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I met with a couple of wine business friends last night (among them Josh Greene, editor of Wine & Spirits Magazine, my home before F&W) for soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown, partly because Joe's Shanghai will let you bring wine for free, and partly because the soup dumplings there are sublime. (Or near to sublime; the only honest-to-God actually sublime soup dumplings I've had were in Shanghai.) In any case, we ordered some conch in chile oil to snack on—conch, despite having a texture that's midpoint between cartilage and rubber bands, is actually quite tasty. Now, one might think that crunchy-rubber-bandy shellfish bits in hot chile oil would be tough to pair wine with. And one might be entirely right. And yet, either because I'm prescient or because fate was on my side (probably the latter), the sort of sadly over-the-hill bottle of 1997 Domaine des Baumard Clos du Papillon Savennières I'd brought along came right to life alongside the conch. Strange. One moment it was a weary, fruitless, semi-oxidative blah-fest, the next it had appealing green apple and peach notes and gave at least the perception of greater acidity. (The chopped cilantro on top of the conch may also have had something to do with this.)
Anyway, it's not a pairing I'd necessarily suggest trying at home, but it did point up the unexpected aspects of this whole game. Wish I didn't have four more bottles of the same wine in my cellar, though...