Like Dunking Your Head in a Pot of Boiled Peanuts

Wine geeks talk a lot about “terroir” – that magical something that inhabits a wine and shouts out its sense of place… the soil, the vines, the climate, the earth that brought forth the grapes and the air that surrounded them as they ripened. It’s an elusive thing that is often used as a way of saying that a wine has a unique character, character that truly does trigger something in the nose, on the tongue, in your brain that connects that bottle of juice to its source in an often faraway land. Every so often, a wine will smack you in the face with “terroir” – like a veritable T-rex terror of terroir. The other day I had such a wine. Except it smacked me in the face with a bouquet that was nothing short of dunking your head in a pot of boiled peanuts on the side of the road in southern Georgia on a steamy summer day. This was the kind of nose that makes you do a double take. Then a triple take. Then beg your friends to taste it to confirm that you’re not crazy. It spoke so strongly of the boiled peanut stands of the South, that surely it had to be some crazy backcountry-Georgia-peanut-fortified-muscadine (does such a thing exist?? It should), but no…

The wine? Domaine Brazilier Coteaux du Vendomois Tradition Rouge, 2009. All the way from the Loire Valley in France, specifically the Coteaux du Vendomois appellation, featuring Cabernet Franc, Pineau d’Aunis, and Pinot Noir. Despite the “pineau” and the “pinot,” I don’t think there was any “peanut” actually in the bottle (at least it doesn’t list any peanuts in the ingredients). But apparently the Pineau d’Aunis grape, fairly unique to the Loire, is known for its “green” and “leafy” characteristics that could call to mind boiled green peanuts. So, yeah, maybe the “pineau” is what brought the “peanuts.” Above all, its the kind of wine that makes you sit up and take notice. The opposite of homogenized juicy juice. The epitome of esoteric.

I don’t frequently quote wine critics or wine hawkers, but the words of some pretty savvy wine dudes ring true here. Just ask David Schildknecht of The Wine Advocate, who said this wine “represents one of the most amazing red wine values I have tasted in years… features ripe dark cherry complicated by nutmeg, toasted walnut, pungent black tea, and salinity that guarantees lip-smacking.” He went on to speak to the unusual source of this wine, “When I last (and first) wrote up Jean and Benoit Brazilier’s wine, I couldn’t even correctly place the Vendomois in Touraine, but not only have I learned a thing or two since about Loire geography, I’ve also come to realize that the Braziliers render some of the fines values in France.”

Then there’s a guy by the name of Jon Rimmerman who runs an email-based wine shop called Garagiste which often features just this type of esoteric crazy juice, and (typically) exulted, “If you are looking for a rare combination of wine geek, value and terroir from a laugh-out-loud vintage that delivers a discernable sigh of relief upon first and last sip, the 2009 Tradition from the Brazilier family is like a juice-filled dam waiting to burst. Despite its seamless, velveteen quality (from the vintage), the wine feels and tastes as real as it gets – it never allows you to forget where the grapes were grown but it does so in a way that makes you forget the cares of the day without forcing you to contemplate if the terroir aspects are more distracting than enjoyable – not an easy tightrope to pull off. In addition, the value rating on this wine is 10 out of 10 – I had this ranked as one of my very top values of the entire summer with phrases such as “$10, you’re joking?” scribbled on my note pad.”

I doubt you’ll be able to find this wine now, and for that, I’m sorry. I’ve got one bottle left that I look forward to sharing with friends here in Atlanta, hoping to see a shock register on their face when they take a sniff. Speaking of which, I need to get Jon Rimmerman and David Schildknecht and any other wine geeks who dig this juice down to the peanut fields of Georgia to sip some boiled peanut pot likker. Because peanuts have terroir, too.

The South’s Greatest Beer Snack

There is a Southern specialty that for some reason has not found the popularity and omnipresence that is so surely deserves. It is found most often in rural gas stations, across Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama. But it deserves a place at the bar. At every bar that serves beer, in fact. For there is no greater friend to beer than this delicious, salty, crunchy snack. As much as we regret to say this, it is NOT the pork rind or cracklins. It is… the peanut… but not just any peanut! Yes, the roasted peanut is a rich and grand thing, the boiled peanut is beautiful and bewitching, but the deep fried peanut, “shell-n-all”? THAT is the South’s greatest beer snack.

Fried Peanuts

The first time one encounters a deep fried peanut, the initial temptation is to crack the shell open and free the peanuts from bondage. That would be a mistake. Once you’ve overcome your fears of the shell, accepted that maybe you should try just one since the bag proclaims “so good… you can eat ’em SHELL-N-ALL,” your mouth will soon tell you that you’ve made a wise choice. The crisp crunch of the shell and the saltiness and spice that have infused it hit your tastebuds first. Then the toasty, nutty goodness of the peanuts themselves layer on another wave of joy. And what could possibly follow that wave of joy other than a sip (or a gulp) of a cold beer? Like peanut butter and jelly, moon pies and RC cola, deep fried peanuts and beer are a match made in Southern heaven.

So, next time you’re off on a rural highway and stop for gas, be sure to check inside for the presence of this delicacy, then buy as many bags as your car will hold. You can thank “Uncle Bud” of Soddy Daisy, Tennessee for producing these wonders, or his rivals, Jerry of Polkville, North Carolina, or Bobby Salter of the one and only Plains, Georgia. And ask your favorite barkeeps to do the world a favor and bring some deep fried peanut goodness into the lives of their patrons. And they will thank you.

By the way, the basic salted, deep fried peanuts can also act as a blank canvas of sorts for adding your own spices. Simply heat up some oil and the spice mixture of your choice in a skillet and toss in some deep fried peanuts, mix well, drain on a paper towel, and you’re set. Here’s a not-so-Southern batch with chili pepper and Sichuan peppercorns, equally good with an IPA or a good German Riesling!
Chili Peanuts