The art and genius of repurposing wine
By Mike Rosenberg
You may have seen “repurposing” cropping up from time to time in various contexts. The first time I saw it, I thought it was first simply a synonym for “recycling,” but I came to understand that it means, “converting something for other than its intended use.” For example, if you take a length of old copper pipe, cut it into different lengths, attach it to a piece of scrap wood with fishing line and put a hook on top, you’ve “repurposed” a bunch of junk into a windchime.
Can someone repurpose wine? Sure, I suppose. I guess folks have been doing this for millennia. Vinegar, after all, is just wine that’s gone bad (the word “vinegar” is actually from the French “vin aigre” – “sour wine”). But I don’t want to wait until wine is over to repurpose it. For our purposes, why not think about repurposing wine in terms of pairings? When the “traditional” pairing doesn’t work, why not think outside the box?
One evening, I had a hankering for pepperoni pizza. I figured I’d crack open an Italian red to go with it. Of course, after I placed the order, I discovered that I didn’t have any Italian reds in the homestead. (Egads! How could this happen?) After an initial panic, I regrouped.
I’d seen a couple of cab francs described as “good pizza wines” recently. I was a little skeptical. I’d thought about it as more of a lighter wine to go with red meat or grilled pork – something to use in place of cabernet sauvignon if that sounded too heavy. We opened the Steele 2006 Lake County Cabernet Franc as a stand-in for our missing Italian.
This turned out to be a good decision on my part. The Steele has a fruitier nose than many Italian wines, but the body and flavor is relatively Chianti-ish. It’s more fruit-forward, but the flavor profile more or less holds – cherries and chalk. The finish has some minerality to go with the tannin. With the pizza – quite excellent. The wine was big enough to stand toe to toe with the meat and come away mostly unscathed. The extra tannin in this wine also helped cut through the inevitable grease. $14-16.
A couple of weeks later, I was at the end of a long weekend and I found myself with a bunch of veggies, a bag of frozen shrimp and a pack of lo mein noodles tucked away in the back of my pantry. Stir fry time. I cobbled together a spice sauce, so I figured I’d go for a Riesling alongside. Alas, again embarrassingly, there was none to be had in the household. What I did have, however, was a Doña Paula 2009 Torrontes. I’d picked up this Argentinean bottle on a whim. I figured I’d use it for a grilled chicken or fish pairing, but Asian spice wasn’t close to my mind.
Why did I choose to crack it? To be honest … it’s a screwtop, so I didn’t have to think much or go fetch a corkscrew. The Doña Paula turned out to be a very nice substitute. Rich apples on the nose along with some floral fragrances. The body is a little on the heavy side, but there’s a good amount of apple and lemon flavors. The finish is long, floral, and a little sweet. That sweetness, however, made for a nice match with my spicy lo mein throw-together. The wine had enough weight to be interesting and was firm enough to handle the power of srirachia as a condiment. Certainly a workable choice. $13-15.
I started thinking more about this repurposing thing. Could one go earlier in the winemaking process and repurpose grapes? Turns out the answer is a big ol’ yes. For instance, consider the Rua 2010 Valdeorras. This Spanish white is a blend of Palomino, Dona Blanca and Godello grapes. While I wasn’t at all familiar with the last two grapes, I’d heard of Palomino. It’s one of the primary grapes in sherry. I’d not tried it in a still wine before (much like the Pedro Ximenez I mentioned a couple of entries ago). A pretty decent repurposing. It’s got a very light nose of flowers and lemon zest. The body’s of medium weight. It’s got a little bit of glycerin (instead of sugar) thickness there with some minerals at the back. It finishes crisp and dry with plenty of pineapple-citrus flavors. A great summertime white. Had it with some fish tacos. Tasty, tasty. Great deal at $8-10, too.
Since I’ve been stretching the definition a bit here, I’ll close out with an actual repurposing. Perhaps you’ve had a party recently and one of your friends brought (and left) a bottle of white zinfandel. You see it every day, sitting forlorn on the bottom of your wine rack. If you’re in this situation, you can make killer Sangria from a white zin.
Cut up a bunch of fruit. I like apples, pineapples, sliced grapes and strawberries. Put these in a bowl. Pour about a cup of inexpensive brandy over the top (E&J works well). Sprinkle with a little bit of brown sugar. Stir this up and put the bowl in the fridge for an hour or so. When you’re ready (your friends have shown up to drink), get a large pitcher. Add ice. Add the fruit/brandy mixture, the bottle of white zin, a couple of cups of club soda, and three shots of peach schnapps. Stir. Pour. I’m not responsible for what might happen afterwards, but I think you’ll thank me.
Reach DCP freelance writer Mike Rosenberg at MikeRosenberg@DaytonCityPaper.com or visit his blog at www.TheNakedVine.net.