Last week I was invited to participate in a special evening featuring vegetarian and vegan dishes alongside wines from the Saslove winery. Chef Osnat Hoffman of the ‘44’ restaurant in Nachalat Binyamin and winemaker Roni Saslove of the Saslove Winery joined forces and prepared an exciting and very unique menu featuring a variety of dishes hailing from various Asian cuisines. A few of my favorites were the tasty and uniform dim-sum dumplings; baked Thai pumpkin, filled with coconut milk and cashew paste; and a delicious, slightly piquant peanut soup with chili, coriander and lemon grass.
Traditionally, Asian style dishes incorporate various piquant peppers, fragrant roots, herbs and spices that make it rather difficult to pair these dishes with quality wines. Nevertheless, by toning down these bold flavors and aromas just a notch, Saslove and Hoffman, offered a well rounded and hearty meal that would satisfy devout carnivores and hardcore vegans alike.
While I enjoyed tasting and drinking the full bodied Shiraz from the winery’s Adom label and Cab from the Aviv label, Saslove’s aromatic white blend - Lavan (white in Hebrew) was the most versatile, and paired well with virtually all of the dishes.
When referring to aromatic white wines, I am referring to white vinos, which are produced using aromatic white (green skinned) grape varieties. These grape varieties tend to offer pronounced aromas and flavors which are reflected in the wine as well. For the most part, these wines are not aged in oak barrels, as the intention of the winemaker is to capture and reflect the characteristics of the grape, and barrel aging or barrel fermentation would undermine this objective.
Aromatic whites have become increasingly popular over the past few years. These wines are usually very approachable and are of the few that pair relatively well with Asian and even Indian style dishes. The list of aromatic white grape varieties includes Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Gruner Veltilner, Muscat, Viognier and others while the Sauvignon Blanc qualifies for the aromatic category only when grown in certain terroirs.
Saslove’s Lavan 2011 blend comprises Viognier (54%), Gewürztraminer (32%) and Sauvignon Blanc (14%) grapes all from vineyards in the Upper Galilee. The wine opens in the glass to reveal generous aromas that bring to mind green apples, grapefruit, citrus blossom, pears and tropical fruit. Mildly and not overly sweet on the palate, the aromas and flavors come together nicely, leading to a clean and pleasant finish. Serve chilled, this is a very enjoyable wine that can be paired with Asian or even piquant Indian dishes; or simply drink on its own on a warm spring afternoon.
Photographs by Ran Biran and Gal Deren