Sauternes with tofu is wine and food perfection | Shanghai Daily

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August 9, 2018

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Sauternes with tofu is wine and food perfection

Isacs is the founder and CEO of EnjoyGourmet, a leading gourmet digital (www.enjoygourmet.com.cn) and print media company in China. He has authored over a dozen wine and food books including the awarded ISACS Guides and other gourmet books and is a wine consultant to governments, wine regions and organizations. He also hosts wine events for leading organizations and companies throughout China. Contact John via jcolumn@enjoygourmet.com.

The much beloved fermented tofu goes by many names in China. By any name, this stuff is pungent, sometimes stinky, and for most Westerners an acquired taste. In the West some refer to it as soy cheese.

Food historians basically agree that tofu originated somewhere in ancient China, although there’s precious little consensus about when it was first made. The same is true of fermented or pickled tofu that logically followed the invention of basic tofu. The overt aromas and taste sensations of fermented tofu are fascinatingly juxtaposed to its elusive origin.

The similarity of fermented tofu to certain dairy products is primarily due to the breakdown of its proteins, which takes place during the air drying and fermentation processes.

Prior to fermentation, bean curd has a neutral flavor but after the process the curd takes on the robust aromas and flavor of its marinade. Various styles exist.

Perhaps the most famous is the stinky bean curd that ferments slowly over six months. Other styles I’m fond of are the spicy fermented bean curd and the reddish-brown colored tofu that is marinated in soy sauce or miso.

These pungent beauties are also quite healthy, boasting soluble minerals like calcium magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc and copper as well as plenty of vitamins.

Medical research has shown that fermented tofu helps reduce cholesterol, enhances digestion and acts as a protective agent against some cancers.

Especially for Westerners, fermented tofu is something you either love or hate. In my case, I love it, especially with a sweet wine.

This may surprise some readers but all I’m doing is pirating the tried and true Western tradition of paring stinky cheeses, think Stilton, Roquefort and Gorgonzola, with sweet wines.

The principle is the same: The sweetness of the wine assuages or counteracts the stinkiness of the cheese or tofu while accentuating the rich flavors and texture. Therefore, whenever I enjoy fermented tofu either as a main dish or ancillary ingredient, I’m sure to have a bottle of sweet wine nearby. This includes arguably the most famous sweet wine of all, Sauternes.

Liquid gold

Sauternes is located in the southern region of Bordeaux’s left bank and is one of the few wine regions in the world where a combination of factors often leads to grapes being affected by Botrytis Cinerea, more affectionately known as noble rot.

This rather disgusting sounding, and looking, fungus actually plays a critical role in making great sweet wines, including the world’s most famous and costly sweet wine Chateau d’Yquem.

Sauternes like most other sub appellations of Bordeaux enjoys a maritime climate with two rivers boarding and intersecting the region.

The warmer waters of the Garonne River meandering to the Atlantic interact with the cooler spring waters of the tributary Ciron River to form a mist that envelops the vines of Sauternes.

Before harvest, from the late evenings until sunrise, the Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes are coated in a light mist. This moisture helps activate dormant spores of the Botrytis Cinerea fungus that in turn dry the grapes leaving super concentrated, high sugar fruit.

The noble rot wines of Sauternes offer dramatic sweet apricot, peach and honey flavors along with a healthy dose of acidity that prevents them from being cloyingly sweet.

When enjoyed with a pungent serving of pungent tasting tofu the result is a wine and food pairing masterpiece.

The paltry offering of Sauternes wines in Shanghai is somewhat shocking for such an advanced gourmet city.

But unfortunately, it’s a sign of the times that pretty much everywhere outside of France and perhaps England, finding good Sauternes wines is an increasingly difficult endeavor.

In our fair city one has a reasonably good chance of finding Sauternes from large Bordeaux negotiants and, while these may not be the best of the region, they are representative and reasonably priced.

In this category look for wines from Kressman, Barton & Guestier, Mouton Cadet and Baron de Philippe de Rothschild. While the great Chateau d’Yquem stands alone in terms of reputation, there are several other outstanding Sauternes wines that are eminently more affordable.

Appreciably better Sauternes that take a little more effort to source include Chateaux Rayne-Vigneau, Raymond-Lafond, Guiraud and Laville.

These higher quality Sauternes truly showcase the excellence of this great sweet wine style. They are also sublimely delicious with fermented bean curd.

Where to buy in Shanghai

Varieties: The varietal queen of Sauternes is unquestionably Semillon while her partner Sauvignon Blanc plays an important supporting role.

Key term: Noble rot is the common wine term. Some would say euphemism for the Botrytis Cinerea fungus.




 

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