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Perfect wines for imperfect times: Chardonnay and shakshuka

Following on from last week’s stale pastry and Madeira pairing, today we suggest a Chardonnay for a showdown over shakshuka.

Responding to a report about an altercation within my own house regarding a pack of pain au chocolates that had gone stale – and the drink that might prove a suitable pairing for the problem – we have a request from a db reader for a wine to “soothe” a disagreement in a household under lockdown.

Dear Mr. Schmitt,

Thank you for your wonderful article of 3 April.

My mother and I are self-isolating together in London and we are both keen fans of cooking as well as wine. We get on marvellously most of the time but this morning we need to settle an altercation over cooking. 

Neither of us are very exotic in our tastes when cooking at home. This does not apply in restaurants of course, where novelty is always a treat. This morning however I thought I would push the boat out and improvise some eggs ‘Shakshuka’ – a modern world classic, and a very trendy millennial food. 

Dubious of how the connotations of this dish would impact its gustatory effect, I resolved to serve it ‘blind’ – that is, without any reference to its name, origins, or its popularity in hipster cafes and semi-vegetarian brunch menus.

My reticence to speak, or to veer towards a more Italian version of the dish, led to an argument, though I believe cabin-fever to be the real culprit. 

What wine would soothe the wound?

Dear Reader,

I can see that combining self-isolation with experimental cooking could easily lead to disagreements, even with comforting food such as this.

But I also applaud your urge to try new things, and encourage your mother to taste them in the best manner possible – serving them without prior knowledge as to source or content, or ‘blind’ as we say in the wine trade.

But bearing in mind your efforts to spice up a lockdown backfired, I will find a wine that should bring calm to a tense household.

For this, may I suggest a first-rate and keenly-priced Chardonnay from Château Ksara in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

Why? With its combination of cashew nut-sweetness from barrel fermentation, stone fruit richness from this sunny place, and an edgy lemon acidity from the cool nights in these climes, it could handle the powerful flavours in this spicy egg-filled dish admirably, while refreshing the palate too.

But it could also provide a point of discussion to distract from the disagreement over the preparation of your dish. That’s because this wine represents the viticulture of the Middle East, where shakshuka is so commonly served, as well as the culture of Mediterranean Europe – Château Ksara was founded by Jesuit Priests.

Bearing in mind you said that your mother was frustrated that you had not veered towards the Italian version of the dish – known in this country as Uova in Purgatorio (eggs in purgatory) – she might be pleased to drink a wine from an estate founded by Catholics, even though the Jesuit order has its origins in Spain, not Italy.

While the wine, called Cuvée du Pape, has a taste that is smooth enough to soothe even the most tense situation, because of its ‘exotic’ source may I suggest you present it blind, but be honest about the contents of your dish this time round.

Château Ksara Chardonnay Cuvée du Pape
Medal: Gold – The Global Chardonnay Masters, 2018
RRP: £12
Find it: Vintners

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