Join me as I explore the wonderful wines and foods of France. As I view the two as inseparable, each time I share a new wine with you, I’ll tell you what I ate with it, and maybe throw out some other ideas for food pairing. I hope these posts will inspire you to try similar wines and food pairings, if you can’t find the actual wines I’ve tried. If you want “the real McCoy,” come visit me in France!
I arrived in Paris on April 30th, and took a high-speed train from the airport directly to the Rhône valley. I’ve been going back and forth between Lyon and Cornas/Valence, arranging the paperwork for my 3-year work visa, getting my cat Ayani settled, and getting the lay of the land. I’ve just started working on the weekends at Vins Jean-Luc Colombo, guiding visitors through tastings and (in the future) taking them on “CORNASafari” in the 9-person Range Rover. The vineyards are planted on very steep hillsides in Cornas, and you definitely need a Range Rover to maneuver on some of the dirt paths. My weekdays will be spent visiting wineries, small towns, traditional food producers (olive oil, cheese, etc.) and working hard on my French.
I was thrilled to find that my local supermarket has three aisles of cheese, in all price ranges from $1 camembert (yes, you read that right) to $40/lb specialties. I just had to sneak in some photos to share with you. More cheesy goodness in my next blog post, I promise.
Enough about me, let’s get to the wines!!!
Last week I had dinner at the Colombo household, and a friend of theirs had brought 4 wines for a blind tasting during dinner. We tried the wines 2 at a time. The first one was a ’96 St. Saphorin Chasselas Chenin Blanc; the 2nd was a ’96 Aigle Blanc Vouvray. The 3rd wine was badly oxidized, so it was quickly dumped, and the 4th was a chilled red which was brought out already in the glasses. Laure Colombo immediately said that it was a Pinot Noir, just by the nose, and I identified it as Alsatian. I’ve used a couple for my “Pinot from around the World” seminars in the past, although I didn’t serve it chilled. It was a ’93 Domaine Marcel Deiss Pinot from Burlenburg. This producer is well-regarded, and I enjoyed the wine, but found it less complex than the Aigle Vouvray, even as it warmed up. The Pinot was light-bodied with notes of cherry and strawberry, some dusty tannins and medium finish. Bring on the cheese course! I preferred the Pinot with the Comté, but then, Comté seems to go with just about anything. I could see this Pinot going well with a lightly-herbed Cornish game hen.
I lingered over the ’96 Vouvray (also from Chenin Blanc grapes), and was allowed to take home the last 1/3 bottle to try again the next day. My immediate impression was of chalk dust and yuzu peel (a mild Japanese citrus fruit) on the nose, with some Gala apple warmed in butter and a hint of brown sugar on the palate. The finish lingered very long, with enough acidity to balance the creaminess of a good cheese. It had a lovely, buttery golden color. At the dinner, I enjoyed it best with the aged St. Nectaire, a lovely semi-firm washed rind cow’s milk cheese from Auvergne. The cheese is nutty and rich, with a taste reminiscent of cognac. For an over-the-top recipe using the St. Nectaire, try it in a créme brûlée! The next day, I added toasted brioche to my notes on the nose of the wine, and confirmed the wine & cheese pairing at home. The producer was Prince Poniatowski, a descendant of the royal family of Poland. The Vouvray vineyards are on the north bank of the Loire River. The classic pairing with Vouvray is seafood, but I’d love to try it with Kelly Hobson’s fig & chèvre puff pastry squares.
I haven’t had the chance to taste many dry white wines with significant bottle age, and I’m excited to explore this new direction. I’m not sure where I’ll find them, but stay tuned! Not all whites will hold up to serious aging, and drinking them fresh and young has been my M.O. for several years, but I am nothing if not flexible and open to new experiences.
More to come soon!