With the increasing stress of our day-to-day lives, many of us have found a retreat in indulging in great food and wine. Nevertheless, some people are unaware that the herbs we so regularly use to season our food can also ‘season’ our bodies with crucial emotional and health benefits; whilst fantastic wines can simply embody this movement.
For example, basil can be grown throughout the Spring/Summer months, and creates a great pot plant that only needs simple maintenance of light and water. With the leaves thought to resemble hearts, it is seen as a symbol of fertility and love in Italy, where many dishes that primarily use Basil originate from. The herb is thought to stimulate the conscious mind to invoke happiness and honesty whilst also being absolutely delicious. You could try a simple but enchanting way to cook with basil by making pesto, a green Italian oil-and-herb sauce that can be used as a flavoursome garnish to brighten up plain pasta’s, breads or salads. However, finding the perfect wine that combines well with pesto is difficult as it is an intense flavour that is rich, but not heavy. I found that the Fontodi Meriggio Sauvignon Blanc 2014 aligns perfectly with the fullness of the Basil; with its higher freshness and acidity enriching the flavours and balancing them, rather than battling against it.
Another prime specimen is fennel, which is in my opinion, an underrated herb that is scarcely used. However, it can be sown as soon as the frosty months are over, and only takes around 7-10 days to start sprouting; making it a quick and easy compliment for summertime dishes. Being part of the carrot family, it has long been associated with having purifying properties, whilst revitalising the health boundaries of our immune system. It is usually combined with Mediterranean style dishes; as this is where it originates from. For instance, a fabulous dish to use it would be Herb-Rubbed Salmon with French Lentils; primarily using the fennel as a floral and fresh garnish that balances out the mixed flavours. Wine choice? The light red fruits and earthy, savoury nature of a good Pinot Noir are a perfect counterpoint to the rich, slightly sweet and savory pink meat of the salmon. Since salmon is an oily fish, a Pinot Noir with at least medium acidity helps to cut through and balance the dish’s oiliness. Examples from a cooler side of the US will be perfect and our choice is the Anthill Farms Campbell Ranch Pinot Noir 2014 from Sonoma County.
Another example is oregano; a superb botanical that has commonly been used for centuries in Chinese and European Folk medicine to treat many different physical and mental ailments; being famously known to foster happiness and tranquillity, whilst also helping with bloating. It is a common garden herb with superior qualities that grows feverishly throughout Spring/Summer, and can add intense flavour to any dish. An appetising, people-pleasing dish to create using this herb would be Lemon and Oregano Infused Lamb Chops; a simple meal to make that is perfect for Summer BBQ’s and sunset evenings. The ideal red to pair with this kind of dish would be Chianti Classico or even better; Barbera. Its fresh acidity offsets the lamb’s slight fattiness perfectly – one of those matches which makes both the wine and food sing. Our top pick must be Bruno Giacosa Barbera d’Alba 2013, which is made from old vines around Neive in Piedmont.
“Nevertheless, some people are unaware that the herbs we so regularly use to season our food can also ‘season’ our bodies…”
Botanicals and herbs paired with the perfect meal and bottle of wine can easily lift anyone’s spirits, especially when the sun is prominent and the people you love are surrounding you. Be sure to try these dishes and wines out, to not only create happiness for the people around you, but to create an imminent happiness within you.