Home 0, Away 1

There's nothing like a long time spent traveling to highlight the differences in the food, drink and landscape between "away" and "home". I'm back now from a three-week holiday including Germany, Switzerland and Ireland (that explains the recent rarity of wine postings). Many great meals were had, and beverages tasted. I have an observation about pairings, price, and a new mission. Observation:  Germany runs on Pork.

Swiss triads of pork tenderloin, brined, rolled in herbs and wrapped in bacon.

I can honestly say that the protein most readily available in stores and restaurants was pig. It was more locally sourced, more fairly priced, and available in a more diverse selection of preparations. To a slightly lesser extent, the same was true in Switzerland. The most prolific grapes in those countries, and the most abundant local wines are white varietals. There were some great pairings. While I can't say I've written off good reds with pork, I'm more likely to explore whites with sausages, pork loin, cutlets and hams. At a recent Rogue Estate Chefs' night, the French Vouvray I chose to match Jack's curry-rubbed pork loin was vindication of this approach.

Swiss juice: 2009 Petite Arvine Du Valais AOC Valisiana, a steal at about $10 US.

Price: Unfortunately, French wines are a bit expensive even in Germany and Switzerland, just as they are in the U.S. Remarkably, German and Swiss wines are VERY fairly priced in their country of origin. Many of these wines are not exported, or are overpriced by the time they reach the U.S. And I found that Australian, Chilean, Argentinian, and South African wines are aggressively priced and pursuing the global market with increasing quality. The best wines for the value on the restaurant menus I saw in Europe were all Southern hemisphere wines. I will call them "The Unders" for now. We will see a lot from them for a long while. I love most of "The Unders", including this year's hot favorite, Reserve Malbec. However, all of this made me think more about the wines of "Home". Yes, America's native wines are predominantly from California, with the rest of the West coast ramping up. But what about MY home? MY Michigan? - Where shipping costs must be a lesser factor in the final price... - Where the native grape varieties should pair better with local food traditions and ingredients... - Where every city and town should be celebrating the harvest and release of new wines with communal feasts and festivals... This leads me to my new personal mission, and hopefully to some knowledge I can share with the Rogue Estate and all of you. I am going to taste my way through Michigan, and periodically share my notes with you. My experience as I begin is that Michigan wines are overpriced by about 4-6 dollars per bottle in comparison to similar wines from California or "The Unders"--I suspect that this is largely a factor of scale. I intend to find where there are values, nice varietals and wine-craft worth pursuing further. My tastings and reviews will always be done without free samples. And I will call it like I see it (or, in this case, taste it).

3 Comments  to  Home 0, Away 1

  1. Jim says:

    Nice post–I’ve do love a good white wine with pork, particularly with summer pork dishes, served with fresh fruit and veggies. Good luck with your Michigan wine exploration–I’ll be reading along. We are huge supporters or local viticulture. Does Michigan have a good = climate to grow traditional European vinifera, or are they hybrids? American hybrids do produce some good semi-sweet and dessert wines.

  2. Ian says:

    Thanks for reading, Jim. Michigan does indeed have a climate to support European vines, and more and more varieties are being planted. The output a few years ago was about 60% European, 35% hybrids, and 5% American varieties. There is a history of sweet and semi-sweet winemaking here that I hope to see balanced by better, drier wines. I think the market for that is increasing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *