Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rioja ephiphany

Crazy ideas need a crazy followup. One such crazy idea was hatched on a recent evening when a friend of mine suggested preparing fish with mushrooms. Fish with mushrooms? Every rustic bourgeois Frenchwoman deep within my soul turned in her rustic French grave. (Please, just go with the image.) So what better wine to pour alongside a papillotte of monkfish with black chanterelles, minced Serrano ham and shallots than, of course, an aged red Rioja?


I was skeptical. But with the perfect uncloudedness of hindsight, I see that that was an inspired choice. And not just the pairing: the wine. Oh, the wine! This was one of those wines that make you realize why you spend 2/3 of your waking time* thinking, reading and writing about wine, as well as drinking it.

1985 López de Heredia Viña Tondonia - a gorgeous nose of strawberry and underbrush immediately grabbed my attention. I had in my glass that magical thing, a wine you want to coddle and sniff for a long while before even sipping it. Such glorious aromatics. At last, though, I struck out to discover if it was going to be an interesting sip, to boot. Zounds. On the palate, it was even better than what its heady scents promised. Such death-defying complexity! Waves of silky, elegant fruit and earthiness, with a sudden twist of sap and bark right in the middle, and then playing out forever, until I was wide-eyed and shaking my head. Wow.

And, some time later, as the level of the wine in the decanter got dangerously low, I savored its last sips in their full bloom, along with the utterly nosh-worthy monkfish decked out in minced black mushrooms.

Not so crazy, it turns out. Just insanely good.

*Depending on the day.


D Marra said...

I really need to do more experimenting with "non-traditional" food and wine pairings! I'd love to know more about this monkfish dish! Unfortunately, I don't have any Rioja from 1985...

Iron Chevsky said...

Inspiring and inspired post. Beautiful. I referenced it in my blog post here: (toward the end, hope you don't mind).

Thank you, and best regards!
Gary "Iron" Chevsky from the Iron Chevsky wine blog at

peter said...

Sharon - I recently had the good fortune to drink a lineup of Bosconia and Tondonia back to 1961. Heredia is now amongst my favorite producers, they're so intellectual and complex that you almost get lost in them.

Try the 1981 Bosconia Gran Reserva if available!