Thai beef salad

Olivier Poussier, Meilleur sommelier du monde 2000, presents several pairings for soba noodles and Spanish wines.

Soba are Japanese buckwheat noodles, popular in all seasons.

In Japanese, the word soba means buckwheat. In summer, soba noodles can be served cold. Known as zaru soba, the dish is nourishing and thirst-quenching and is often accompanied by vegetable tempura. In winter, kake soba includes the warm bouillon and can also include duck meat and grilled leeks.

Whether served hot or cold, the food and wine match has to take into account the strong taste of the buckwheat, with flavours of chestnut, dried fruit, grilled hazelnut and honey, and the sauce the noodles are dipped in, made of dashi bouillon with strong smoked bonito tuna flavour, soy sauce and mirin (a sweet Japanese rice wine). The pairing must take this concentrate of tastes into account. The only – and essential – difference lies in the temperature of the wine you serve, depending on whether the soba noodles are cold or hot. You must of course avoid any thermal shock on the palate for the contrast is not pleasant. With the warm dish, the wine needs to be served at room temperature.

The best pairings involve wines aged sous voile, or under flor yeast, with fine oxidation over time.

The soba sauce calls for persistent, deep wines capable of pairing with the intense tastes. With Zaru soba, my first choice goes to a Manzanilla pasada from the Andalusian Balbaína Alta terroir, made by Manuel Antonio de la Riva. A superb wine made from the Palomino grape variety which has both the signature note of ageing under the veil of yeast and a touch of controlled, legitimate oxidation due to the veil disappearing over time – this wine has been aged for over fifteen years.

Another Spanish wine I recommend, this time from the Rueda appellation in the Castile and León area in north-western Spain, is a traditional version of what is called the Rueda pálido (traditional fortified wine aged under the veil): Adorado de Menade, from the Bodegas Menade. The Verdejo and Palomino grapes were in contact with the veil, which disappeared during the ageing process, with the onset of oxidation. This Solera began in 1967, the first draw-off took place in 2018. The notes of dried fruit and rancio in this wine are beautifully capable of taking on the buckwheat and the intense smoky saltiness of the sauce.

With warm soba noodles, the Kake soba, let’s go back to Andalusia, this time to Cadiz.

Here, I suggest that you taste the 30-year Palo Cortado Jerez from Bodegas Tradición, a sublime winemaker that produces wines with rare complexity. This is an intense Palo Cortado where the Palomino varietal exhales spice, dried fruit; a powerful, delicate wine with an unbelievable ‘retro’. Tastes that will go beautifully with soba dishes. Enjoy!