Last month I was invited to participate in a Snooth tasting of sweet white wines from Bordeaux. Few wine lovers would hesitate for even a second before accepting such an invitation, and I dashed off a response ASAP. Of course I love the golden treasures bearing names like Sauternes, Loupiac, and Cadillac; but this event would present the wines in an unconventional way.
When I imagine Golden Bordeaux at the table, I picture a thick slice of foie gras or a hunk of blue cheese; maybe a light dessert featuring apples and pears. But have you ever poured a glass of sweet Bordeaux alongside a savory dish? I’ve never done so, but I do remember a dynamite pairing at Gérard’s Place, one of my favorite restaurants in Washington, DC, many moons ago: poached lobster with ginger, lime, and Sauternes. The lobster meat was poached, then put back in the shell and topped with diced mango and bell pepper. Sweet, spicy, bitter and rich, all at the same time. I can almost taste it now . . . .
Snooth’s tastings are always a good time: they’re live via video chat and bring together wine lovers from all corners of the world. You taste the wines along with the hosts – in this case, Master of Wine Mary Gorman-McAdams and Snooth’s own Mark Angelillo – hearing their impressions and gaining useful insight on blends and vintage variation. That night we tasted eight wines and paired them with a selection of savory snacks. What fun we had, trying out the unconventional pairings and sharing our comments with each other.
If you’d like to read more and watch a recording of the event, click here. Maybe it will inspire you to create some savory pairings of your own.
My Golden Bordeaux Savory Experiments
While I enjoyed the whimsical pairing of snack foods with elegant sweet Bordeaux, I was really intrigued by the idea of serving them with a meal. I put on my thinking cap, pulled out my recipe files and got to work. Here are the results of my research, all of which point to an undeniable conclusion: yes, late harvest Golden Bordeaux wines deserve a seat at the savory table.
And let’s talk about price for a second: the Golden Bordeaux line-up for this tasting range from$15 to $25 for a half-bottle. That’s a luxury we can all afford now and then. Approachable, delicious, and affordable – what’s better than that?
Pairing #1: 2011 Château Dauphiné Rondillon Loupiac with Savory Pumpkin and Smoked Bacon Tart
Fellow blogger April, of Wine Travel Eats posts the most tempting recipes each week and, when I saw this one, I knew it would make a fabulous pairing with Golden Bordeaux. The Saturday after the live tasting I got busy in the kitchen and made this tart for brunch: my husband swooned over the tart and even enjoyed the wine (it’s not really his thing.) As for me, I went hog-wild over the pairing: smoky, salty, earthy flavors in the tart found their mates in the Loupiac. And the wine had plenty of acidity, helping to cut the richness of the dish. With Christmas and New Year’s around the corner, put this pairing on your to-do list. It will impress the guests and eat up just a few minutes of your precious time. Get the recipe (and all her other delectable dishes) here.
375 ml bottle; approximate retail price $16.00.
Pairing #2: 2016 Château Manos Cadillac with Pizza Affumicata
The night ofthe Snooth tasting coincided with my WSET diploma exam on spirits of the world. I came home – totally exhausted – yet excited for the live tasting. Right afterward, my husband and I decided to order a pizza, sit back, and watch some mindless TV. Much to our dismay, we found that our go-to delivery place (Two Boots Pizza) was in the process of relocating. Grrrr!
We scrolled through the options on Seamless and came up with Numero 28 UES. Our choice? The Pizza Affumicata, a white pie layered with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, scamorza, and pancetta, topped with a sprinkling of arugula (that last bit was our addition.) Smoky and creamy with a punch of tangy sweetness from the tomatoes, and a little spice from the arugula. It made a bang-up match with the Château Manos, which brought crisp fruit and a backbone of acidity.
This was a pairing with much potential: just imagine all the toppings and possible combinations! I especially like the idea of a white pie with Golden Bordeaux; something about the interplay of the cheese with the tart-sweet wine is really appealing.
375 ml bottle; approximate retail price $15.00.
Pairing #3: 2014 Château du Cros Loupiac with Chicken and Duck Fat-Roasted Potatoes
Once I warmed to the idea of pairing Golden Bordeaux with savory dishes, I looked for more opportunities to put them together on my table. I love to make roast chicken for Sunday supper and thought it would be great with the Château du Cros. I was not wrong!
It was a simple meal consisting of a spatchcocked chicken roasted with herbs and garlic, and a skillet of diced potatoes roasted in duck fat from the freezer. Wow! The pairing is one I will definitely make again: the potatoes brought out a floral note in the wine I hadn’t noticed before (that duck fat!) and the crisp chicken skin acted as the perfect foil to the wine. A new Sunday dinner tradition has been established.
375 ml bottle; approximate retail price $21.99.
Pairing #4: 2015 Château Filhot Sauternes and Roast Sunchokes with Pistachio Yogurt and Mint Oil
I first tasted this dish at Vic’s in New York City and loved it so much that I reverse-engineered it at home a few weeks later. It brings together earthy, sweet sunchokes with pistachio yogurt and mint oil. Sounds like a far-out blend of ingredients at first, but they all work together. It’s one of my favorite restaurant dishes. Ever.
My homemade version stayed pretty true to the original, as best as I can tell, and it was a hit with the Château Filhot. The zesty orange notes in the wine contrasted with the nutty, herbal notes of the dish and complemented the caramel-sweetness of the sunchokes.
375 ml bottle; approximate retail price: $22.99
Pairing #5: 2006 Castelnau de Suduiraut Sauternes with Slow-Roasted Porchetta
As you might have guessed, when the weather turns chilly, I start roasting things! I spend most of my time in Miami so cold is a relative term but, if I’m in New York and the mercury drops, there’s likely to be something tasty cooking low and slow in the oven.
Just before Thanksgiving, New York City received its first dusting of snow; a perfect time to prep and cook Porchetta – combination of crispy, crackly pork fat on top and fork-tender, juicy meat on the inside. My pairing was a variation on a theme: rich, flavorful protein meets tangy, slightly-sweet wine. I, for one, will explore this theme throughout the winter. The juxtaposition of slow-roasted pork,chicken, or lamb with succulent sweet Bordeaux is too much to resist!
375 ml bottle; approximate retail price: $19.99.
Have You Been Inspired?
My first take-away from the Snooth tasting was to look at familiar things (wine, books, people) with a fresh perspective. Just because something or someone has historically fit into one category doesn’t mean they can’t easily flow into another. Sounds trite, I know, but in the wine world we often typecast bottles into tried-and-true tasting experiences.
The second realization was more specific to these wines and the dishes with which I paired them. Golden Bordeaux, with its rich fruity texture and tangy acidity can stand up to almost any dish. And the holiday table, with its bounty of plates – sweet, savory, and somewhere in between – provides the ideal canvas for expressing the full potential of these wines.
I hope I’ve given you food for thought as you prepare your family celebrations. Maybe you’ll be in spired to add a touch of glamour to your feast with a few drops of Golden Bordeaux.
Update: This Post Won the 2020 Millésima Blog Award for Food and Wine Pairing!