Brett happens

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A fascinating Soave

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Soave Classico 2012, La Froscà, Gini ($26.80, 12132107)
Organically farmed Garganega from 57-year-old vines. The manually harvested grapes are soft-pressed and the must is cold-macerated on the skins. Temperature-controlled alcoholic fermentation is in a mix of stainless steel and neutral French oak casks. Does not undergo malolactic fermentation. Matured on the lees for at least eight months, partly in stainless steel tanks, partly in 228-litre “seasoned” oak barrels. Sulphur is added only at bottling. Reducing sugar: 3.4 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Bambara Selection.
Beautiful, fragrant nose: pear and a little peach, loads of chalky minerals, hints of spring honey, white flowers and almonds. In the mouth, the wine is as much about minerals as fruit – in fact, there’s a real tension between them. Intertwining threads of honey and bitterness add intrigue, while a fine acidity animates a density that might otherwise border on lethargic. The long kaleidoscopic finish is marked by saline notes and a faint Szechuan pepper-like numbingness. Fascinating. The most savoury Soave I’ve ever tasted. Unless you’re a wine geek, probably best thought of as a food wine (recipe after the jump), which role it will play stupendously. (Buy again? Absolutely.)

Mussel and Romano Bean Soup
Zuppa di cozze con fagioli borlotti
(Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Marcella Cucina)

Though this delicious and unusual soup can be made any time of the year using dried or frozen Romano beans, it’s probably best in late summer and early fall, when local beans, basil and celery are fresh and mussels are gaining back some of the flavour and texture they seem to lose at the height of summer. Wine pairings? This went well with the Gini Soave noted above. I suspect an even better match might be one of the impossible-to-find whites from Cinque Terre. Next time, I’ll probably try a Corsican Vermentino or maybe a Cassis.

Start by preparing the beans. If using fresh, shell 500 g (1 lb) fresh Romano beans (about 1 1/2 cups’ worth when shelled); if using dried, soak 1/2 cup dried Romano beans in cold water overnight, then drain before using. Place the beans in a saucepan with enough water to cover by 5 cm (2 in). Add some salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, cover the pan and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes for fresh. Set aside.

While the beans are cooking, scrub and beard 1 kg (2.2 lb) live mussels, discarding any that have broken shells or don’t close when handled. Place the mussels in a single layer in a large sauté pan (if they won’t all fit, cook them in two batches). Cover the pan and turn on the heat to high. As soon as the shells open, transfer the mussels and juice to a large bowl. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat and place it in a smaller bowl. Discard the shells. When all the mussels have been shelled, pour the liquid in the large bowl over the meat in the small bowl, taking care to leave any sand behind in the large bowl. Set aside.

Pour 3 tablespoons olive oil into a large saucepan or small soup pot. Add 1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped, and sauté over medium heat until the onion begins to turn a rich gold colour. Add 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic and continue sautéing until the edges of the garlic begin to colour. Add 250 ml (1 cup) canned Italian tomatoes with their juice, breaking up the tomatoes with the spoon. Cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Uncover the pan and stir in 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes and 1 cup loosely packed celery leaves, chopped (substitute parsley if you don’t have enough celery leaves). Simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the mussel meat to the pan, reserving the liquid. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid, and add them to the pan. Simmer for another 1 to 2 minutes.

Line a strainer with a paper towel. Strain the mussel liquid through it into the soup. Add enough of the bean liquid to make a soupy but not thin consistency. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Simmer gently for 4 or 5 minutes.

(The soup may be made up to this point a few hours into advance. Reheat before proceeding.)

Using scissors or a very sharp knife, cut 12 to 15 large basil leaves crosswise into thin strips. Stir into the soup. Serve immediately.

Two large or three more modest servings

Written by carswell

August 30, 2015 at 16:33

2 Responses

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  1. […] low acidity and lack of prominent minerals mean the wine tastes flat. Very different from the wine sampled a couple of months earlier. Even a Bambara employee who was present didn’t recognize it. Probably an off bottle, then. (Buy […]

  2. […] shrimp and squid with olive oil, lemon and parsley; the next bottle is earmarked for Hazan’s mussel and romano bean soup. (Buy again? […]

    A blessing | Brett happens

    September 10, 2016 at 12:16

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