Last year, around this time, I was sent a case of sweet wines from the Bordeaux region of France for a series of online tastings. The focus by the fine folks at the Sweet Bordeaux has been to resituate the wines from the region, which have long been heralded as wines to be enjoyed after dinner or with dessert.
Given their high levels of acidity, the producers of Sweet Bordeaux argue that the wines should be considered as excellent options as an accompaniment for appetizers, entrées, and even as an apéritif. I became familiar with the approach when I visited Bordeaux a few years ago, coming away convinced of the validity of the contention.
That was why I was excited about the series of Zoom sessions that were scheduled for last November and December. But then life happened. First, a good friend of mine died quite unexpectedly in Paris and while I was preparing to speak at his funeral, my step-mother in Detroit died as well.
Six flights, three hotels, and two funerals later, I had missed all of the Zoom events. I figured that I would address the case of “stickies” after the first of the year, interview some of the producers, and put forth a pretty comprehensive review of the wines.
Well, that didn’t happen either.
This past weekend, while trying to make some sense of my pile of samples, I came across those twelve bottles of golden Bordeaux wines and decided the time was now. My idea? Make some of the recipes I have been perfecting over the past few years and pair them with what I would normally consider a good option as well as one of the Sweet Bordeaux wines.
That started the other night. The dish? Poached Red Shrimp Linguine with a Gochujang Crème Fraiche sauce. The wines? A 2021 Cattleya Sauvignon Blanc Alma de Cattleya from Sonoma County and a 2015 Clos de Cadillac.
- 1 to 1.5 pounds of peeled and deveined shrimp (I like red shrimp)
- 1/2 of a large yellow onion, diced
- 1 pound dry linguine
- 1 tub (7-8 oz.) crème fraiche
- 2-4 tablespoons of Gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
- Olive Oil
- 2-4 tablespoons butter (optional)
- Salt, pepper
- Gochugaru pepper flakes (optional)
Green onion and sesame seeds for garnish
This recipe is fairly simple and straight forward.
- Boil a pot of water to cook the pasta according to its directions.
- While waiting for the water to boil, heat a medium to large skillet over medium heat. Add about two tablespoons of olive oil, then the butter (if using) a few seconds later.
- Season shrimp with salt, pepper, and Gochugaru (if using–this will make the dish spicier).
- Once butter is melted, add onions and sauté until almost translucent (about two minutes).
- Lower heat a bit, add shrimp, and simmer over low to medium heat until shrimp is cooked, tossing occasionally (about 10-12 minutes).
- Once shrimp is cooked, still over low heat (or even turned off), stir in the crème fraiche, then, once absorbed, the Gochujang.
- When cooked, strain pasta, combine with shrimp/sauce.
- Top with chopped green onion, sprinkle with sesame seeds.
We have this dish at least once a month and it is enjoyed by all. Be careful: both the Gochujang and Gochugaru add heat, so adjust based on your audience.
I decided to pair this with a Sauternes satellite, a Clos du Château de Cadillac and a big Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma County. After first trying the Sauvignon Blanc (which was stunningly delicious), I realized that it was a bit overpowered by the spice. I almost opted for a sparkling wine (my normal go-to for just about any dish), but opted for a rosé from Tavel, instead (I have eleven more Sweet Bordeaux wines to go and I can’t bring out my ultimate food pairing weapon already!).
2021 Cattleya Sauvignon Blanc Alma de Cattleya, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $22. Under DIAM5. I have gone through several vintages of the Alma de Cattleya wines and there is no doubt in my mind that the wines, while stellar from the onset, have noticeably improved. Close to colorless in the glass with intense citrus (lemon and grapefruit) as well as a lovely floral aspect. The palate is incredibly rich with an incredible zinginess from the jump, balanced by a bushel of fruit. Holy cow, and a whoa. One of the more powerful Sauvignon Blancs I have had in a while. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2015 Clos du Chateau de Cadillac, Bordeaux, France: Retail $15 (375ml). Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon. Under cork. Golden in color and rich on the nose, really rich, with concentrated honeyed Meyer lemon zest, pineapple, and hazelnut. The palate is rich, unctuous, sweet, and layered with ample acidity to balance out all that sugar. On the finish, the fruit peters out just a tad, revealing all that acidity, causing a slight disjointedness. All in all though? Excellent. 91 Points.
2020 Château de Trinquevedel Tavel, France: Retail $21. 60% Grenache, 13% Clairette, 13% Syrah, 10% Cinsault, 3% Mourvèdre, 1% Bourboulenc. Ah Tavel, if there were ever a singular town in France that I would love to visit (but have not yet been), it might be you (although Cassis and Condrieu are also on that list). As with all Tavel, this is dark in the glass, closer to a red than certainly a Provençal rosé. And along with all that color comes fruit, body, and depth. Yowza. Perhaps the best known (or at least most widely distributed Tavel in the U.S., thank you Kermit Lynch), this wine is quite robust, but also tart and lively on both the nose and the palate. Why more rosé wines are not made this way (with more ripeness on the vine and just a bit more skin contact), I might never know. but thank goodness for Tavel. Outstanding. 93 Points.
In the end? This challenge is not about the “best wine” but rather the best pairing and it was clear that the Cattleya Sauvignon Blanc, while clearly a stellar wine, was a bit overmatched by the spice. The rosé was a much better pairing than the SB since it was a more robust wine, but I do think that the sweetness of the Clos de Château de Cadillac was a slightly better pairing than the Tavel rosé. But in this “competition”? Slightly is enough.
The Standings (thus far):
Sweet Bordeaux: 1
The Drunken Cyclist: 0