2005 Pedesclaux with Beef Tenderloin, 2012 Bouscaut with Salmon
I am a student of Bordeaux wine. There is something enticingly special about the wine from this region — whether it be a claret, a dry white, or a sweet wine. Bordeaux wine is versatile when it comes to food as it can be paired amazingly well with a variety of cuisine as well. Not too long ago I have an opportunity to taste this theory at an event organized by the French Consulate in New York City. Everything was prepared meticulously. I wish I took a video clip of the synchronized serving routine performed by the waiters. It was an incredible experience mingling with wine industry professionals, fellow wine enthusiasts, and especially the representatives from various chateaux flying in all the way from the South West of France. For instance, in our table we were joined by Philippe Tapie and his lovely wife of Haut Medoc Selection, one of the leading negociants specializing in Bordeaux classified growths from both left and right banks of the Gironde. Also his family had previously had a long ownership connection with Chateau Pedesclaux, which was incidentally poured that very night!
Pedesclaux is one of the fifth classified growth producer from Pauillac AOC with a number of small plots of cultivated land scattering around the appellation. The chateau itself however is only a short drive off the main road D2 not too far from the village of Le Pouyalet and Chatea Mouton Rothschild, boasting the new renovated glassy winery and state-of-the-art wine-making facilities. The wine we drank however predated these new investments which were completed in the late 2000s. The 2005 vintage poured during that particular dinner was sublime — much better than the better considered 2003 Leoville Poyferre served alongside. On its own, it offered up intense perfume of cigar box-infused cassis, black currant, and dark cherry. I just loved its gravelly inspired mineral notes with appealing cedar wood lingering on in the background.
It was paired with slow-cooked beef tenderloin and truffle sauce. The rule of thumb for beef and wine pairing is the fatter the beef the bigger the wine. The reason is that the tannin in the wine helps cut through the fat in the meat acting as a palate cleansing astringent. This also goes with other types of meat too. Lamb or venison recipes for examples are usually more delicate than beef and therefore demand more subtle wine to go with. This beef tenderloin though was definitely not the most robust or boldest dish around so this well integrated and gravelly scented Pedesclaux worked very well. The truffle sauce also complimented the secondary characters that have started to develop after 12 years or so in the bottle.
The fatter the beef the bigger the red wine vs the meatier the fish, the bolder the white wine.
As for the fish course, we were presented with a refreshing salmon salad (although there were merely a few leaves to be found on the plate!) with citrus-based cream dressing. Again the logic runs in the same way as the meat-wine pairing which is that the refined and nuanced the fish goes well with a light, zesty white, preferably unoaked. The meatier the fish, the bolder the wine. In our case, sashimi salmon with orange cream saurce could be considered a somewhat medium to medium plus textured fish dish and thus match with our 2012 Bouscaut which is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and has seen fermented “sur lie” in oak barrels (45% of which new).
We ended the night with a delightful dessert course featuring mangoes and some sweet French style wafer-thin pastries. Here presented a chance for Sauternes to shine and it didn’t disappoint me one bit. The 2005 Suduiraut held itself very well with its complementary expressions such as mango, pineapple, honey, overripe apricot, and nectarine. With the dessert-wine pairing, the main goal is to keep the wine as powerful or more so than the dessert itself. Otherwise, we would not be able to detect any characteristics of the wine at all.
In all, this one dinner alone taught me a great deal about food and wine pairing and the theory behind it. While it is important to make sure that both the meal and the wine receive sufficient gustatory attention, for me personally as a vino-enthusiast though my goal of pairing wine with food is to provide an appropriate environment to appreciate the wine in the best possible light. Therefore the meal should never take the limelight from the wine, except of course when the relationship with the chef is more valuable than the bottle of wine!