Lovers of French wine had a real treat when the Brasserie Restaurant teamed up with Blackbeard’s Fine Wines, Beers & Spirits to showcase Burgundian wines of Maison Louis Jadot.
Those just learning about wines are often surprised to learn that Burgundy wine can both red and white because it’s not named after a grape, but a region in France. On further investigation, they will learn that most Burgundy wines have other names – such as Chablis, Montrachet, Meursault, Pommard and Gevrey-Chambertin – which are the names of town or communes inside Burgundy.
Looking even deeper yet, people are surprised to learn at the wines made in Burgundy usually come from two very well known grapes: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
People attending the wine dinner at the Brasserie Restaurant on 14 October learned – if they didn’t already know – these and other interesting facts about one of the world’s most famous wine regions, while enjoying the delicious foods prepared by Chef Brad Phillips and drinking the wines of producer Louis Jadot, which has been making wines in Burgundy for more than 150 years.
When he spoke to guests shortly after a welcome reception, Phillips said his foods for the evening were prepared with one goal in mind.
“This dinner is to showcase the wines,” he said. “That is totally what I based the menu on.”
Phillips said it is actually easier to pair food with wines than to try to pair wines with food because ingredients can be added to dishes to make them better pairings with wines, whereas the taste profile of wine is set once it’s been bottled.
Phillips encouraged people to experience the complexities of the wine.
“Smell the wine, taste the wine, before you dig into my incredible food,” he said with a smile.
Blackbeard’s Wine Sales Manager Jodie Petts said the event marked the first in the new season of the company’s wine dinner series.
“We’ll have five or six more during the season,” she said.
On hand for the event was Larry Nocera of Kobrand Corporation, which represents Maison Louis Jadot and about 50 other brands from all over the world.
Nocera told guests that the three white wines featured during the dinner – Mâcon Blanc Villages, Chablis and Puligny-Montrachet – were all made entirely from Chardonnay grapes grown in Burgundy, but they all were much different wines. A major difference in taste comes from was where the grapes were grown within the region; the Mâcon Blanc Villages from the warmer, southern-most part of Burgundy; Chablis from the northern most part of the region; and Puligny-Montrachet from the central part of Burgundy.
“Burgundians believe the wine is made in the vineyards,” Nocera said. “If you took three California Chardonnays – say one from Napa, one from Sonoma and one from Santa Barbara – I think you would find more similarities in them than in [the Louis Jadot] Chardonnays, in which I think you’ll find a great difference.”
Although terroir – the climate and soil conditions where a grape grows – plays a large role in the differences between various white Burgundy wines, the winemaker adds to the difference. For instance, Mâcon Blanc Villages Chardonnay is vinified in stainless steel tanks and not aged in oak barrels at all in order to create a fresh wine with floral and fruity aromas. Chablis is aged a little longer and with a little oak to take the edge off the acidity. Puligny-Montrachet is aged even longer in oak barrels to produce a more complex wine with subtle acidity.
Because of the differences in the three white wines, the food pairings for the dinner were also all much different.
“Mâcon Blanc Villages is a light wine with good acidity; it’s best to keep [the food] light,” Nocera said.
The wine was served with hors d’oeuvres, including fresh wahoo sashmi.
Nocera noted that food pairings with 2009 Chablis should stay in the same basic food categories as the Mâcon Blanc Villages and the Brasserie did exactly that, serving freshly-caught blackfin tuna ceviche with cilantro and citrus coconut soup.
The more complex 2008 Puligny-Montrachet required a bolder dish for a good wine pairing. For this wine Phillips went back to a dish he prepared in the early days of his cooking career in his native Ohio – fresh fettucini in goat cheese sauce with shaved walnuts, dried cherries and garlic chives.
Moving onto the first two red wines, Pommard and Gevrey-Chambertin, Nocera explained they were made by the same grape: Pinot Noir.
The 2007 Pommard is a full-bodied wine that required strong-flavoured food. Phillips created a dish that featured grilled fresh swordfish with charred Ohio sweet corn, baby gold beets and littleneck clams all in a smoked tomato broth that had an extraordinarily fragrant aroma. The dish, which was a highlight of the night, paired extremely well with the intense bouquet of the Pommard.
The Gevrey-Chambertin was paired with seared breast of duck that featured a honey glaze. The course was served with baby Asian greens and hash made from confit of duck leg and garden butternut squash, the latter a delicious accompaniment that almost outshone the duck breast.
Like the Pommard, the Gevrey-Chambertin is 100 per cent Pinot Noir, but it had much more structure.
Nocera said the difference came down to terrior.
“Everything is the same except the wines were grown in an different area,” he said.
Instead of a sweet wine with dessert, Louis Jadot Moulin à Vent Beaujolais from Château des Jacques was served. Unlike the other red wines served during the evening, the Beaujolais was made from the other major grape that is grown in Burgundy: Gamay.
Although many people think of inexpensive, light red wines that are meant to be consumed young – like Beaujolais Nouveau – when they think of Beaujolais, Moulin à Vent is much more complex. Nocera said the Château des Jacques could even age for a decade or more.
To pair with the wine, Phillip served a plum cornmeal cake with Beaujolais sauce and house-made blue cheese ice cream – a bold item that guests either loved or hated.
Nocera said he appreciated the effort that Phillips put into the wine pairings, which included incorporating some of the wine into the sauces he used for the dishes.
“These wines are very subtle and have a lot of complexity, so the wine pairing is important,” he said.