Sparkling

Wine & Food Killers: Popcorn Prawns with Lemon Dipping Sauce and Cantina Furlani Antico 2017

If champagne and fried chicken is an iconic high-low pairing, then it follows that pet nat and popcorn prawns should be, too. Both are crisp and buoyant – albeit in different ways – and, in this case, both zesty and lemon-scented. Both can be gulped without much hesitation; both demolished far quicker than intended. And if you’ve been blessed with a patio or a terrace or a back garden, then both also make brilliant summertime fare.

Cantina Furlani’s exceptional Antico Frizzante is made exclusively from the Nosiola grape, which is native to Italy’s Alpine Trentino region, in the country’s far north – is the kind of wine I’d like to drink on a weekly basis during the warmer months of the year.

It’s bright with acid, amply citrusy, and rounded out with a subtle pear-and-apple richness. That acid, and those perky bubbles (following a spontaneous primary fermentation, the wine ferments again in bottle thanks to the addition of frozen, unsweetened grape juice), make this a perfect foil to anything fried.

Its aromatics also make it a fitting choice alongside a wide range of seafood dishes – you could equally go with ceviche or grilled fish or octopus salad or fried squid – but I particularly like the way this wine flatters the prawns’ natural sweetness.

To complete the dish, the crispy little nuggets of prawn are served alongside a dipping sauce that's tangy with Greek yoghurt and laced with the merest shimmer of cayenne pepper. Lemon zest and lemon juice add their own acidity, and further link with the wine's own zesty personality. Altogether, this pairing is both complementary and contrasting: alike in flavour, though the Antico's carbonation and bite help counteract the fat. (Sure, you might then eat far more prawns than first intended, but who's counting?)

Popcorn Prawns with Lemon Dipping Sauce
Serves 2

For the dipping sauce:
120g Greek yoghurt
120g mayonnaise
Juice and zest of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the prawns:
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus additional
1 teaspoon black pepper
70g all-purpose flour
65g corn flour
2 eggs
3 tablespoons whole milk
330g peeled, deveined prawns
700ml vegetable oil (plus additional, if necessary)

1. First, prepare the dipping sauce. In a small bowl, add all five ingredients and stir or whisk until well combined. Set aside.

2. In a ramekin or small bowl, add the garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, sea salt and black pepper, and mix together. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, add the flour and corn flour, and whisk until combined. In a second medium bowl, add the eggs and milk, and whisk until combined.

4. Add the prawns to a large bowl and sprinkle over the spice mixture and ¼ of the flour mixture. Toss until evenly coated.

5. To batter the prawns, transfer each to the bowl with the egg yolk mixture and, using a fork, flip until lightly coated. Let any excess drip off before transferring to the remaining flour mixture. Toss until well coated, and transfer gently to a parchment-paper lined plate or tray. Repeat with the remaining prawns.

6. Meanwhile, add the vegetable oil to a large, cast-iron skillet (it should come up about 2 inches; add extra if needed). Place over high heat and heat until 180° Celsius. If you don’t have a deep-fat frying thermometer, add a tiny bit of flour; if it immediately begins to sizzle rapidly, it should be hot enough.

7. Line a large plate with paper towels and place next to the stove. To fry, add your first addition of prawns, ensuring they’re not overcrowded (you’ll need to cook yours in multiple batches); be careful, as the hot oil could splatter. Cook for approximately 2-4 minutes, flipping and rotating the prawns regularly, until the exterior is deep golden-brown and crisp. Transfer to the paper-towel lined plate and repeat. You may need to adjust the heat to maintain a constant temperature.

8. Sprinkle the prawns with additional salt to taste, and serve immediately, alongside the dipping sauce.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table, is out now and available via our online shop and hopefully at your favourite booksellers. Pick up a bottle of Cantina Furlani here, and to sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

Natural Wine Killers: Catherine & Pierre Breton ‘La Dilettante’ Vouvray Brut NV

la dilettante.jpeg

This wine features in our December edition of the Natural Wine Killers box - being December, of course we had to bring you some bubbles. It’s the season where casual wine drinkers the length and breadth of the country pop open millions of bottles of Prosecco and Cava, toasting to a bountiful 2019. We like a good glass of fizz too, but have, as you might expect, made a rather less obvious choice…

Vouvray sparkling flies well under the radar in the UK, perhaps because only 10% of these wines make it outside of France. Vouvray also lacks a clear marketing focus. There are few wine regions which can make sparkling wines, along with white wines ranging from dry, to medium and sweet, and do all of these things well. Vouvray is one such appellation, making it a delight for wine lovers.

Vouvray is located in the Loire Valley, in northern, central France, not far from the town of Tours. It has a cool climate, but with a long growing season, allowing growers to pick their Chenin Blanc grapes at varying levels of ripeness. The grapes that go into making sparkling wines will typically be earliest picked - their high acidity being prized when making refreshing bubbly.

Vouvray Brut is made in exactly the same way as Champagne – the Traditional Method, where the second fermentation (which produces the bubbles) happens in the same bottle in which the wine is aged and sold. However, the growers of Vouvray are more interested in selling their wines for fair prices locally than sponsoring fashion catwalks (those Champagne marketing budgets don’t come for free).

By law, Vouvray Brut must be aged for 12 months in contact with its lees in bottle. It’s these decomposing yeast cells which give sparkling wines their biscuity, bready character. The Bretons, being among the most respected producers in Vouvray, age their wine for twice this time, on a par with Champagne. The wine therefore has a richness in character equal to many Champagnes twice its price.

Catherine and Pierre are both from the fourth generation of winemaking families. They are extremely conscientious about their practices, with this wine being certified organic. The wine is also made with indigenous yeast and spends 12 months fermenting in tank before bottling and second fermentation.

The nose is inviting, with aromas of baked apple, brioche, and a typical Vouvray honey note. The palate is fresh, with green apple and lemon pie. The mousse is super creamy, with a long, crisp finish. Make sure you keep this one stashed at the back of the fridge at the Christmas party, and leave the others to their Prosecco.

Claire Bullen’s food pairing: A mixed sashimi platter or splash out with caviar-topped fried chicken

Paul Medder is a freelance wine educator and works for one of the UK's leading wine distributors. He occasionally tweets @PaulMedder.