How to pick the right wine for a Mid­dle East­ern feast

The Guardian - Feast - - Feast - Fiona Beck­ett

How­ever you de­fine the Mid­dle East ge­o­graph­i­cally, we’re not talk­ing about a dom­i­nant wine cul­ture com­pared with the likes of France or Spain. True, Le­banon and Turkey have his­toric wine-grow­ing tra­di­tions, but not Egypt, Jor­dan or other Arab states. Yet the food we think of as be­ing Mid­dle East­ern is a great com­ple­ment to wine, subtly spiced and in­clud­ing a fair amount of red wine-friendly grilled meat.

Le­banon is one of the prime hunt­ing grounds. As a former French pro­tec­torate, the grapes it grows – syrah, grenache and cin­sault, along with a fair bit of caber­net sauvi­gnon – are sim­i­lar to those in the south of France, so the same va­ri­eties grown else­where will also work with Le­banese food; and made as rosé as well as red. If you’ve run down sum­mer stocks, head to Waitrose and pick up a cou­ple of bot­tles of Rosé de Balt­hazar (12.7%), from near Car­cas­sonne, for £6.99, a good cou­ple of quid less than most Provence rosés.

For such a hot coun­try, Turk­ish wine is also fas­ci­nat­ing, with sur­pris­ingly bright, zesty whites (look out for nar­ince) and some ap­peal­ingly bram­bly, indige­nous reds, al­beit with pos­si­bly un­fa­mil­iar names such as boğazkere, öküzgözü and kale­cik karası.

Then there’s Ge­or­gia, which doesn’t re­ally see it­self as part of the re­gion, but its wines go bril­liantly with Mid­dle East­ern dishes. Look out for am­ber wines made out of rikat­siteli and kisi, and reds from saper­avi. (Od­dbins has one, along with the am­ber wine, in to­day’s side­bar.)

And nearby Greece may not be in the Mid­dle East, ei­ther, but its food is very sim­i­lar. Any wine that goes with a se­lec­tion of mezedes will work with meze such as falafel and baba ganoush. Again, there are in­trigu­ing whites – you may have heard of the crisp, cit­russy as­syr­tiko – and ex­ot­i­cally dark, smoky reds such as agior­gi­tiko and xi­no­mavro.

Frus­trat­ingly, al­though these wines of­fer a re­ward­ing de­par­ture from the well-trod­den path of bet­ter-known va­ri­eties, few su­per­mar­kets and high-street re­tail­ers stock them in any quan­tity, if at all, and they’re of­ten made in such tiny amounts that they tend to be pricey.

But you can eas­ily sub­sti­tute more af­ford­able wines from other ar­eas of the Mediter­ranean such as south­ern France, Spain and south­ern Italy. A good côtes du rhône, such as the rather de­li­cious Vai­son la Ro­maine 2017, just listed by Ma­jes­tic (£8.99 on the mix-six deal), will do the job ad­mirably.

I’ve sug­gested in­fus­ing a whole bot­tle of white rum with saf­fron, not least be­cause the bot­tle is a handy re­cep­ta­cle and, once made, this keeps in­def­i­nitely, but by all means make it in a smaller quan­tity if that suits your needs.

Bring the wa­ter and sugar to a boil, turn down the heat, sim­mer for 10 min­utes, then turn off the heat and leave to cool.

For the rum, sim­ply drop the saf­fron into a bot­tle of white rum and leave to in­fuse for 24 hours.

To build the drink, put all the in­gre­di­ents in a shaker, add ice, shake and strain into a tall glass. Gar­nish and serve.

From Ber­ber & Q, by Josh Katz (Ebury Press)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.