Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Hannibal Lecter's sashimi-wine pairing

Hannibal Lecter, in season 2 premiere: "I never feel guilty about eating anything." Words to live by.
A notorious gourmet, Hannibal Lecter is responsible for the best-known wine pairing in cinema history. In a new incarnation, played subtly by Danish film star Mads Mikkelsen, Lecter is the centerpiece of the best show on network TV, NBC's "Hannibal," my new favorite now that "Breaking Bad" is done.

In the season 2 premiere (watch the whole episode here), after a thrilling and brutal flash-forward kitchen fight with his FBI boss Jack Crawford, Lecter makes an exquisite-looking dish of sashimi for a meal with Crawford: sea urchin (uni), flounder (hirame) and squid.

The wine he pours for this dish is apparently a fake bottle. You can read that it's a Gewürztraminer Spätlese, from a German winery that starts with Ottomar L__.

I'm pretty sure there is no such winery, and the shape of the bottle looks like a California Chardonnay that the producers taped a fake label over. Bully for them: no product placement here.

But they do, clearly, want us to see that Hannibal Lecter serves Gewürztraminer Spätlese with sashimi. Since I'm a huge fan of the show and of sashimi, I had to know, is this a good pairing?

My first thought was, Spätlese, that's going to be too sweet. But then I realized I often drink daiginjo sake with sashimi, and daiginjos are aromatic and can be on the sweet side.

Testing Lecter's pairing required some shopping. Nijiya market in San Francisco's Japantown supplied the flounder; Sun Fat on Mission St. (my favorite source for fresh oysters), the sea urchin. I used Wine Searcher to locate the closest bottle of Gewürztraminer Spätlese. The Wine Club had a bottle of Fitz-Ritter Pfalz Gewürztraminer Spätlese 2011 ($21.98) in its Santa Clara store; I was able to pick it up in their San Francisco store without paying shipping costs.

My wife and I sat down to a sashimi feast. I also picked up some shima aji (striped jack), tai (sea bream) and ankimo (monkfish liver). For side dishes we had Japanese pickles, seaweed salad, and menma (fermented bamboo shoots), as well as white koshihikari rice.

If you're going to obsess on checking out a Hannibal Lecter wine pairing, you might as well do it right. So beware if you see me holding a sharp knife and a nice Chianti.

The upshot is, the pairing is terrific. I particularly liked the Gewürztraminer with the uni, which was featured prominently in Lecter's kitchen work. Uni has an inherent sweetness that echoed in the Gewürz. I also liked the wine a lot with the shima aji, a fishier fish that made the aromatic qualities of the wine more refreshing.

Fitz-Ritter is a 9th-generation German winery that specializes in Riesling. I feel fortunate to have found their Gewürz. It's a great version, rose petal aromas and a vibrant, fresh, stone fruit-driven palate with subtle sweetness, and just 10 percent alcohol. The wine is delightful anyway, but having it go so perfectly with the sashimi ... this is what makes life worth living. This, and slaughtering the free-range rude. But that's a pairing for another day.

Related post: Make sashimi at home, it's easy

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Goma SF said...

I was surprised how good the pearling was. It’s always fun to discover something new. :-)

Anonymous said...

Could the Ottomar be related to: ?

syelle27 said...

Nice report!
Thank you for sharing your experience.
Although, you are mistaken if you believe that Spätlese (or German wines in general) refers to sweet wine.
Eiswein and (Trocken-)Beerenauslese are almost exclusively sweet, whereas Kabinett, Auslese and Spätlese can be either sweet, semi-sweet or dry. Dry varieties are usually harder to produce, which is why they are much rarer.

As for the Gewürztraminer:
it is not such a surprising pairing (at least in Germany, where I'm from, or in the region of Alsace, which also produces significant quantities of Gewürztraminer).
The bouquet of Gewürztraminer usually contains rose and/or acacia, while its taste resembles exotic fruit such as lychee - this combination makes it a succesful pairing with Asian dishes that are not-at-all to moderately hot.
(A semi-sweet Riesling might proove fitting as well).
[BTW "Gewürz" is "spice" in German.]

IaBlMeanie said...

This was great, did you write any other Hannibal wine reviews?