Gamay and Pinot Noir Henry Fessy Beaujolais Villages Nouveau 2020 Shaved Bayonne Ham with Grape & Raspberry Sip
Maison Louis Latour Beaujolais Villages Chameroy AOC 2019 Marinated Goat Cheese and Pistachio Tartlet
Domaine Pardon Regnie AOP Cuvée 2019 Salmon and Boursin Roll on Almond Crisp
Edouard Delaunay “Septembre” Bourgogne AOC 2019 Duck Confit & Hazelnut Ricotta Brochette topped with Peaches
Cassoulet with French Bread
So we had lots of fun with the wines and food this week; Sip and Savor was a full house, with no empty seats. as usual, I let Angie Owens and Hannah Watson from our Lifestyles department do all the real work, but this week we also had help from our friends Marcela Felix and Elain Mahinay from our partner property; Vi Living Grayhawk in Scottsdale Arizona.
In my opinion, wines from the Beaujolais region don't get enough credit in America. Grapes have been cultivated in France since the Roman era, and has been a source of joy, revenue and of course controversy. The Gamay grape is thought to have appeared first in the village of the Gamay, south of Beaune, in the 1360s.[The grape brought relief to the village growers following the decline of the Black Death. In contrast to the pinot noir variety, Gamay ripened two weeks earlier and was easier to cultivate. It also produced a strong, fruitier wine in greater abundance.
In July 1395, the Duke of Burgundy Philippe the Bold outlawed the cultivation of the grape, referring to it as the "disloyal Gaamez" that in spite of its ability to grow in abundance was full of "very great and horrible harshness",[due in part to the variety's occupation of land that could be used for the more "elegant" Pinot Noir. Sixty years later Philippe the Good issued another edict against Gamay in which he stated the reasoning for the ban was that "The Dukes of Burgundy are known as the lords of the best wines in Christendom. We will maintain our reputation". To be fair, Pinot Noir is a lot harder to grow, and makes very elegant wines, but from a 21st century perspective it seems like plagues and religious crusades would be the biggest problem to address...
Anyway, in the modern era this ancient grape had a new rebirth in the form of the Beaujolais Nouveau. From about the 1980's this quickly fermented wine became a simple, cheap and elegant way to have a taste of France. the problem is, the grapes are harvested in the early fall then fermented for about a week and released in November, making a very shallow and uncomplicated drink that became despised by wine enthusiasts. by the early part of this century. What do they know?
Most of this new wine comes from vineyards all over the region and blended later, but the one we picked was a "villages" meaning that it had to come from a combination of 39 sub regions (villages) that are known to make a better quality wine. The aroma was very fruity, almost like juice. The flavor light, refreshing and almost no tannins. The viscosity was light, one could easily imagine quaffing this in an outdoor Bistro in the summer, discussing art with the Eiffel tower in the background. Or maybe I just need a vacation.
To pair with this we decided that something light and juicy would be fitting. I was thinking Melon with Prosciutto but In December the Melon can be disappointing, so I simply juiced grapes and raspberries and added a splash of sparkling apple cider. Since Bayonne Ham is much more French than Prosciutto I had to find some and the saltiness of the ham with the aromatic juices fit the bill nicely. I think it may have overpowered the wine a bit but that's the beauty of it, we don't need to take this wine seriously [unlike the Dukes of 14th century Burgundy].
Next, we wanted to try a more serious version of this noble grape. we chose a specific Village- Chameroy for our next tasting. This wine comes from 30 year old vines in the village of Chameroy, in granite studded soil just south of Beaune.
The wine had a similar color, maybe a bit deeper than the Nouveau with a lovely garnet hue. One could tell, from the aroma that this one was more refined. the nose was similar but stronger, and the flavor was still bright and fruity bit with an acidity that was refreshing. The wine had almost no finish, very clean and drinkable.
I was reminded of Goat's cheese, and my mind went to one of my favorite non Colorado goat's cheese from California which is marinated in olive oil with fresh herbs.
We served this cheese in a small, slightly sweet tart shell topped with toasted pistachios. The tartness of the cheese masked some of the acidity in the wine, which made the deeper fruity notes of red berries more pronounced. We think it worked.
It should be noted that the State Health inspector paid us a visit the morning of the tasting, and it could not have happened without the assistance of Jesus Martinez, our Executive Sous Chef...
Next we ventured further north to a place called Regnie. Once one of the famous Villages of the region, the wine growers felt that their wine was both different and better than some of the others and in 1988 the region was granted the status of a Beaujolais Cru. This signifies that the region is specifically known to grow superior grapes, and I have to say the difference was evident.
This wine had a very rich aroma, still reminiscent of fruit, but with an underlying scent of wood, possibly mushrooms. The flavor was much more rich, like dried plums, and the wine had a very nice lingering finish unlike the previous two.
To pair, we decided that smoked salmon and boursin cheese would do, and served it on a crisp almond and sea salt cracker. Topped with fresh chives, the richness of the salmon matched up very well with this wine, although the sea salt may have heightened the tannins. It was interesting to see three very similar but also very different wines from this region, but of course the history of the region is linked to the Burgundians to the north and I just wanted us all to compare the "disloyal" Gamay to "elegant" Pinot Noir.
OK. I may have to give Phillipe the Bold some credit. I love Pinot Noir, and nobody does it better than the French (with the possible exception of Oregon). Pinot Noir is sometimes known as the Heartbreak Grape. It is difficult to grow, matures late, and once you taste a really good one, you realize that the price will keep you from drinking it every day. By comparison, Gamay is relatively easy to grow, matures a good three weeks earlier than Pinot, and is usually very affordable. This wine was very aromatic, like cherries and violets. deeper and richer than the first two wines, I thought it felt very similar to the Regnie we had just tasted but with fuller tannins and a much longer finish. In Burgundy they take their wine very seriously, we felt it only right top pair this with a classic Duck Confit on baguette with some peaches and ricotta.
If you ever want to waste an entire afternoon, get a Chef to tell you about Confit. it is a very simple method of salting and cooking meats in fat, bit the depth of flavor and rich texture is perfect for a wine like this. The fattiness of the dish cancels out much of the bitterness of the tannins in red wine, allowing a better appreciation of the aroma and fruit. It's like listening to a full orchestra, and then cancelling out the kettle drum so you can hear the violins more clearly. Delicious.
We finished the day with a hearty bowl of Cassoulet with the rest of the confit, sausage, pork and pancetta with creamy beans and crusty French bread. A great time was had by all, and we eagerly discussed what the next offering would be in January