Pairing Bordeaux Wines With Food
Bordeaux: the very name evokes images of grand chateaux, wealth, decadence and luxury. For most of us, it also means a bottle of wine that will easily cost more than your entire meal. So when you’re splashing out that much, don’t you want to make sure that your wine actually pairs well with what you’re eating?
At a recent Bordeaux Masterclass Series at The Press Room led by wine director Kavita Faeilla, we learned just how to do that. Faeilla is a wonderful storyteller who seems to have missed her calling as a university lecturer who managed to unravel many of the mysteries and enigma surrounding Bordeaux (How can Bordeaux wines be so expensive when they produce in such mass quantity? Why is it the most popular and emulated wine producing region in the world?), but she also introduced us to a few extremely drinkable Bordeaux wines that won’t break the bank, along with stories about what she calls the “Dynasty-esque family histories” of various chateaux, including how a chateau in the middle of Bordeaux came to resemble a maharaja's palace (pictured below).
To start, we indulge with a seafood platter, one of the dishes that The Press Room does best. Filled with cooked shrimps, oysters, snails and salmon, the platter is paired with a white Bordeaux, a 2009 La Goulée by Cos D’Estournel (HK$670 per bottle). Most white wines from Bordeaux that we drink are from the south, but this one is unusual in that it is from the north, in Medoc. A Second Growth from St-Estephe, the wine is traditionally enjoyed with seafood and we can see why: while it is light enough to complement the sweet oysters, it also had enough body to handle the stronger flavour elements, such as the shrimp brains and cured salmon. The seafood actually enhances the wine, bringing out its chalkier elements.
Next, we move onto the much-anticipated red wines. The 2004 Chateau La Tour Haut-Brion (HK$1,300) is actually a discontinued wine, as the owners felt that it will always play second fiddle to La Mission Haut-Brion. It was discontinued after the 2005 vintage and the grapes that went into it are now used for La Mission Haut Brion. From Pessac-Léognan, it is an easy wine to drink with or without food. The Press Room paired it with a duck confit salad with lentils, along with a crostini covered with anchovy paste. It is a good pairing as it demonstrates the versatility of the wine: it brings extra sweetness to the gaminess of the duck, and it is not overpowered by the strong anchovy. Another option for food pairing is with earthy vegetables, such as a beetroot carpaccio.
Bordeaux is known as a famous meat-eating region and as such, our meal included not one, but two meat courses. The first is a lamb from Pauillac, the same region where our 2002 Chateau Pontet-Canet (HK$1,430) is from. While it is a Fifth Growth, Faiella believes that it is one that wine-lovers are watching as it is one that punches consistently above its class. It is a biodynamic wine, and she believes that it is due to the constant attention to detail that is involved in creating a biodynamic wine that has led to such consistently good vintages from this chateau. Full-bodied and full of minerality, this is very much a food-friendly wine. The lamb comes with roasted garlic, aubergine puree, and a herb salad consisting of full (rather than shredded) pieces of parsley and basil. We liked the bold use of these herbs, as they lent a bright green note and an interesting spice to the wine.
For our final savoury course, it is the classic entrecote Bordelaise: a prime striploin with bone marrow sauce, served with potato dauphinois. The wine matched with the course is the first one from the Right Bank, and it is mainly made with merlot grapes, rather than cabernet sauvignon. As such, the wine is much more fruity and open than the previous one, which enlivens what is a delicious but unquestionably stodgy dish.
Finally, for dessert, we are served canelés, a pastry with a thick, caramelised crust that originates from Bordeaux. To go along with it, we are served a 2006 Chateau Closiot, from Barsac (HK$970). While Barsac is technically not in Sauternes, through a sneaky loophope, it is allowed to be labelled as coming from the much more prestigious appellation of Sauternes. The sweet wine is fairly typical of its genre, honeyed and slightly thick on the palate.
It is a good match with the vanilla cream custard, which does not compete with the wine for sweetness, as well as the drops of passion fruit, which lends tartness. The canelés themselves give the dish a delightfully crunchy texture. If it’s tartness you’re after, then another pairing that would work well with this dessert wine is a lemon meringue tart (pictured below).