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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Thai Expedition
Charles W. Borden

This month our Knights of the Vine headed to Thailand, at least the next best thing in Moscow, the Blue Elephant, home to the best and most authentic Thai food in the city. Why they even have a Thai chef for Moscow, this is an innovation! Our hostess for the evening was Milka Kresoja, the Yugoslavian owner of the Blue Elephant.

This was a venture into new (and dangerous) territory spiced foods are a real nightmare for food/wine matchers. And Thai food, though not necessarily hot, always presents a wide variety of different tastes, from its complex noodle and rice dishes served with coconut and peanut sauces to grilled meats and seafood.

There are good reasons why spicy foods around the world come from hotter climates Mexico, India, and of course Thailand countries not on world wine maps. Many spice plants grow well there and some have been found to have strong anti-bacterial effects, useful to protect foods in a hot environment. Though the art of winemaking is making inroads in these warmer climes, its tough to find a good grape growing location.

However, as the world has grown smaller, winemaking technology has improved, and markets for both wine and ethnic food are increasing. Fusion of all types of cuisine is the latest fashion.

With Thai food, at least you can forget about shelling out your Ben Franklins on wine the high tannin in expensive red wines and the oak and flavor of a heady Chardonnay are not a good complement to Thai food. A Burgundy or Barolo will turn bitter and the vanilla-oak of a California Chard would bounce off the complex taste of Thai.

With Thai food, it is easier to match white wines. The instinctive first choice for spicy foods is Gewurztraminer, an aromatic white grape. The combination of acidity and slight sweetness of German Rieslings provides a good foil for the flavors of Thai. Dont go overboard on sweetness though.

Other white choices include a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, especially one with tropical fruit and flowers on the nose, or an Italian Pinot Grigio or Alsatian Pinot Gris. A floral, slightly sweet sparkler can also be a good match to cut through oily or fried dishes.

Stick to leaner red wines, maybe a light, fruity Syrah with plum and blackberry notes, though very fruity wines can clash with creamy, coconut of some Thai dishes. The reds should be served cooler than usual chilled for a short time in the fridge.

For our Thai adventure, we were lead by Dmitry Pinski, fine wine importer and owner of the Magnum and Decanter wine boutiques. He selected nine wines, and all should pair reasonably well with Thai.

Dmitry provided some background on food/wine pairing and a running commentary on each wine - Food and wine matching has become a cult its appalling. Both food and wines have become more sophisticated and red wine with meat and white with fish no longer works. Of course some of the old simple rules still work.

What wine goes best with Kholodetz, (Russian jelled meat or fish), interrupted one of our colleagues. Without skipping a beat, Dmitry answered, vodka, and by the way, vodka is also best with caviar. The mixture of champagne and caviar can produce the metallic taste called Umami. He went on the explain umami as a fifth taste (in addition to sweet, sour, bitter, salty), which comes from an enzyme reaction on the tongue. Thai and other spicy food can produce umami with some wines. It is also associated with MSG, which historically was used by many oriental cooks.

The Wines

The first wine was labeled Maru Wine for Sushi, a lightweight white from Alsace, a neutral, inexpensive wine. The Clarendelle Blanc, a simple white Bordeaux from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes, scored well and was likely to be one of the better matches with dinner. Jermann, a well-respected producer from northeastern Italy, provided a Riesling and the only red, Red Angel, a beautifully soft Pinot Nero (Noir).

The next wine from Pascal Jolivet in the Loire Valley was the Attitude Sauvignon Blanc. In order to produce a wine under a varietal name, Jolivet had to declassify the wine from the traditional French system. Well priced at $26, according to Dmitry this wine has become popular on many top restaurant wine lists.

The German Riesling caused some controversy with our two German members, Micheal and Micheala, who both gave it a 1.0 on principal. They were incensed that this wine should carry a $66 price tag, when, they claim, much better German wines can be had on Rhine for 3 Euros. Unfortunately, Moscow is not the Rhine, and the wine scored well (3.6) if to discount the two 1.0 scores.

Nicolas Joly of the Loire produces exclusively biodynamic wines. Biodynamic agriculture is a holistic, natural approach first delineated by Rudolph Steiner in the 1920s. Jolys Chenin Blanc wines are made from fully mature grapes, which provides the appearance of oxidation. However, these wines open up fully after 2 to 3 days and according to Pinsky make a good wine-by-the-glass serving for restaurants.

The Condrieu La Bonette from Rene Rostaing, of the northern Rhone is a rarity. Only a few hundred cases of this floral, pale yellow Viognier are produced and Dmitrys allocation is just 300 botttles a year. This was our winner with a 4.0 score. The Alsatian Zind- Humbrecht Pinot Gris was a respectable wine, but its score hardly justifies its over-$100 price.

Blue Elephant
Address : 123242, Novinsky Boulevard 31. Moscow Russia
Tel : +7 (495) 580 77 56 Fax: +7 (495) 580 77 58

The Knights

John Ortega, Publisher, Passport Magazine
Charles Borden, Director, Meridian Capital
Geoffrey Cox, Chairman, Astera Real Estate
Michael Guetebreuck, Security Consultant
Preston Haskell, Executive Chairman, Colliers International
Danial Klein, Partner, Hellevig, Klein and Usov
Ekaterina Medvedeva, FMCG Practice Coordinator, Fleischman-Hillard
Oleg Myshkin, Colliers International Todd Nalven, COO, Tablogix
Peter Pettibone, Managing Partner, Hogan & Hartson
Dmitry Pinski, Owner, DP Trade
John Sheedy, Partner, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
Michaela Steinhauer, Jazz Singer
Pat Szymczak, Oil and Gas Eurasia Magazine
Maxim Valetsky, owner, Mr. Doors and Le Futur Ortega

Easy Rating System

I love this wine! 5 pts.
I really like this wine! 4 pts.
This wine is good! 3 pts.
This wine is not that good! 2 pts.
I dont really care for this wine! 1 pt.


Maru Dopff au Moulin Alsace, France 2003 562 $20.75 2.7
Clarendelle Blanc
Domaines Clarence Dillon Bordeaux AOC 2004
Afix Riesling Jermann Friuli, Italy 2004 1,175 $43.38 3.1
Attitude Sauvignon Blanc Jolivet Loire, France 2004 715 $26.41 3.3
Riesling Scharzhofberger Kabinett Egon Mueller
Mosel Germany 2003
Roch au Moines Clos de la Bergerie Nicolas Joly
Loire France
Condrieu, Rene Rostaing Rhone France 2004 2,452 $90.53 4.0
Pinot Gris Clos St-Urbain Grand Cru Zind-Humbrecht
Alsace, France 2003
Red Angel Pinot Noir Jermann Friuli, Italy 2003 1,073 $39.61 3.5

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