Slightly bruised from the strains of excess foie gras and grand crus, I am nonetheless feeling inspired and happy following a glorious two days in Alsace as a guest of Domaines Schlumberger. Indeed in spite of the urgent need to catch up with my work, I feel compelled to share some of the highlights with you. So here we go…
We were a small group of independents and the insatiable, unstoppable Mr. Mark Bingley, Master of Wine, a man who is perhaps best known for his Louis Roederer and Domaine Faiveley brands, but who also heads up the UK operation for Domaines Schlumberger. Being based in the south of the region we flew into Basel and the winery was a short drive from there. We were welcomed by Severine Schlumberger and her father Eric who had a picnic waiting for us: a plate of cold meats, pates and cheeses with the dash of red cabbage and gherkin which made it so very Alsace; this was obligingly swilled down with the Les Princes Abbes Pinot Gris 2009, a generous mouthful of dried fruit-stone fruit and hint of orange peel which coped admirably with the range of savoury and sour flavours on the plate.
Yet it is the grand crus for which Domaines Schlumberger is so famous, of course, and it was to these vineyards we drove after lunch, the Defender having spiralled its way up the precipice of the nearby steep hillside – finally to the Kitterle vineyard itself, the flagship. Here there was a wind which seemed to come from nowhere, apparently ever present here, a component of the grand cru`s terroir; the volcanic, sandy soil and granite rock also components; the steep terraces and closely planted vines, the protective hilltop behind us overlooking the vineyard, with its sheer ridges and man-made stone walls, the rain water which flows from them to further water the vines, the abundance of sunshine, bright enough for sun glasses that October afternoon; even the Vosges mountains and Black Forest beyond on the horizon, all components in the finished wine, unique to this vineyard, distinct from its neighbours and fellow grand crus. This, its own personality, we were to witness that first evening at the Hotel du Lac, at dinner, again at a tasting in their cellar room next morning and yet again during the gourmet lunch at Koenig a l`Arbre Vert in Berrwiller, next day. By comparison there were the other grand crus with their own individual personalities and Les Princes Abbes range, like shadows of the grand crus, reminiscent without being so multi-dimensional, in themselves delightful wines and fine examples of the region, characteristically “Alsace”.
The three grand crus single grape varieties are Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. Here at Kitterle the biggest and ripest. The Riesling 2005, powerful and dry, fleshy and ripe with slatey minerality and ripe, juicy lime, wonderful with the fish stew I had at Koenig`s. Compare with the Riesling Grand Cru Saering 2007 which is leaner, more vibrant. The Pinot Gris Grand Cru Kitterle 2007 unctuous with depth, richness and spice, yet with a restraint and honed quality which gave even more satisfaction (second glass) than the Pinot Gris Grand Cru Spiegel 2007 – this wine was more blousy, brazen and scented, like honeysuckle, absolutely gorgeous but for me overly rich without the necessary restraint I would personally need to enjoy more than a glass or two (though I have a feeling I managed it!). Finally, the Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Kitterle 2005, massive and ripe-tasting, yet complex and harmonious, the perfect wine with the local Munster cheese. By comparison the Kessler 2005, a small step down in weight and ripeness, but still the rose petal scent and richness which personifies the grape Gewurztraminer; still wondrous.
The only Schlumberger red, the Pinot Noir, was lovely with the veal at Hotel du Lac. Quite lean, it was nonetheless sufficiently fleshy and interesting with a savoury quality. I liked it. But outside of the grand crus my top marks go to the sweet wines: Gewurztraminer Cuvee Christine Vendanges Tardives 2006 and Gewurztraimer Cuvee Anne Selection de Grains Nobles 2007. The latter sweeter with noble rot characteristics (we witnessed the the tedious sorting of the botrytis-effected grapes destined for the 2011 vintage!), while the Vendanges Tardive was more characteristically Gewurztraminer. Both superb.
Incidentally – the best of the Les Princes Abbes range was, in my opinion, the Riesling 2008. I believe Severine mentioned this was a grand cru wine declassified, which would explain it, certainly it was fresh and limey and made for an excellent aperitif. Apparently Schlumberger will only declare grand cru status in fine years, a sign of their commitment to the grand cru status and high quality of their grand cru wines.
Our thanks to Mark Bingley and the Schlumberger family for a memorable few days in paradise.
Jamie Montgomery makes a farmhouse Cheddar using milk from his pedigree Jersey herd. The taste is rich and creamy with a tangy note and grassy aromas offset by a fruity mellow rich taste. The mouth slightly puckers as the full flavor registers and then lingers on the tongue, a sign of a good, mature cheddar. The texture is quite crumbly. A traditional classic yellow cheese. Wine match: For different taste sensations try a robust, fruity red such as Rhone, Zinfandel or Malbec, or a Macon or Rully white burgundy.
A Welsh hard cheese. The chalky soil where the cattle graze gives the Poacher a distinctive savoury character and acidity, but there is also a richness from the Holstein breed milk which gives a sweet mellow note. These innate characteristics come together during the cheese`s eighteen months aging, developing a harmonious cheddar with depth of flavour, while also acquiring its deep yellow colour and natural rind. Wine match: As Montgomery.
Wensleydale & Cranberries
Made from local cow`s milk which graze on the sweet limestone meadows of the Yorkshire dale, Wensleydale combined with sweet Cranberries is a sweet, succulent and very fruity cheese requiring a light fruity wine, white or red. An original creation from The Wensleydale Creamery. Wine match: German Spatlese or light sweet Muscat, for red, try Beaujolais, NZ Gamay or Pinot Noir.
Suitable for vegetarians.
The name of the cheese does not actually identify its provenance. Originating in Scotland in the 1970’s it was soon transferred to Leicestershire. The name was derived from the colour of its orange paste. Similar in style to Stilton but milder with a sharp, metallic edge coming from the blue. A natural rind, produced from pasteurized cow`s milk. Wine match: For different taste sensations try either an aromatic Alsace dry white, a golden sweet wine or port.
Brie De Meaux
France, Ile De France
Soft velvety texture with a tender bloomy rind. Rich golden cheese with an earthy, cabbagey character contrasting with the texture of the crust. The ideal condition to enjoy this cheese is with the centre of it ripe but slightly firm and the edges melting. Wine match: White burgundy (Rully) or other Chardonnays, or Gruner-Veltliner from Austria. Vintage Champagne is also delicious. For reds, southern French reds are traditional but red burgundy better, the older the better.
Plump cream coloured cheese dipped in Eau de Vie and sprinkled with pepper, then wrapped in chestnut leaves. Cheese becomes more pronounced and stronger with age and develops a melting rich paté. Its natural rind is golden with patches of blue. Wine match: Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume or any Sauvignon Blanc dry white. A rich Vouvray or Chenin Blanc offers another fabulous taste experience.
Famous round burgundy cheese with a soft orange-tinted interior and a distinctive apricot-coloured wrinkled rind washed with brine and Marc. When ripe its creamy aromatic interior develops into a melting pot of the most gorgeous viscous liquid cheese, its inimitable flavor quite strong-tasting with a salty piquancy which is divine with the wines from the area. A fabulous treat. Wine match: red or white burgundy always a classic, but also try the sweet, dark wine Myriad for an alternative, explosive combination.
Heart shaped white cheese, creamy and crumbly with earthy-mushroom aromas and a nutty flavour which has a distinctive salty tang. Its rind has a soft, downy, velvety bloom. The gentle rolling countryside around Forges-les-Eaux is the best area to find these cheeses. Wine match: red Sancerre or any Pinot Noir; a good white Sancerre or Touraine would work in a different way, as would a golden sweet (to contrast with the salty tang).
Distinctive fantastically good value, individual blue cheese. Capsule shaped, patched grey/white moulds on a natural thin crust. The texture is rich and mellow and the flavor a mild nutty blue, making it a perfect partner for fine wines as the taste is not overly aggressive. Wine match: golden sweet wine or port, but also aromatic Alsace dry wine.
Semi-soft cheese with a firm golden orange washed gently ridged crust bound with five strips of raffia, giving it its nickname “The Colonel”. Supple, springy texture with scattered pinholes, pungent aroma and rather spicy. Wine match: dry white Alsace Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer, alternatively a bold Chardonnay. Traditionally cider or Calvados.
France, Haut Doubs
Semi-soft smooth textured cheese with pale gold/beige washed and brushed crust and pale ivory-yellow interior paté. Notably there is also a layer of blue/black edible ash and vegetable extract across its centre to separate the morning and evening milks used in the layers. The taste is mild with a fresh nutty flavour, becoming richer and more pronounced with age. Wine match: Macon white burgundy, New World Unoaked Chardonnay or Gruner-Veltliner from Austria, alternatively Fleurie for red or J. Lohr Wildflower.
Soft, supple textured cheese with a washed ridged crust with a delicate bloom, which is a pretty pinky-beige colour. The cheese itself is cream. Chewy, quite tender texture, with an aromatic almost earthy aroma. A full taste enhanced by washing in a local cider. Made by a single cheesemaker on the farm using milk from their own herd. Wine match: Macon or Saint Veran White Burgundy or New World Unoaked Chardonnay, or red burgundy / Pinot Noir.
Vacherin du Mont d’Or
The season for this traditional handmade cheese is short, October until March. Superb cheese with a meltingly rich flavor which verges on clotted cream. The billowy crust is washed pinky peach with an earthy sappy aroma, the interior beige-pinky cream. The bark around the cheese helps to achieve its texture and perfume. Wine match: this rare, seasonal treat would be ideally partnered with our Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Champagne, white burgundy, Alsace or Gruner-Veltliner. For red try Fleurie or Wildflower.
Mozzarella di Bufala
The fresh delicate alabaster appearance of this cheese almost looks translucent. The milk from white water Buffalo has a mossy damp aroma which tastes light and savoury with sweet hints. The area around Salerno is very marshy which is eminently suitable for these animal and the taste of pure Buffalo milk from here is quite unlike any other Mozzarella. Handmade from a small dairy near Sorrento using pasteurized milk from their own herd. Serve with tomato & avocado (too good for cooking). Wine match: NZ Sauvignon Blanc or Beaujolais.
Italy, Reggio Emilia (Parmesan)
Fine parmesan cheeses from pasteurized skimmed cow`s milk, this cheese has undergone long & slow maturation having developed a yellow colour and distinctive, creamy parmisan flavor. The crust is brine washed. Only cheeses with the Consorzio markings are the true Parmigiano aged 3 years+. Serve heavily grated on tomato-based pasta dishes or homemade pizza. Wine match: Chianti, Super Tuscan, Amarone. If you prefer white, a good Sauvignon Blanc will work with the tomato without clashing with the cheese.
A fine version of Taleggio, thicker and creamier than many, this one from the hills around Bergamo. The texture has a rich, melting quality that is not too salty, but has a lovely sappy floral flavour. It is cream with a washed rind. Wine match: favourite Italian white such as Vermentino or Trebbiano, or even a golden sweet wine. Traditionally, however, its match is Chianti, Barbaresco or Barolo.
Spain, La Mancha
This pasteurized sheep`s cheese has been aged at least 18 months and the texture becomes grittier, the flavour fruiter and the colour slightly darker with age, white to ivory to near yellow. The rind is yellow to brown-beige (oiled) and inedible. A unique flavour and texture: its flavour creamy with a slight piquancy and an aftertaste characteristic of sheep`s milk; the texture firm and compact, slightly grainy with irregular air pockets. Wine match: Rioja red or white (in Spain they often partner with Cava, Fino or Amontillado).
Cropwell Bishop Stilton
Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire
Blue cheese, pasteurized, well-aged, crumbly yet creamy with a rich, long flavor. A truly delicious stilton produced by the Cropwell Bishop Creamy on the border of Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. Wine Match: Traditionally we enjoy port with Stilton, vintage or LBV, but Tawny also goes well. If served with pear try a sweet golden wine such as Vouvray.
South West France
Classic South West Ewes`s milk Blue with a salty, tangy flavor. Ours is an excellent example. Wine Match: Traditionally Sauternes, the golden sweet wine from Bordeaux, but also Monbazillac or Loupiac golden sweet wines. The salt and sweet contrasts make for an explosive taste sensation. Tawny port also works well.
Made not unlike cheddar from cow`s milk(in Leicester), orange in colour since the 18th century by the addition of annatto extract (from the red seeds of the achiote tree grown in the sub tropical regions of the Americas). The flavor is slightly nutty without the tang of mature cheddar and the texture is more crumbly than cheddar. Wine Match: Alsace Pinot Blanc or Gris, or a Chardonnay for white, a fruity Shiraz or Pinot Noir for red.
Godminster king of cheddars, sealed in a distinctive food-grade burgundy wax keeping the cheese fresher and creamier for longer. This organic cheddar is less crumbly than traditional farmhouse cheddars, creamy in both taste and texture, matured for over twelve months to allow its tangy, yet smooth, taste to develop. Serve with fresh green apples, crunchy oatcakes and either quince or chilli jam. Or simply on its own. Wine match: Zinfandel or Malbec for red or white burgundy for white.d Zinfandel or Malbec or other ripe-tasting, full-bodied red. Alternatively white burgundy or dry white Alsace Pinot Gris. (Somerset Cider might be even better if you are on holiday there!).
Creamy blue-veined cheese from cow`s milk, produced by Baron Robert Pouget of the Oxford Cheese Company in Worminghall, Bucks. Creamier than Stilton, semi-soft and ripe with a unique flavor said to hint of “dark chocolate, white wine and tarragon”! Develops a striking grey rind. Wine Match: Aromatic Alsace Riesling or sweet golden wine, alternatively ruby or tawny port as per Stilton.
Mould-ripened Goats cheese with a fresh, light and creamy taste, almost lemon-like, becoming creamier as it ripens. Gevrik, produced by Coombe Castle International in Cornwall, is Cornish for “little goat”. Wine Match: Sauvignon Blanc or Baccus English dry white.
A distinctive golden colur with a grey rind, this creamy lightly blue-veined cheese is from Guernsey cow`s milk pasteurised with vegetarian rennet. Soft and luxurious, it is made on a farm just north of Needham Market. Ideal with apple and oatcakes. Wine Match: Aromatic Alsace Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc or Bacchus dry white wine, alternatively a sweet golden wine, ruby or tawny port.
South West France, Perigord
Produced from cow`s milk in the Dordogne, made in traditional Trappiste style. It is a soft, creamy coloured pale cheese with a rich, nutty flavour and a smooth, creamy & quite rubbery texture. Its smelly old sock aroma comes from the cheese`s bright tangerine-orange soft rind. The rind appears after several washings of the crust. Maturation of the Chaumes takes four weeks. Can be grilled and/or used to flavour a delicious quiche. Wine match: Viognier or Sauvignon Blanc.
English goats cheese produced from pasterised milk. Deliciously creamy and moist, fluffy texture. Produced on the Hampshire Wiltshire border. Serve with biscuits or chunks of warm crusty bread. Wine Match: Aromatic Alsace Riesling or NZ Sauvignon Blanc. Same wine with the delicious garlic and herb version.
Sheep and Goats cheese, pleasantly soft and creamy with a distinctive yet mild sour, salty tang and chalky, crumbly texture. Almost like set yoghurt. Ideal for salads. Wine Match: Sauvignon Blanc or Baccus English dry white, for red Beaujolais or Pinot Noir.
Cow`s milk from Wales. Rich, tangy cheddar hard cheese with a creamy richness, one of the best value on the market. Wine match: NZ Sauvignon Blanc or a fruity low tannin red like Fleurie or Wildflower.
Also available: Red Devil with Chilli
Green Thunder with garlic and garden herbs
(with Sauvignon Blanc)
A French goats‘-milk cheese made in the commune of Selles-sur-Cher in the Loir-et-Cher department where it was first made in the 19th century. The cheese is cylindrical. The central pâte is typical of goats cheese, rigid and heavy at first but moist and softening as it melts in the mouth. Its taste is lightly salty. The exterior is dry with a grey-blue mould covering its surface and has a musty odour. The mould is often eaten and has a considerably stronger flavour. Wine match SauvignonBlanc:Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume.
Award winning English goats cheese produced at Chapel Farm in the village of Cerney. It is ash coated, the ash imported from France, pyramid shaped with a soft white curd centre, deliciously creamy. Its particular taste is in part derived from the mixing of salt in with the ash. Wine match: Bacchus dry white or Sauvignon Blanc. Our Sancerre works superbly well.
Goats cheese with a mildly tangy, nutty character. Its white rind takes on a slight bluish colour with age, the dough becomes crumbly and the flavours stronger. Wine Match: Sauvignon Blanc, especially Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume.
Grey de Vosges
France, Alsace Lorraine
Oval shaped creamy pink-orange wash rind from cows milk with trademark fern leaf on top. Washed and flavoured with kirsch from the local cherry trees, the texture is slightly grainy from the salt crystals and the paste is soft and oozy with a strong, distinctive aroma. Wine match: Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc or Riesling. Perhaps a Kirsch?
England, Greenacres Farm (E.Sussex)
Our favourite goats cheese in the shape of a log. Soft, mould ripened and made with unpasteurised milk & vegetarian rennet. Each log is lightly charcoaled and becomes denser, creamier and fuller flavoured as it matures. Try with honey. FLOWER MARIE is our square shaped sheeps milk cheese made in individual and cutting sizes. It is firm and fresh tasting when young developing more intense flavours as it softens with maturity. Wine match for both: Bacchus English white wine or Sauvignon Blanc.
Strong smelling 18th century cows milk cheese from the Champagne region, slightly hollowed on the top so you can pour champagne in it. The rind is washed in Marc de Champagne and coloured with Annatto tree orange pigment. Its interior a firm pate which melts in the mouth, not entirely unlike epoisses.Wine match: Swilled down with Champagne is the only way to eat this cheese! (though for flavour and texture also white or red burgundy)
Pyramid shaped aged goats cheese rolled in wood ash with a white interior. Fresh and almost minty when young, the interior becomes aromatic and gooey by the time it reaches us, fully mature. Wine Match: Champagne would not be wrong but truthfully Sauvignon Blanc continues to be our preference with goats milk cheese, especially Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume.
Cows milk white cheese, soft and creamy with mushroom aromas and quite a delicious, verging on sharp, flavour. Indeed, when eaten with its rind it is almost bitter. As the cheese ages its grainy texture becomes smoother, enjoyable young and mature. Wine match: Champagne would be classic due to its origin, preferably blanc de blancs. Or burgundy (white or red).
“First thing to consider when choosing a wine is the flavour and weight intensity of the food, including any sauces, spices or herbs which may or may not dominate the dish…”
There is no question, the enjoyment of wine can be enhanced by matching wine and food that work together, and equally a good match will bring out the best in the food. It is fun to experiment but there are some tried and tested theories it is as well to know. Here we explore them, but it is as well to state from the start that wine and food “matching” can, and often does, equal “contrasting”, for example in the case of Sauternes and Roquefort cheese where the sweetness of the Sauternes contrasts magnificently with the salt in the Roquefort. If you can`t be bothered with understanding the whys and why nots we are happy to provide benchmark examples or to make specific recommendations. If you give us not just your menu but the cooking and sauce detail as well, we will draw on our collective experiences here and second guess the best possible match. All we ask in return is you let us know if our guess was right, so we can be absolutely 100% sure next time and pass the knowledge on!
Rule of thumb: there is rarely one right match. Usually there is a favourite and even a benchmark wine to go with any dish or food type, but alternative choices can still work well and this is where experimentation is fun, provided you avoid an outright clash. Take cheddar: You might choose a fruity red Zinfandel or a white burgundy with Godminster, or a Sauvignon Blanc with young Wensleydale, each providing a different taste sensation which will add not detract from both wine and cheese. In the case of Wensleydale its coating effect on the palate, like a goats cheese, makes the more acidic Sauvignon Blanc the better match.
An oily smoked fish will be evenly matched by a rich wine, one with texture, flavour and aromatics. It is why smoked salmon is text book with Gewurztraminer. However, add dill-sauce and a powerful, acidic Sauvignon Blanc such as Pouilly-Fume will fair better, as would Champagne, matching the acidity of the sauce while cutting through the oils, for an all together different taste experience. A rich white fish, especially an expensive fish, will be better with a barrel-fermented Chardonnay, acting as a velvet backdrop, giving full expression to the delicate yet deceptively rich flavours of the fish; or a fine Pinot Noir with Red Mullet in red wine sauce. There again for a spicy Thai fish cake the Gewurztraminer would once again be my first choice, the aromatics and spices in the wine matching those of the dish and the bold ripeness of the wine further enhanced by the addition of a sweet chilli sauce. You might think a rich Chardonnay would do as well, but not so. I once made the mistake (at The Ivy, no less) and the two together were overwhelmingly rich and really quite sickly. Of course, an un-oaked Chardonnay might have been different. We had an oaky Australian Chardonnay, the sweet-vanilla oak in the wine we chose being the proverbial straw that broke the camel`s back. Even a fresh white burgundy, being of a cooler climate and higher in acidity, may have provided a better outcome. I think at the time we were trying to “go with the richness” “to equal it” but in fact, as we now know, we took it too far. The next time, at home, we sliced through the richness of the Thai cake neatly with an NZ Sauvignon Blanc: the perfect contrast and match if you can`t be doing with the exotic character of Gewurztraminer!
For shellfish I might well recommend a Sauvignon Blanc, particularly one with good minerality, but the classics are, of course, Champagne, Chablis and Muscadet Sur Lie, wines with good minerality and/or yeast character which match with the particular salty mineral flavour and richness of shellfish. Alternatives, to name a few, Picpoul de Pinet (France), Verdejo (Spain), and good Soave (Italy). If matching with crab or lobster you might choose instead a good Viognier, for example Condrieu, to match their richness, or a rose champagne. And with scallops: Champagne, good white burgundy or my favourite, Vouvray demi-sec.
Incidentally with sushi Champagne is delicious, but so also is a fine dry or off-dry Riesling.
Lamb is a fatty meat which works well with Pinot Noir, claret (especially Medoc) or Rioja, depending on the sauce and the herb flavouring (see section Herbs) but also your personal preference. Pinot Noir is the lightest. Alternatively you might try Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, or a Bordeaux blend, from the New World. Pork is fatty like lamb so the same wines might well apply, but being a white meat possibly served with apple sauce I would choose a low-tannin fruity red such as Beaujolais or a fruity white wine like Chenin Blanc. Actually these wines work well enough for roast chicken and turkey as well, though bronze chickens can cope with a little more weight in much the same way as lamb. Goose is a fatty meat which is often matched with Riesling for an alternative taste sensation, the naturally high acidity and lime flavour cutting nicely through the fat. Ham or gammon are good with Riesling also, the natural sweet note of Riesling contrasting pleasantly with the salt in the meat. Getting back to red meats, duck and game can work extremely well with Pinot Noir, especially a rich Burgundy, but a mature Zinfandel or a flavourful Malbec can be lovely as well, especially if there is a fruit sauce. With venison you might pair with a powerful, savoury red such as France`s Bandol. Beef is our favourite red meat, for which the same meats as lamb can apply but you can also enjoy richer flavours. If choosing a fine claret, you can step up a notch in weight and spice to Pomerol. If your preference is Pinot Noir, ask your merchant for a rich, savoury bottle. And if it is a fine steak you are having, I would recommend a good Chianti Classico or a full-bodied Syrah. However, if you like your steaks blood-rare, probably best to avoid excess tannin so Burgundy or a mature red.
Spices & herbs
Spices and herbs can also play a significant role in the flavour profile of a wide range of dishes, often sufficient enough to consider when choosing a matching wine. Rosemary with lamb lends itself to Pinot Noir or even Gamay (example Fleurie) rather than the other lamb classic, claret. I have mentioned dill, dry acidic wines, likewise basil. With coriander and/or parsley Riesling or Chenin Blanc, likewise lemongrass though also Gewurtztraminer and Pinot Gris. Thyme and/or mint, with lamb, claret or Rioja; mint otherwise with Sauvignon Blanc. Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris have perhaps had more than their fair share of references, but where spices are concerned it is hard not to think of them first. Ginger is often a flavour component of these wines so it is not surprising that cardamom and tumeric spices work well and curries generally (dry Muscat another one). Riesling and Chenin Blanc (especially Vouvray) are not generally so exotic but nonetheless make good partners with Asian food, thanks to their ample acidity coupled with sweetness.
Salty dishes require a wine with a little sweetness, the more salty the dish, the sweeter the wine. The ultimate aforementioned, Roquefort cheese with sweet Sauternes. And of course stilton with port. Two obvious exceptions are Fino and Manzanilla dry sherries served as aperitifs with salted nuts, smoked almonds or anchovy-olives. These nervy, challenging combinations can be invigorating and most appetising. Reds by contrast are mostly all disastrous with salt, unless they have zero tannin and plenty of sweet fruit.
Sweet dishes require sweet wines which are sweeter than the dish. There are all sorts and an endless number of fantastic combinations. Christmas pudding, for example, may be enjoyed with dark sweet wines, Black Muscat, Maury or Banyuls, red wines which have been fortified with spirit to preserve their natural sweetness. I think of this match as a merging of flavour, weight and texture, because they are similarly dark and rich. By contrast, a light golden Muscat serves well as a foil, a light and refreshing sweet drink to contrast neatly with the pudding [two different approaches for alternative taste experiences]. I have found my favourite almond tart works best with sweet Semillon or the Sauternes blend of Semillon and Sauvignon, alternatively Vin Santo, tried and tested in Italy with biscotti. Apricot brioche with Orange Muscat, baked pear with sweet Vouvray. This last one is a sore point: I took a bottle of sweet Vouvray to a friend`s house having been told poached pear was on the menu. It was duly served and it turned out the pear had a sweet biscuit base with caramel, sweeter than the wine. The wine appeared thin and sharp and was a total wash out. Lesson: beware the sauce! Incidentally one idea to ensure the sauce is a match: serve vanilla ice cream and chocolate cake then pour Pedro Ximenez over both cake and ice cream to serve alongside a small glass of the same delicious, dark, treakly PX! If you think that`s weird, did you know red wines such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon can work with chocolate dishes? An interesting choice and I have enjoyed the combination, though my preference is a sweet red such as Maury. With fruit salads and fruit tarts generally we will serve a golden Muscat but a late harvest Riesling works really well for lemon or citrus tarts and a late harvest Gewurztraminer can be fantastic in a fruit salad with lychees. Creme Brulee is a difficult one – its creamy sweetness requiring low acid intensely sweet wines such as Sauternes or Muscat de Beaumes de Venise.
Sweet wine with Cheese
Personally my favourite match for sweet wine is cheese. I have mentioned the big two, Roquefort with Sauternes and Stilton with port, well try either of these with a slice of pear and a glass of sweet Vouvray! Indeed, try any blue with any sweet wine and the contrast is sure to be explosive. Some other tried and tested examples include our Myriad sweet red with Epoisses, Monbazillac with Coeur Neufchatel, Loupiac with Montgomery or Lincolnshire Poacher, Vouvray or Riesling with Banon goats cheese. Goats cheese is a funny one because it can coat the palate, which is why its marriage in heaven is the acidic dry white wine Pouilly-Fume; but both Vouvray and Riesling have a good natural acidity so fair best among sweet wines. Sweet Alsace Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris score highly matched with aromatic, flavourful cheeses… but I prefer the dry versions because, for me, they are ripe enough.
Sauvignon Blanc is once again an automatic contender where citrus and tomato sauces play a significant part in a dish , acidity matched with acidity; though where white fish and lemon combine, better still a white burgundy (or for a simple white fish unoaked Chardonnay).
For red meat dishes with tomato sauces, such as meatballs on pasta, better a red with ample acidity such as Chianti (Sangiovese grape) or Valpolicella (Corvina grape), possibly a tasty Pinot Noir, Syrah or Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. Incidentally, if you must drink red with seafood – and with a good Bouillabaise this would be quite reasonable – then drink low tannin reds such as Pinot Noir or Beaujolais. Tannins in heavier reds taste metallic with seafood.
Creamy dishes are best served with fresh wines with some, but not too much richness, so for fish pie a Macon, Rully or NZ Chardonnay. With Carbonara could be the same, or a good Pinot Grigio (nothing overly rich). Viognier is a distinctive, perfumed alternative if you have some spice in the dish. Again Chardonnay when cream combines with cheese. With creamy mushroom soup an Amontillado sherry.
Food served simple
Just as sauces and spices can alter a choice of wine to match, equally there is the simply prepared food you would not want to spoil by overpowering it with an overly strong wine. For simple poached salmon, for instance, choose a light dry white wine such as Sauvignon. The same rule of thumb applies but choose the lighter option. Additionally, when opening a special mature bottle of claret or burgundy it may be the case you choose to make a simply prepared leg of lamb or beef to enjoy it with, so as not to obscure the subtleties of the great wine with an obtrusive sauce or spice.
Pates & terrines
Our fish pate has a good proportion of oily mackerel in it, so it is best enjoyed with a Sauvignon Blanc or similarly acidic dry white to cut through it and double as a palate cleanser. The Salmon pate is creamy so a better choice would be Chardonnay or for a change try Albarino or Pinot Blanc. Actually these last two wines would work well for vegetable pate as well, as would a light fruity red such as Marlborough Pinot Noir or Beaujolais-Villages. With meat pates you might step up to bigger and better fruity reds, good Australian Merlot or top Beaujolais crus, or NZ Pinot Noir from Central Otago or Martinborough instead of Marlborough. Incidentally we recently enjoyed a smooth liver pate from our local butcher on wholemeal bread with Turckheim Pinot Gris – the texture of the meat spread over the soft middle of the bread with its crunchy exterior was scrumptious in itself; washed down with the Pinot Gris (as opposed to a fruity red) it was heavenly. It goes to show that sticking with hard and fast theories on flavour can be a mistake: for me its as much a question of consistency, smooth or rough. I have since been advised that a sweet German Riesling Spatlese is another excellent partner with smooth meat pate, which makes perfect sense now, especially in light of the world`s most expensive pate: Foie Gras, controversial yet a classic with sweet wine as a starter, Sauternes, Alsace Vendange Tardive and Tokaji. Incidentally would be remiss of me not to mention Rose – of course there are a number of good pink wines about and the dry ones go well with pate, charcuterie and deli generally.
Wine and cheese is, of course, a world renowned pairing in heaven. I have attempted to match wines with our cheeses over the years and under the separate heading Cheese and Wine have listed a good many of them. More generally hard cheeses can work well with fruity red wines, goats cheeses with Sauvignon Blanc, blue cheeses with sweet wines, and soft cows milk cheeses with full-bodied whites such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. These last three would also be my choice when serving a platter with fruit.
Our favourite salad is Nicoise with tuna and our mixed olives thrown on top. It has a slightly salty edge to the flavour which works best with fruity red or rose wines, or, if you prefer white, a full-flavoured wine like Albarino. However, we would choose a Sauvignon Blanc with a simple green salad, and a Macon or other simple white burgundy with Caesar and chicken. When serving cold red meat with a salad side, a Fleurie or Pinot Noir is perfect, as is Charcuterie with salad, though our Valpolicella by Allegrini is superb with salami. When we combine red peppers and salad with barbecued meats we step up to Hawkes Bay NZ Syrah or Adelaide Hills Australian Shiraz. Another favourite in season: broad been salad with young Albarino. An Italian red wine vinaigrette on your salad could be a calling card for a young, acidic Italian red, likewise a white/green vinaigrette requires an acid white wine, Soave, Pinot Grigio or Gavi. Tomato in salad might yet direct you to Sauvignon Blanc.
As an introduction this is neither emphatic or complete as a guide, but it might be useful; it is not emphatic because this is not an exact science and it is not complete because the subject is endless. Indeed, it is limited in respect of my chosen wines because I have my favourites and draw largely from my own experiences. A better guide would be to take stock of the special dishes made regionally around the world and to see what the locals drink with those dishes. I have written an introduction to each country or region as listed on our home page under Wine List.
An introduction, and why we should be drinking more of it.
Sherry is one of the treasures of the wine world, but for a while now it has been woefully under appreciated. This “introduction to sherry” explains how the miracle of sherry and its myriad of styles come to fruition. Some of the finest examples are produced by the Valdespino and Barbadillo families, producers of the finest sherries since the 14th century. They represent some of the very best from the region and we are delighted to showcase them here. Such extraordinary aromas, flavours and textures, a unique line-up ranging from the very dry to the very sweet. We hope you enjoy them. Continue reading All About Sherry
We are delighted to offer 10% off all Riedel glasses and decanters for collections from The Wine Centre. Riedel glassware : proof the difference a glass can make!
We regret no deliveries of glassware.
Grape varieties influence a wine’s colour, aroma, flavour and style. The winemaker might shape the wine for his own purpose, and soil and climate will have their influences, but fundamentally the grape is the heart and soul of every wine and in learning about wine you will do well to focus first on the classics. Continue reading Grape varieties
Domaine Faiveley Tasting 28/29 October 2010
2009`s still in barrel
Erwan Faiveley has been in charge since 2005 and his leadership, together with that of CEO Bernard Hervet, has shaped the new look Faiveley wines since 2007. Investment in a new vertical hydraulic press has produced purer fruit, and new oak fermentation vats have added a softness to the red wines which make them more approachable when young. I loved traveling there, the best thing was when I was camping with my waterproof tent. Always expressive of both the grape and terroir, Faiveley reds are also now seductive in their youth and, in the new Faiveley style, pure of fruit, and ripe with good concentrations and textures. Whites also – pure of fruit, fine minerality and great acidities, giving them freshness, power and depth of flavour. The 2009`s, both reds and whites, are still in barrel at the point we tasted. It may be they close down a little once in bottle but they promise great potential!
Fresh style, vibrant yet supple mid-palate finishing with a terrific zip of acidity. (Great palate cleanser having tasted the reds first in the Burgundy way).
Rully “Les Villerages” 2008
Lovely nose, fresh and mineral, delicious saline minerality on the palate and ample fruits. Good medium length and acidity and a fairly long finish. Really like this.
Chablis 1er Cru “Fourchaume” 2008
Cool pebble nose, fresh with a trace of richness. On the palate ripe with power, packed with mineral, some citrus notes, flint, and most of all – great energy.
Chablis “Les Clos” Grand Cru 2008
Very stony nose and fine minerality on the nose leads to big, mineral-rich, steely mouthful – pure and bracing. Great intensity, lovely wine.
Stony, mineral-rich on the palate, more open than grand cru with a trace of sour cream. Lovely freshness & floral note.
Mercurey “Clos Rochette” 2009
Good medium richness, again fresh, citrus notes, a little tight still with signs of the tension I liked about the 2005. Could be very good.
Attractive nose, hint of biscuit; on the palate soaring acidities, a bracing energy, citrus and flint, a cracking wine, pure & long. Gorgeous.
Rounded, polished wine, quite fleshy, a hint of the tropical/citrus mix, but as yet not evolved. No obvious creaminess but could be that will develop with age.
Meursault 1er Cru “Charmes” 2007
Citrus, especially lemon and grapefruit, with a trace of smoke. Elegant style, still young, traces of butterscotch, peach and spice. Needs time to develop richness.
Meursault 1er Cru “Charmes” 2008
Fleshier than 07, ripe aromas of ginger, honey and spice. On the mid-palate ripe peach and pear with a citrus note, broader and richer than 07 and a long finish.
Meurault 07`s and 08`s both stylistically very different to the richer, fatter 05`s and 06`s we currently sell.
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “La Garenne” 2008
Another great energy wine, fine, racing acidities and an explosion of lemon sherbet.
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Folatieres” 2008
This Puligny is slightly less energetic but somehow more attractive than La Garenne. I like it. Aromatic, a floral-candy note, creamy and citrussy with fine minerality.
Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2008
Devonshire cream, rich, honey`ed nose, cracking, a highly focused, big, luscious, yet still quite tight mouthful of ripe fruits, peach and pear. And smoke again. Gorgeous well-honed wine with a lovely texture and long finish. Stunning. But young…
Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2008
Bold, smoky, oaky nose, exotic tropical fruit notes and spice. On the palate sumptuous, fairly soft, weighty, focused. Spicy, powerful with peach – and hazelnut. Great length of flavour. Fantastic wine.
Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2009
Wonderful nose: peach and apricot with floral, citrus notes. Big, rich, rounded. But tight. Powerful with high acidity. Some spices. An attractive, fleshy wine. Will probably express itself sooner than Batard, but won`t have the same depth.
Rully “Les Villeranges” 2008
Sweet, fruity nose. Yet this wine has a savoury note and is high in acidity. Interesting. Quite light yet masculine.
Has body and power, uplifting juicy wine, black and red fruits, cherry and raspberry. Refreshing, supple, feminine.
Mercurey 1er Cru “Clos du Roy” 2008
Ripe, sweet red fruits, medium weight, nice texture, soft, silky note, good intensity. Attractive.
Mercurey “La Framboisiere” 2009
Pretty wine, raspberry, strawberry and cherry with an earthy background on the nose, in the mouth rounded, fleshy with a sweet note, relatively low acidity and a touch of velvet. Very attractive wine. Like it a lot.
Mercurey 1er Cru “Clos des Myglands” (Monopole) 2009
Big aromas, ripe and sweet, dark cherry, red plums, some raspberry too and a touch of floral. Forward attractive fruits, supple, polished and like La Framboisiere already ready developed.
Volnay 1er Cru “Fremiets” 2008
Elegant, fine nose of red fruits, plum, violet and mineral, on palate seductive texture and long finish.
Pommard 1er Cru “Les Rugiens” 2008
Perfumed red, black and blue fruits, esp. dark cherries. Some oak background. On the palate quite dense, rich and full-bodied with ample fruit and structure, and pronounced mineral character and gamey note.
Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Damodes” 2008
Lovely: quite intense red fruits and a note of prune and coffee, medium bodied and silky smooth, good intensity, pleasant acidities, quite delicious.
Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Aux Chaignots” 2008
Charming N-S-G. Red fruits and violet /floral note, On the palate soft, yet quite intense, with attractive spice and silky fine tannins. Seductive texture.
Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru “La Combe d`Orveau” 2008
Gorgeous: scented red fruits and spice, fresh, mineral, with grip and a long finish.
Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Les Cazetiers” 2008
Love this: really good Gevrey, quite masculine and meaty with blackberry, game and coffee scents, great intensity and a background of fine tannins and mineral. A concentrated wine with good acidity which promises to be magnificent with age, yet is already approachable.
Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2008
Attractive, perfumed red fruits, on the palate plums and mixed berries, mostly red fruits, yet some lovely savoury notes too and a silky body. Quite earthy and voluptuous, the supporting tannins fine and length of flavour very good.
Echezeaux Grand Cru 2008
Powerful yet delicate and elegant, a complex wine which is sure to evolve into something special. A mixture of red and black fruits of which I like the dark masculine notes: earthiness, gamey character, herbs, spices and woody notes. Good acidity and fine tannins will assure a long life.
Latricieres-Chambertin Grand Cru 2008
Plenty on the nose: especially plum and mineral, then spice, coffee and liquorice, which follows through to velvety mixed fruits, especially cherries, on the palate, good intensity, fine mineral quality, and freshness. Attractive personality, while still reserved at this time, clearly a with great potential.
Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru 2008
Another great wine: complex animal nose, vegetal and earthy, with exotic spice. Rounded velvet mouthfeel with ripe fruits, plum, blackberry and blueberry, and liquorice. Great energy. Impressive length.
Chambertin “Clos de Beze” Grand Cru 2008
Star of the show: Gamey with red and dark fruits, in the mouth dense, dark, layered fruits, liquorice, spice, earth and gamey notes with fine tannins. High energy wine, dense and delicious.
Blagny 1er Cru “La Piece sous le Bois” 2009
Open style, in stark contrast to the Chambertin, young, fresh and floral, with pure red fruits. Some interesting mineral in the background and a fair grip in support of the generous fruits.
Beaune 1er Cru “Clos de l`Ecu” 2009
Plenty of red fruits, raspberries and cherries, with higher acidity than the Blagny. Good robust palate, for a Beaune.
Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Porets St Georges” 2009
Lovely nose, touch of animal, but mostly red fruits, followed by soft palate, red and dark fruits and mineral. Smooth texture, ripe and structured. Yet showing restraint, needing time to evolve.
Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “La Combe aux Moines” 2009
Lots of dark cherries and plums here – a powerful wine, superb tension and gamey, liquorice notes. I prefer the power of the Cazetiers, but this is just as masculine and with time who knows?
Corton “Clos des Cortons Faiveley” Grand Cru 2009 Monopole
Great wine to finish: violets and cherries. Attractive and luscious, bold and spicy. Some pretty raspberry and currant fruits amid a full palate, again with floral characters. Juicy mid-palate with background structure. Well defined, superb wine.
So – a great tasting of fine wines by Faiveley. While all still very young they are immediately attractive with much to show for themselves. In time they will show even more, especially the premier and grand cru wines. That is when we will be bringing some of these wines to Great Horkesley. Meantime we invite you to enjoy a range of Faiveley wines of the earlier vintages, in store now.
My thanks to Mark Bingley MW and Jackie Brown of Maisons Marques Et Domaines, for the invite and escort (and the Louis Roederer Champagne on the trip down), and thanks to Faiveley`s Export Director, Vincent Avenel, and to their Technical Director, Jerome Flous, the perfect hosts.
PS. Should you be planning a visit to Burgundy the restaurant Caveau des Arches in Beaune is highly recommended, as is a visit to the historic Hospices de Beaune.