Gjelina Group Goes to the Market: Citrus Part 1
Plus, Henry's Favorite Wine (This Week)
This Week at the Market
Written by Sam Rogers, Gjelina Group’s Farm Liaison
What's the difference between a mandarin and a tangerine? Why is this one red and that other one white? Can I peel this? Aren’t they all just oranges? Citrus season is officially in full swing, so here’s the what’s what of citrus season, part 1:
Let’s start with the strangest of the citrus fruits. The magical BUDDHA'S HAND! This wild sea creature-looking citrus is one of the oldest citrus fruits. It is a lemon with fingers. It is cherished for its sweet, bright and floral fragrance. They have little to no flesh or juices, being all rind and bitter-less pith, and are primarily used as a giant source of zest for flavoring sweet and savory dishes. The Buddha’s hand is believed to have stemmed in India and been brought to China by Buddhist monks. Besides being delicious, Buddha's hand is an ancient remedy for a long list of ailments and has long been a symbol of happiness and longevity.
A hybridized mandarin, satsumas were originally developed in Japan in the province of Satsuma. Go figure. They are considered the juiciest of the mandarin family and have a perfectly balanced honey sweet-yet-tart flavor that makes one unable to stop eating them — as anyone will notice, when entering my satsuma peel-littered car. They are perfect on their own or used in sweet or savory dishes. They are easy to peel and seedless, making them ideal for children and adults alike!
I like to consider Murcott tangerines to be the merlot of the citrus world, with a certain depth and weightiness to their sweet and tart juices. They are medium-sized, round and are slightly flattened at both ends. They have a darker toned golden orange skin with a thin rind that holds to the flesh, making them moderately easy to peel. The pulp itself is a brilliant orange and has the fun built-in game of being either seedless or containing tons of seeds!
Talk about nature being the greatest artist! That deep fuchsia is enough to stop anyone in their tracks, and with the sophistication to match their appearance, these beauties are easily a crowd favorite. While its skin is harder to peel than other oranges, its raspberry-hinted flesh is worth the effort. These oranges are full of an antioxidant pigment called anthocyanin, which gives them their dark red color. At local markets right now, you’ll find two of the three varieties of blood oranges. Moro bloods have darker flesh and rind, while the tarocco blood oranges trade less color for greater sweetness. Both excellent choices.
The Wekiwa: at least as fun to say as it is to eat. Why-key-wah! The medium to small fruit is a hybrid of grapefruit and Sampson tangelo. They range in color from bright yellow to bright orange and have a very sweet floral, yet also tart flavor. With that punch, they are aptly nicknamed the “mini grapefruit”.
The Page mandarin has a beautiful balance of acid and juicy rich sweetness. The fruit is on the smaller side, with a deep orange flesh and skin rich in oils. Try to peel one and you’ll see what I mean, as your fingers will be covered in slippery orange-scented oil. They’re seedless, though tougher to peel, so they didn’t have the commercial success that the Satsuma or Murcott enjoyed, but it’s a shame because their flavor is so good. Personally, it reminds me of enjoying an orange creamsicle in the 90’s. They are a cross between a Clementine mandarin and Minneola tangelo.
Cara Cara Orange
I saved the best for last. The Cara Cara orange. My prom queen. The Cara Cara orange is the accidental cross-pollination of a Washington navel orange and a Brazilian Bahia navel orange. They are medium sized with a flesh that is a perfect “millennial pink” hue (that is a real color, right?). Cara Caras, the orange so good they named it twice, contain an incredible source of the antioxidants vitamin A and lycopene (yes, the only healthy thing in ketchup) which together give them their unique orange + pink tone. They are very low in acid and offer the rich flavor depth of a navel with the added hint of cherry and rose… and she’s seedless! Long live the queen.
Henry’s Favorite Wine of the Week: Charles Audoin Bourgogne Rouge
Written by Henry Beylin, Gjelina Group’s Wine + Beverage Director
It's a new year and it seems as good a time as any to reset some drinking priorities. I am very much over any wines that are described as "crushable," "funky" or "glou-glou". These are euphemisms for simple, weird/faulty and thoughtless. Even worse, is a wine that's introduced as having "great acidity" which is no different than saying that fish has "great salt." This doesn't mean that everything we drink needs to be profound and elevated, and thus expensive, but mostly we should aspire to drink wines that are good in the classical sense and coherent and well, complete. Moreover, terms like "crushable" and "glou-glou" inherently imply a certain amount of drinking and that's not exactly great advice as alcohol, while arguably having some health benefits, is a carcinogen and should be consumed thoughtfully.
The wines that I am constantly drawn to and almost rediscover again and again usually come from classic regions and while they have an unending array of flavors, textures and styles, they have in common a certain beauty, elegance and balance. That last word is key. Balance IS beauty and beauty is more important than impact — or g-d damned acidity. A balanced wine not only seems like a finished product and one that was made with intention, but it complements food in a much fuller way and can evolve both in the bottle and after it’s opened. I've been thinking about balance a lot lately, and not only in wines. We all have 4 sets of weight-bearing joints. An imbalance in one will cause pain in another that can only be remedied by bringing all back into, well, balance. What's good for the body has to be good for wine, right? Enough preamble.
A wine that highlights said feelings is the Charles Audoin Bourgogne Rouge. Actually, all wines produced by Audoin are noteworthy not only for their overall aspect but for their relative affordability. I say relative because we are in Burgundy after all. Most of Audoin's vineyards are in the village of Marsannay, a village until recently much overlooked for reasons we won't get into. The grapes for the Bourgogne Rouge are actually Village level grapes from younger vines he chooses to declassify. The wine seems like a perfect fulfillment of usable, everyday Burgundy. There are flavors of morello cherry, underbrush, mushrooms and moss with correct balancing acidity and a smooth, velvety texture. But these flavor notes are in a way redundant as they appear in many Burgundian red wines and don't get to the heart of what makes this particular wine worth drinking. What's meaningful here isn't that they exist but they are all in proper amounts with relation to each and the overall weight, texture, complexity and length of the wine. I sometimes think of wines as geometric shapes and this one clearly reminds me of a circle. Pure dimensional balance and coherence that underpins a central contentment and earnestness.
That's not to say that this wine is more than what it intends to be or actually is. It's a wine for dinner, nothing more, but at its fullest expression. I think the best wine advice I ever received is to find producers with a track record of making a range of wines from regions with a track record of quality that's defined. One needs to put things into context. All of Audoin's wines are accomplished and profoundly of place, be it the wider region, village or particular plot. His more particular vineyard designated wines are impressive indeed, but the true expressions of his ability are in the wines meant for everyday drinking — the Bourgogne, both Rouge and Blanc, the Aligote and the Rose. Like an artist making smaller pencil sketches before the grander rendering on canvas, Audoin confidently and without stress unfurls Burgundy honestly, openly and without pretension. Compare that to the latest orange wine that's funky and made with leaves and ladybugs and, of course, has great acidity.