You might be the default expert always tasked with selecting a wine when out to dinner, or perhaps you’re the lover of wine with little care for the myriad foreign words on a wine list. Whatever is true for you, let your eyes glaze over the menu because we’re asking wine experts from restaurants around Los Angeles to divulge a favorite category-specific wine on their list and some dishes that would make an excellent pairing.
This month’s wine pick will lead you, quite possibly, into uncharted territory: skin-contact wines. Often, the only time you’re tipping back on these robust, orangey-hued, amber-ish wines is when some passionate sommelier (or Lou Amdur) is saying “you gotta try this!” Jared Hooper, the wine director at Faith & Flower is one of these champions.
By letting a white wine rest on its skins for a short period of time, or even during fermentation, color-tannins leech out of the skins and into the juice, giving it a bit of color while also imparting a tannic-structure that wouldn’t ordinarily exist if the juice was removed from the skins and fermented in stainless steel tanks or barrels. That extra-tannic backbone means these wines can pair quite well with heartier dishes and have a greater potential for aging.
So, set aside the wine list and ask for Jared—tell ’em you’re keen to try those pairings that you read about on Liquid L.A.
The bottle: 2013 Herdade Do Rocim, “Amphora” Alentejo Portugal
The grapes: Antao Vaz, Perrum, Rabo De Ovelha, Manteudo
Backstory: “The grapes are harvested and allowed to macerate on their skins and then pressed off into amphora (giant clay pots). There is no temperature control or added yeasts, it’s a ‘cross your fingers and hope’ proposition.”
Tastes like: “This is one of our gambles at Faith & Flower. I definitely don’t recommend it for every table. For the more adventurous wine drinkers out there, it really pays off. On it’s own, it’s unlike most modern wines one will encounter—it’s structured and tannic, and even weirdly restrained but when combined with chef’s Crab Risotto dish, it’s hidden wild flavors emerge. The crab and ginger in the risotto really start jumping and it’s a whole new revelation.”
On the wine list: $13 by the glass or $50 for a bottle
At Faith & Flower pair it with: Crab Risotto
The bottle: Vino di Anna 2013 Vino Bianco, VDT Sicily
The grapes: Riesling, Grecanico, Carricante, Riesling and other native grapes from Mt. Etna
Backstory: “Anna, a native Australian, makes her wines on the volcanic soils of Sicily. They also have buried a series of Georgian Qvevri (egg-shaped earthenware vessel), which they vinify the wine in. The wines are made with minimal intervention, little or no sulphites, and no fining or filtering. The grapes are allowed six days of skin contact.”
Tastes like: “It has a beautiful floral quality that emerges as the wine opens up. It’s an unreal bunch of citrus flowers baking in the back of an old Ford pickup truck-bed. The texture from the extended lees contact is a natural pair for our fish dishes.”
On the wine list: $80 per bottle
At Faith & Flower pair it with: Oven-Roasted Thai Snapper
The bottle: Klinec 2010 “Jakot” Villa de Mandan, Medana-Brda, Slovenia
The grape: Tocai Friulano
Backstory: “With the emergence of the EU, many new winemaking laws came into effect, where previously, individual countries had been left to devise their own. All countries—in particular Italy and Slovenia—lost the right to put ‘Tocai’ and ‘Tocai Friulano’ on their labels because the Hungarians, who make ‘Royal Tokaji’ (a dessert wine), proved consumers might confuse their luscious, often expensive desert wines with lesser whites. Out of defiance, some of these winemakers devised ‘Jakot,’ which is ‘Tokaj’ spelled backwards. Aleks, the winemaker, macerates his ‘Jakot’ on the skins for four days, then ferments in cement tanks and ages it for two years on the lees in large Acacia barrels with native yeasts.”
Tastes like: a cold sour beer by way of sunshine.
On the wine list: $75 per bottle
At Faith & Flower pair it with: Petrale Sole with smoked potato fondue
Faith & Flower, 705 W 9th St, Downtown LA, 213-239-0642