France: Flaweless Wine Pairings for Any Dinner
Loire, Bordeaux & Champagne
French wine can pair with CUISINE from anywhere but “what grows together goes together”
Although I’m just beginning my journey as an official Sommelier (having passed Level 1 with the Court of Masters’ Sommeliers), my 20 years in restaurants provided lots of opportunities from some of the great experts to learn about how to pair wine and food.
Denise Barker, my Beverage Director at White Street, taught me “What grows together, goes together.”, a truth she no doubt learned at CMS and WSET (the leading schools for Professional Sommeliers) and which was proven correct in her many journeys around the globe, dining and wining tastefully. Master Chef Floyd Cardoz taught me that spicy food pairs well with sweeter, fruitier wine with high acidity, like Riesling. Executive Sushi Chef Shige of BONDST taught me that the Japanese do not drink sake (rice wine) with sushi (fish with rice) because that is “too much rice.” He would instruct:
I had a VIP “regular”, Ed, who was an esteemed wine collector. The wines he would bring in would literally take Denise’s breath away.
Ed often entertained large groups and would call me to discuss the menu in advance. From him I learned what NOT to pair with wine.
Currently, I host a wine-tasting group in my home. Every Monday. we gather to study a wine-growing region and I prepare food from that region OR I prepare a famous pairing known to go well with a grape specific to a region.
First, we journeyed to Loire Valley in France—famous for goat cheese, Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc) and Sancerre Rouge (Pinot Noir). I sought out some stellar goat cheese from the region‚ and yes, it paired marvelously.
[Inserting qualifier here: Sommelier’s often remark how terrible cheese is for wine. “It coats your pallet! How can you possibly taste wine after all that fat is in your mouth!”]
I BELIEVE in balance and think that a fatty goat cheese could not be a better complement to the beautiful grassiness of Sancerre. It may not be perfect, but it is FLAWELESS!!
I made duck breast with a Sancerre Rouge Jus, asparagus (sorry Ed), Pan-Fried Boston Mackerel and an Apple Tart Tatin. #mindswereblown
Next, we moved to Bordeaux, France; arguably the most iconic wine region of the world. A regal place like Bordeaux needed a meal fit for a Châteaux. Famous for its Cabernets (left bank) and Merlots (right bank), I decided to make Entrecôte à la Bordelaise as well as a medley of roasted vegetables, especially bell peppers (bell peppers are associated with the flavors found in Bordeaux red wine). In addition, I would have been remiss not to serve some fois gras-an impeccable pairing with Sauternes, a mind-blowing dessert wine made from mostly Sémillon grapes in the Graves region of Bordeaux. And for dessert, a chocolate tart - a Flaweless pairing with red wine from any region!
We all felt a bit stuffy after such a fancy evening and the group decided that next week, we would journey to Champagne. Yes, Champagne can be “stuffy” too—but there is no better wine with food, and the food most famous to pair with Champagne is Fried Chicken and French fries! I’ve heard about this pairing my entire career and never had I tried it. I had also never made fried chicken, so I was extra excited to get started!