Every once in a while, I hit on a food and wine pairing that’s just right, which was the case last night with a quick dinner I put together after a long day and no desire to spend much time in the kitchen.
The meal was a pasta dish centered around a couple of cans of clam sauce, in this Bar Harbor’s New England Style White Clam Sauce. As the “New England” in the name implies, there is a good deal of cream present (actually milk), which signaled a richness calling for a white wine with some weight. With more typical clam sauces that I have bought (or made), one uses a good deal of olive oil, which calls for a fresh and piercing wine such as sauvignon blanc or a Muscadet from France or perhaps a Roero Arneis from Italy to cut through the sauce with a refreshing lift.
For this one, however, I thought a chardonnay with a touch of creaminess was in order, and Rustenberg’s 2009 Stellenbosch Chardonnay from South Africa proved to be an excellent match. This $20 wine is relatively light, with 13.5 percent alcohol, has excellent balance between oak and fruit, evoking Burgundy more than California. It shows a good deal of citrus, especially orange, along with apple, pear and apricot notes and some subtle vanilla and butterscotch. The wine was the perfect “weight” for the sauce, providing the level of richness it required while still light enough to make it a delightful counterpoint to the dish. Imported by Cape Classics, New York. Received as a press sample.