A gentle amble through the French countryside

Diners were in for a varied and innovative treat earlier this year when the Westin celebrated all things French, with a menu infused with delicious delights and wines that highlighted the fantastic variety of that most venerable of wine producing countries. Business Editor, Lindsey Turnbull reports. 

Continuing its world tour of the greatest wine making countries of the world, the culinary team at the Westin, ably supported by Jacques Scott’s fine wines, recently led diners through the magnificent French countryside embracing all its rusticity and adding their very own sophisticated twist to each and every course.

A country style paté complete with requisite cornichon, a dollop of Dijon mustard and a cassis compote with brioche, along with a clever roasted garlic and foie gras custard with porcini and tomato concassée hidden in an eggshell completed this excellent first course and created a wonderful first step into the menu.

The Westin’s Sommelier, Duncan Hamann took centre stage to discuss the wines and said the 2007 Jean-Luc Colombo, Viognier La Violette was “a real star” of the Rhône Valley. “Viognier,” he said, “is one of the best grapes in the world.”

Jean-Luc Colombo has achieved a reputation worldwide for making innovative wines by taking the almost unheard of step within the region of introducing innovative methods in his vineyards. The Viognier La Violette is, according to Duncan, “packed full of mineral spiciness and therefore pairs really well with spicy Asian food.”

The rich paté and the über rich foie gras combined beautifully with the sweetness of the cassis and the elegant Viognier just amplified the delicious flavours in this memorable first course. As Chef Jason Koppinger, Executive Chef at The Westin said: “Welcome to the French countryside!”

The second course did not disappoint either, a sole meunier with fingerling potatoes, chive mousseline, caviar, fleur de sel and asparagus oscar, an ambitious yet cohesive balance of flavours again enhanced by the wine choice.

Labouré-Roi is Burgundy’s third largest negoçiant, having in its portfolio an impressive portfolio of Premier and Grand Cru wines. This controlled appellation of Pouilly Fuissé is the ‘cru’ of the Maconnais, a region where the Chardonnay grape flourishes in ideal conditions.

Duncan describes the 2006 Labouré-Roi Pouilly-Fuissé: “This wine displays some excellent toast and nut notes, including roasted cashews and macadamias. You are in for a real treat with this wine.”

No self-respecting French menu would be complete without a touch of good old snails, and Chef Jason and his team produced an excellent example: an escargot vol au vent bourguignon, caramelised onion and tomato tartlet, chèvre and fennel salad. A 2005 Jean-Luc Colombo Côtes du Rhône Les Forots complemented the dish perfectly.

Jean-Luc Colombo embraces 27 wines representing major appellations of the Rhône Valley as well as the Languedoc and Roussillon regions of southern France. The 100 per cent Syrah grapes for this wine are grown on the very steep slopes in the northern Rhône Valley and are from 60-year-old vines located in the town of Cornas.

This ruby red wine gives off notes of violets, spices and licorice on the nose and a peppery, spicy mix of stewed plums and ripe berries on the palate.

Duncan says: “This light bodied wine is perfect if served slightly chilled.”

Clearly relishing the opportunity to embrace such a variety of interesting flavours and ingredients, Chef Jason and his team then brought to the table crisp veal sweetbreads with a salsifi and pommes Napoleon, with a glace de Médoc, trumpet and forest mushroom salad. Duncan and his team poured a glass of 2005 Jean-Luc Colombo Cairanne Côtes du Rhône Villages, a blend of 60 per cent Grenache; 25 per cent Syrah; 10 per cent Mourvèdre and 5 per cent Carignan. The grapes are found specifically in vineyards planted on the clay and limestone terraces of the Cairanne.

A step up from the previous Côtes du Rhône in terms of power, this wine was fuller bodied and oozed cinnamon and chocolate on the nose, with a hit of red fruits, spices and coffee on the palate.

The palate was given a quick refresher with a Champagne grape and berry gelée and then on to the heavyweight course: herb crusted venison, red cabbage, rosemary glace, tomato, aubergine, cranberry and brie flatbread with a pumpkin and armagnac purée. Not a lot to say except: wow!

A 2005 Jean-Luc Colombo Les Ruchets Cornas was the wine of choice for this magnificent main, “a big fat Syrah” according to Duncan, made from grapes from 90 year old or more vines located on the steep slopes of the right bank of the Rhône. All work in the vineyards is done manually.

The 100 per cent Syrah grapes produce wine that is aged for 18 months in oak and thus produces an inky black wine with a fruity and floral nose and flavours of black fruits, black currants and a touch of vanilla. A signature wine to accompany a signature course.

The Westin’s talented team of pastry chefs produced another stellar dessert – this time a delightful plate of lavender pot au crème, meringues and profiteroles and a wildberry clafouti. Another memorable meal from the Westin’s talented team.


Cynthia and Joey Hew and Nicole D’Heer-Watson