Vietnamese Pizza and Sparkling Heretics
Nem Nướng, a Vietnamese kind of pork sausage.
I once visited the finest pizza restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City. Getting good cheese in Vietnam is hard, so the owners started making their own from buffalo grazing in the highlands of Đà Lạt. A tangy burrata arrived whole, like a water balloon ready to pop, surrounded by a crust perfectly leopard-spotted with char and deep with creamy, tangy sourdough flavour. But what about those hoping for some local influence? Perhaps a coconut base, topped with fragrant Nem Nướng?
What’s in a name?
Pizza, though, is pizza. If it has Nem Nướng on it, then it is Vietnamese pizza - not Italian Nem Nướng. This identity crisis always comes to mind when tasting Traditional Method sparkling wines made from grape varieties other than Champagne’s holy trio of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Imagine an enterprising Australian winemaker, convinced their Merlot/Zibobbo sparkler is breaking new ground. Customers walk through the tasting room doors, spot the glimmering foil and ask to taste the Champagne. “Ah, but it isn’t Champagne!”, the winemaker says, at first. After a few years, though, resistance subsides. Perhaps, on some level, it is Champagne.
So why not just plant the same grape varieties, as they largely have done in England, Trentino or Tasmania? After all, many purists believe that few other grapes have what it takes to harmonise with the flavours of second fermentation, of long ageing on yeast lees or the unique development that takes place after they are removed. Go off-piste, held wisdom states, and you risk a flavour clash.
A sound warning, but the Traditional Method doesn’t really conjure all those golden, bakery-doorway flavours as readily as we might think. The University of Brock in Canada has just published research showing that sparkling wines spending 24 months on lees don’t actually take on much flavour from the process itself. In these younger wines, such flavours are largely snuck in at other points in the process - a dash of nuttiness at blending stage, a lick of spice at disgorgement.
Clashing with intent
If, then, we don’t have to worry too much about a flavour clash in youthful sparkling wines, does it follow that any interesting still wine might work with bubbles in it? Not quite. Some flavours – zippy greenness, voluptuous florals, intense spiciness – seem to get propelled out of balance by the relentless energy of bubbles. A bright orange rug might brighten up a dingy spare bedroom, but put it centre-stage in a sunlit living room and there will be shudders and squints at teatime.
Beyond this, a further question nags away at Riesling, Chenin Blanc or Macabeo: can they ever reach a true zenith of flavour when grown for sparkling wine? Nobody could claim that Chardonnay raised on the chalky soils of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and snipped, full of life-enhancing acidity and ripe flavours, at a perfect 10.5% potential alcohol, has lived anything other than its best life. Tasting sparkling Chenin Blanc, though, can send pangs of longing through the tastebuds, back to still wines heavy with honey and wax and stone, to intensity or even sweetness, to all the truly great things Chenin can do at the apex of a ripeness curve, its feet resting in just the right patch of land.
The real thing
Buffalo milk, too, is said to reflect the land from which it comes. Thankfully, what sat on my pizza also spoke of a buffalo. And a cheesemaker. And a wood-fired oven. Even if there had been a Nem Nướng pizza on the menu, I probably wouldn’t have ordered it. It’s easy to think there’s too much pizza in the world. Easy, that is, until you really fancy a pizza.
FIND OUT MORE
Top Five Tasty Facts about PizzaCheesy, moreish and delicious, pizza is one of the world’s most popular foods. Falstaff has gathered five quick pizza facts that will fuel...
Culinary Journey through AsiaMore than all-you-can-eat buffets, sushi and crispy duck: Asia is full of culinary treasures and sophisticated preparation methods that are...
Rome Debuts Pizza Vending MachineWe all know vending machines for drinks and sweets, but Rome has now topped this with a pizza vending machine located in a booth on Via...
Dry Extract Interview: Tommy Grimshaw of Langham Wine Estate, Dorset, EnglandIn our Dry Extract mini-interview feature we ask top professionals in the world of wine, food and travel to answer 13 deceptively simple...
Of Bubbles and Bottles: The Knight Who Invented ChampagneLong intrigued by the history of sparkling wine, our author’s detective work pieced together a vital chapter in the genesis of sparkling...
The Global Drug Survey has crowned Australians as the heaviest drinkers in the world in 2020.
The 2020 vintage of Burgundy is out and being sold en primeur, or while the wine is still in the barrel. Merchants from Hong Kong to London are...
Whether you’re hosting an intimate dinner, a stand-up party or sit-down feast, kick off with one of our easy-to-make cocktails to set the mood for...
Oz Clarke is a larger than life character. Falstaff met the TV personality, actor, entertainer, connoisseur and writer and he was as ebullient,...
Disruptions in supply chains, crop damage and a shift in consumer drinking attitudes are all trends to watch in the future, according to GlobalData.
Shares in the low-carb, clean winemaker, founded by actresses Nina Dobrev and Julianne Hough, plunged 30% on their market debut.
Non-alcoholic spirits are booming despite the fact that it is, to put it mildly, difficult to imitate gin, whisky, rum & co without the all important...
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon is the inspired cellar master of Champagne Louis Roederer and the man behind Cristal - one of the most thrilling prestige...
Global warming is reshuffling the cards of the wine world. While established wine regions are increasingly being put under pressure, this development...