Three decades of serious cooking, eating, drinking and tasting wine have not only garnered me an impressive pair of hips, but the accolade of being a ‘food and wine expert’. It is a terrific pedestal to be placed on (the food is fantastic up here) and I get to make lofty pronouncements on the best wine to serve with toad-in-the-hole or sweet and sour crab claws etc etc (Côtes du Rhone, Australian Riesling respectively).
Sometimes it can get a little rocky up here on my judges bench especially when someone wants a binding promulgation on what goes with what, only to later discover that their palate is completely different to mine and my meat, if not their poison, is a yukkie, grimace inducing mouthful. The only thing I can say in my defence is that food and matching is not cast in stone, there’s no accounting for taste and there is really no reason for it all to degenerate into a food fight.
I’ve been wearing my ‘food and wine expert’ hat a lot recently as I have been working as an ambassador for Vive le Cheese, a PR campaign promoting French cheese. So far this job has been a cheesy delight and one of the best things was hosting an evening for food bloggers at London cheese mecca, also known as La Fromagerie.
One of my tasks was to pick a handful of French wines and present them at a workshop matched to recipes using French cheese. I wanted to show a real cross-section of French wines and as I had free reign I decided to opt for five of my own firm favourites:
Pouilly-Fumé AOC, de Ladoucette 2007,
100% Sauvignon Blanc
I’m a big fan of Loire wines, I love their crispness, their aroma and I really like the minerality of Sauvignon Blanc. I often find that Pouilly-Fumé are more floral than their more famous neighbours: Sancerre.
The Ladoucette Château is a fairytale affair with turrets and towers, there is also something ethereal about this wine. It is pretty and dances on the tongue.
Chablis AOC, William Fevre 2008
I recently went to a Chablis tasting where 70 producers were all gathered showing off their wares. The event called alternatively been called variations on the theme of Chardonnay. After the event, once the hullabaloo had faded, one producer stuck in my mind: William Fèvre. Its clarity, purity and sheer deliciousness are a delight.
Crozes-Hermitage AOC, E. Guigal 2006
I like this wine because it doesn’t overwhelm with pedigree as some wines, especially from a prestigious house like Guigal, can do. This wine doesn’t demand to be stored in a cellar where it can endlessly accrue value and finesse, instead it simply requests you to drink it and enjoy its fruity spicy flavours. Lip-smacking stuff.
Madiran AOC, Plénitude, Producteurs Plaimont 2006
Tannat 80%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20%
I love Madiran’s individuality, it’s SW France Basque country quirkiness. The vineyard’s proximity to the Pyrenees and my spiritual path: The Way of Saint James.
I also, at the risk of sounding superficial, love this bottle’s wax seal and metal label. Sometimes it’s fair to judge a wine by its appearance!
Sauternes-Barsac AOC, Château Coutet 2004
Sémillon 80%, Sauvignon Blanc 18%, Muscadelle 2%
I’ve been aware of Château Coutet for a while but since my lunch with Aline Baly (see my previous post) it has become a firm favourite. I love its feminine elegance, its intensity and minerality.
2004 is not a great hoopla vintage, so this wine is flirtatiously sweet rather than beguilingly unctuous.
So there are my five wines. Which one went with which dish? (click on the links for the recipes)
The Chablis and Reblochon chatted away liked old friends while the spice in the Crozes Hermitage and the spice in the soup got frisky together.
The crisp Pouilly-Fumé sparred well with the big flavours of the dish, while the Madiran worked the lardons in the tart with the aplomb of a PR girl at a reception and made them shine.
The Crozes Hermitage and the Camembert were like two on-line daters who have ticked all the same boxes and really are as compatible in real life as they are supposed to be. The Sauternes and the figs fell head over heels in love.
Chardonnay and eggs are always a compatible match and this was no exception but the smouldering match of the evening was Roquefort and Sauternes-Barsac. Powerful chemistry as opposites attract.