Taking Sweet Bordeaux to Dinner, Again

Almost three years ago now, Snooth.com published an article I wrote for them about Sweet Bordeaux, called “Experiments in Sweet Bordeaux.” While I will not go into depth about what I wrote in that article (if you have a minute or twelve, you should go check it out, I think it is fairly good, if I do say so myself), I was invited to the region by the Sweet Bordeaux Association, a subset of the CIVB (Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux or Bordeaux Wine Council).

In brief, the Sweet Bordeaux Association has a fairly straight-forward charge: to convince the wine-drinking public that the sweet wines from Bordeaux (made in ten communes which include Barsac, Loupiac, Cadillac, Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, and the most widely known, Sauternes) are not just for dessert. The aim of that trip (and the over-arching goal of the Sweet Bordeaux Association) was to show that sweet wines should be on the dinner table throughout the meal, not just at the end.

The sweet wines of Bordeaux are only made with grapes affected by Botrytis cinerea, a desiccating fungus that concentrates the flavors and sugars in the shrunken grapes. The Garonne River meets its tributary, the spring-fed Ciron River, near the town of Sauternes. In late summer, the Garonne is quite warm, but the Ciron remains quite cool, when they come together, the resulting mist coats the grapes, which leads to Botrytis.

Since that trip, the fine people at the Sweet Bordeaux Association have sent me a few more bottles of the delectable wines from the region to pair with meals of my own creation, which I have been joyfully preparing over the last few weeks. Here are a few of the meals paired with a “typical” wine choice and a Sweet Bordeaux.

Ribeye Sous-Vide with Maple Roasted Carrots, Garlic Broccoli with Romesco Sauce and Tots

Sweet Bordeaux with steak? Why not? I typically sous-vide (submerging vacuumed-sealed in water while maintaining a constant temperature) my steaks at 54°C (129°F) for about two hours then season and sear on a hot grill (about 600°) for a minute on each side. The carrots I roast on the grill for about ten minutes in an aluminum foil “bathtub” which I load up with garlic, olive oil, a splash or two of balsamic, and some pure maple syrup. The broccoli is sautéed in canola oil and garlic then drizzled with Romesco sauce (made with Gochujang, a spicy Korean red pepper paste) and the tots are a bribe, plain and simple so that the boys might be encouraged to eat their veggies.

2016 Château Manos, Cadillac, Bordeaux, France: Retail $16 (375ml). 98% Sémillon, 1% Sauvignon Blanc, 1% Muscadelle. Cadillac is one of the Sauternes satellite appellations and is the sister winery of the better-known Château Lamothe. Roughly 80% of the wine is botrytized, so while certainly present, not over-whelming and allowing for some freshness. Beautiful golden color in the glass with honeyed mandarin orange and fresh ginger on the nose. The palate is lovely, tart, and sweet. I chose to pair this with a Texas-sized ribeye and it held up exceedingly well. Very Good. 89 Points.

I put this Château Manos up against a rich and layered Amarone and it more than held its own. While I am not yet ready to say that Sweet Bordeaux and ribeye is the next “classic pairing” it certainly worked. Why? In order to balance all of that sugar, Sweet Bordeaux wines also have rather high levels of acidity. And it is that acidity that breaks down the animal fat in the ribeye.

Lobster

While lobster is not a frequent occurrence on my table, I try to revisit my college experience at least once in a while (I attended Bowdoin College in Maine and we would have lobster often). The key (at least in my mind) to a lobster dinner is keeping the sides fairly simple as the beast should be the main focus. Chardonnay, of course, is the classic pairing and I pulled a good one in the 2014 Benovia Russian River Valley to go up against this classic Sauternes.

2015 Château Filhot, Sauternes, France: Retail $30 (375 ml). 60% Sémillon, 36% Sauvignon Blanc, 4% Muscadelle. Filhot is certainly near the top of the Sauternes ladder of high-quality wine and is a central figure in the recounting of the history of Sauternes. The vineyards were planted in the latter half of the 17th century, with the Château being built shortly thereafter. The Château’s history is also intricately tied to that of the Lur-Saluces family (a name you most certainly recognize with at least a passing knowledge of the famed region, hint: think Chateau d’Yquem). This wine is a gorgeous golden-straw color, with concentrated honeyed-lemon, golden apple, & fresh peach on the nose. This palate is rich, unctuous, tart, and quite sweet with a weighty mouthfeel that coats the gums with its golden goodness. Whoa. Outstanding. 94 Points.

Tacos Two-Ways for Taco Tuesday

As I mentioned last week, Taco Tuesday has become a mainstay and this past week I went old-school with the classic beef taco in a hard shell with fresh creamed corn (à la Thomas Keller) sautéed jalapeño and black olive. The other taco was my slow-braised red shrimp with tangy lime, Greek yogurt and buttermilk slaw, garlic guacamole, and homemade hot sauce. I paired it with one of my favorite domestic sparklers, Domaine Chandon Rosé, and perhaps the Sweet Bordeaux from Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, Château La Rame.

2015 Château La Rame Sainte Croix du Mont, Bordeaux, France: Retail $30 (per 375 ml). 100% Sémillon. I first became aware of Château la Rame a few years ago upon a trip to “Sweet Bordeaux” when I visited a dozen or so wineries in the region that produce the traditional sweet wines from Bordeaux and its satellite appellations. This Château la Rame, pure Sémillon, is a beautiful wine: golden in the glass with honeyed apricot, and hints of marzipan, roasted marshmallow, and even ground coffee. Yowza. The palate is gorgeous: sweet, rich, and full but just short of unctuous, buoyed by an intense tartness. I was impressed with this winery on my visit there in 2018 and this wine only underscores that assessment. Whoa. Outstanding. 93 Points.

About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Bordeaux, Bordeaux Blend, Muscadelle, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Wine and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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