Keep it simple: Serrano Pizza and Eric & Joel Durand 2004 Cornas Empreintes

Most pizza nights begin with a craving. For days I could practically taste a full-bodied, dark and spicy Syrah! Thus, I began by considering ingredients that would match a cool climate Syrah. I had chosen the 2004 Durand Cornas Empreintes.

While assembling my pie I sipped on the wine, allowing me to assess it without food. These are my notes:

100% Syrah from the tiny appellation of Cornas situated in the notoriously steep vineyards of the northern Rhône. With a few minutes of airing, there is a cherry explosion on the nose and palate of this dark ruby red. Medium-full body with bursts of tart black cherry, earth (“Cornas” is Celtic for “scorched earth”), licorice, pepper, cinnamon spice and plum flavors. Complexity abounds in this chewy textured Syrah with a cleansing beam of acidity keeping it fresh and balanced. Polished and delicious!

Although the wine tastes great, the question looms—will it pair with the pizza? Here are the ingredients:

1 roasted red pepper sliced julienne and marinated overnight in 1 Tablespoon olive oil
6-8 paper thin slices of Serrano Ham (Spain’s version of Prosciutto)
6oz grated Fontina cheese
1 cup shitake mushrooms sautéed with garlic and olive oil

First, drain the oil off the peppers and spread across dough. Then sprinkle most of the cheese (about 2/3). Next layer with the peppers and mushrooms and finish with the Serrano ham. Sprinkle remaining cheese. And bake at 500°F on a pizza stone till bottom crust is brown in spots and the edges of the ham are crisp.

The evolution of a pizza…

Building It

To the Oven

From the Oven

To the Plate

Dominant flavors? To begin, the cheese is mild with hints of mushroom. Of course, I also used mushrooms, so the first flavor is: earthy mushroom. Next comes what is probably the strongest flavor: the salty, smoky, cured Serrano ham. Finally, we also need to contend with the mouth coating dairy of the cheese.

How did the wine measure up? Firstly, there is a convenient synergy with the earth of the mushrooms and the earthiness of the wine. The smoky flavors of the ham and the creaminess of the cheese are complimented by the brisk acidity and black pepper spice found in the wine. My main worry from the start was how would the salty ham work with a cool climate wine that is not nearly as fruity as some California or Australian Syrah. Here again, this little Cornas passed with flying colors! The bright cherry fruit held up to the drying affects of salt and created one of those magical savory/sweet combinations that are so tasty in food, i.e. honey mustard. I found that by keeping it simple—focusing on just a few food flavors really helped me to choose the perfect wine. More importantly, my guests thought so too.

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2 Responses to Keep it simple: Serrano Pizza and Eric & Joel Durand 2004 Cornas Empreintes

  1. Steve says:

    Paula! This looks amazing! Bring us a pizza!

    • paula paradise says:

      Thanks Steve–how about pizza/wine pairing night with staff? I make the pizza and each person brings wine they think will pair best–we vote and then post the results. It’s always illuminating to taste various styles with one dish.