Aubergine is the most fecund fruit, its glossy skin, deep purple colour and plump Botticelli angel-like shape makes it as visibly enticing as its taste. Its ordinary name, eggplant, demeans the aubergine’s regal status as a key ingredient in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian cooking.
Baba ganoush & cornichons & Turkish pide + 2019 Port Phillip Estate Salasso Rosé, Mornington Peninsula, A$29
My wine store was in Surry Hills in Sydney, which became the home of several highly popular Turkish pide parlours in the late 1970s. Erciyes is still there and I pick up several loaves of pide and a large serving of their smoky/creamy baba ganoush whenever I pass by. I opened a sample of the 2019 Salasso recently and it was a perfect match. The Salasso’s hint of (older) oak toasty tannins swiftly lap up the creaminess of the baba ganoush.
Moussaka + 2018 Gaia Notios Nemea Red, Peloponnese, Greece, A$24
Lasagne is a family staple but I like to mix things up with the Greek eggplant version. I use leftover meat from a slow-cooked lamb shoulder as a base for the sauce and layer finely sliced potato at the bottom of the dish. A Greek dish deserves a Greek wine and I’ve been a fan of the Gaia label for some time. The agiorgitiko’s plump black fruits and tight acidity meld well with the structure and integrity of the syrah.
Ratatouille & Lyonnaise Sausage + 2016 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Crozes-Hermitage Les Jalets, Rhône, France, A$61
I love Sicilian caponata and have paired it with swordfish in a previous column, so this time I’m heading to the Rhône for the French take on caponata, ratatouille paired with a traditional Lyonnaise sausage. Naturally I've chosen a Rhône red, here a spicy mid-weight syrah for the Jaboulet stable. The wine’s pumice-like tannins carve through the protein-rich sausage with the red-fruited flavours and energetic acidity the perfect foil for the thrust of the ratatouille.
Ottolenghi pork with ginger, spring onion & eggplant + 2018 Bleasdale Wellington Road GSM, Langhorne Creek, A$32
Here's an Ottolenghi classic – a simple pork mince stir fry with Asian flavours. I serve it with Hokkien noodles and a gentle bottle of red. Bleasdale’s winemaker Paul Hotker is really on a roll with a GT WINE Winemaker of the Year finalist award and the 2019 Jimmy Watson Trophy under his belt. The Wellington Road flips the blend with grenache leading the way. Its spicy, red berry flavours and mild-mannered tannins sit nicely with the pork and eggplant.
Maggie Beer Leek & eggplant tarte Tatin + 2012 Peter Lehmann Margaret Semillon, Barossa Valley, A$37
Maggie Beer was great friends with (the late) Peter Lehmann and remains so with Peter’s wife, Margaret, to whom this wine is dedicated. Barossa Semillon is poles apart from the Hunter style, with a richer mouthfeel and gentler acidity. The one thing they have in common is low alcohol, the Margaret is just 11%. Eight years has seen the 2012 in full bloom with the weight and structure to match that of the leek and eggplant tarte Tatin.
Lamb rump with eggplant, butternut & Tahini yoghurt
+ 2017 Collector Marked Tree Red Shiraz, Canberra District, A$28
I was lucky enough to host a GT WINE readers’ dinner at Canberra’s leading restaurant, Aubergine, a few years ago. Logically a local red is the way to go, and lamb and shiraz have a particularly ‘Aussie’ feel. Alex McKay’s wines are as understated as the man with the red cherry and dark plum flavours of this shiraz equal to the sweet lamb rump, with the wine’s savoury tannins lapping up the umami-laden eggplant – or more accurately in this case, aubergine.
The savoury tannins of most reds will work their magic with the umami-laden eggplant.