Tour de taste

Among other things, France is known for its fine cuisine, its fine wines, and its annual gruelling 23-day, 2,200-mile Tour de France bicycle race. To give the famous race a proper send off on 3 July, the eve of the event, Blackbeard’s Fine Wines, Beers and Spirits teamed up with the Cracked Conch restaurant to present ‘Le Vin du Tour de France’, a culinary event fit for champions. Journal journalist Alan Markoff reports.

The evening started in the Cracked Conch lounge area, fittingly enough with Veuve Clicquot Champagne, accompanied by spoons of amber jack tartar.

After the guests took their seats in the dining room, Blackbeard’s/Cayman Distributors Ltd. Wine Sales Representative Jodie Petts explained a little about the event’s theme, saying that in the spirit of the Tour de France, the idea was to taste travel through some of France’s famous wine regions like the Burgundy, Bordeaux and Alsace, serving foods that paired well with the wines.
“We’ll have traditional foods with a new, modern twist,” she said.
The first course was a pan-fried Mediterranean sea bass filet, served with ratatouille. It was paired with Michele Redde Pouilly-Fume from the Loire region.
Jodie said most people think the “Fume” part of Pouilly-Fume means smoky or oaked, but the wine was actually made from 100 per cent unoaked Sauvignon Blanc.
“It’s crisp and tart and goes very well with the fish,” she said.
Next came a new approach to a classic French dish. The seared tuna salad Niçoise – sans any greens – epitomised summer in France, as did the accompanying wine, Chateau D’Aqueria Tavel Rosé from the Rhone region.
Hugh Treadwell, the managing director of the Blackbeard’s and Cayman Distributers Group, said that particular Rosé was one of his favourite wines, especially in the hot climate of the Cayman Islands.
Although it was elegant and unique enough to serve with a fine meal, Hugh said the Tavel Rosé was versatile to have chilled in a cooler of beer.
Blackbeard’s Grand Harbour Wine Specialist Roberto Loggia said the Tavel Rosé came from a blend of seven different grape varitels.
“That’s what makes this wine special,” he said, noting there was also a special process used in making the wine.
Unlike some Rosés, the Chateau D’Aqueria was dry and buttery, and with a distinctive rose petal bouquet.
“I wouldn’t call it pink,” Roberto said. “It’s rose.”
The tour then travelled to two of France’s most famous wine regions, Burgundy and Bordeaux.
The 2005 Louis Jadot, Gevrey-Chambertin was served with a crispy quail dish that had a little bite in the form of jalepeno.  The Bordeaux, made by well-known producer Christian Moueix, was a 2005 St.-Emilion.  That was served with a lamb leg confit topped with bergamot foam and roasted pumpkin.
Jodie noted that the 2005 vintage of Bordeaux was known as the “vintage of the decade”, even though the decade wasn’t over yet.
The meal was topped off with a caramelised pear tart, served with Domaines Schlumberger, Gewürztraminer from Alsace.
Roberto said Alsace was the one are of France where the wines were completely different because of the region having been part of Germany in the past.
“A lot of the appellation from Alsace comes from Germany,” he said.
The 2004 Grand Cru Kessler was considered an “off-dry” wine, Roberto said.
“It has a nice, floral fragrance and on the palate it gives you the ripeness of the grape, with a sweet note,” he said. “For the Cayman Islands, Gewürztraminer is the perfect wine to complement many meals.”
After the dinner, Chef Gilbert Cavallaro and Sous-chef Nicky Hull came out to take a bow and receive well-deserved applause.   Cracked Conch General Manager Matthew Moore, who had joined his servers in pouring some of the great wines, was also recognised for the effort.
Le Vin du Tour de France wasn’t a race and it was anything but gruelling; it was, in a word, delicious, even for those who didn’t like cycling.