually love cabernet. When it comes to Thanksgiving, however, the Oracle admonishes you to banish, at least temporarily, this attraction, because, in the considered opinion of the Oracle, the kaleidoscope of flavors that characterize the typical Thanksgiving feast make any cabernet taste harsh and metallic. As far as the other WSJ wine of choice, i.e. domestic bubbly, the thought of consuming it is simply incomprehensible to the Oracle.
And so, mes amis, what would the Oracle drink? Well, first champagne, but before the serving dishes appear, simply because the Oracle likes champagne, if it is good. Next, with the meal, a red wine of medium body and decided fruitiness – red because it has the structure to carry the various flavors of the meal and fruity to deal with the sweet/savory side of things. I’m thinking here of a younger Burgundy with notes of red, rather than dark, fruit such as a Savigny les Beaune, or a good valpolicella or sangiovese-based wine, but nothing too old or too big. Each of these wines would have a substantial enough backbone of acidity and minerality to stand up to the culinary onslaught we face at table. And hey, even if it isn’t perfect, it’s better than California bubbly or Napa Cab. Anywhere. Any time.
Sic Bacchi Oraculo dixit.
Thus Spake the Oracle.