I've a friend who is French Canadian and it is always a treat when invited around to his house for a meal. He cooks really tasty traditional French food, usually involving wine and meat of some description and then we have a delicious dessert prepared by his wife. In return for such amazing food, I take along a bottle of wine or two which gives us both the opportunity to indulge in two of our favourite things - eating and drinking!
Today for lunch was Coq au Vin - a delicious rich sauce surrounding wonderfully tender thighs and drumsticks of chicken, with tiny flavour bombs of salty bacon lardons, sweet slowcooked onions and earthy mushrooms. All this served with braised haricot beans - it was a real French farmhouse feast. A red Burgundy would be the 'traditional' wine to pair with this, but I love Bordeaux and had decided to take a 42 year old St Julien along to drink, and boy did it go well! The 1970 Ducru Beaucaillou was wonderfully elegant and old, with aromas of cherry stone, leather and tobacco. The palate had a stunningly elegant, yet still punchy palate. It enticed you in with soft, ladylike flavours including slightly sweet cranberry and cocoa powder, but they you get a bigger spicy punch coming through - and a bit of silky, but firm, tannin. A gorgeous wine that will last for a good decade or more. 94pts
The main thing though was how well it worked with the food, integrating perfectly with the rich sauce - the older red berry fruit notes not overpowering the chicken in the slightest, and then the earthy, meatier parts of the dish balancing with the gutsy spice and tannin of the wine. Completely independent of one another, my friend and I had nailed a food and wine pairing without knowing what the other was doing!
I did have some prior knowledge of the dessert, a lovely Mocha cake - chocolate, coffee with a buttercream filling, so took along a 1996 Consolation Antic Rivesaltes. I've tried this wine on numerous occasions before and suspected it would go pretty well with the cake. The wine has been aged in Armagnac barrels for a decade and so has a lovely, brandy-meets-Madeira-meets-Vin Santo aroma. Dried fruit, citrus peel, some slightly spirity notes and a slight hint of tea coming off. The palate is more of the same with a darker toffee and cashew flavour, finishing with some dried grapefruit flavours. 93pts Putting it with the cake created another symphony of flavours with the sweet coffee and chocolate being softened and made richer by the dried fruit and caramelised flavours in the wine, but also pushing forward the more dark flavours in the wine and balancing at the end with the sweet, creamy filling. Again, a perfect pairing.
I know it is gloating a little bit, but I had a really good lunch with two stunning wines. This Saturday evening there are two very happy, well fed, wine lovers in central Scotland.