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.
A couple of weekends ago, 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.
The first dish of my own little personal Sweet Bordeaux Challenge was my own little French, Italian, Korean fusion dish: Poached Red Shrimp Linguine with a Gochujang Crème Fraiche sauce. And it was a good first dish for Sweet Bordeaux as it was the better pairing.
This week, I prepared another of our family’s favorites, Hachis Parmentier, which is the French version of shepherd’s pie. My version of the classic French dish, I adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.
- Olive oil
- 1 large carrot
- 1-2 stalks celery
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 pound Italian sausage
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 2-3 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- Oregano, thyme
- 2-3 Pounds White potatoes
- Gruyère (or comté) Cheese
- Whole cream (or half and half or whole milk)
- Parmesan (optional).
- In a Dutch oven or oven-safe soup pot, sauté the finely diced carrot, celery, and onion in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for a few minutes.
- Once vegetables start to soften, add in beef and sausage, breaking up the meat into tiny pieces. Sauté with vegetables until browned.
- Skim off any excess fat and add Oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper to taste.
- Stir in tomato paste along with vegetable stock. Reduce to simmer.
- Prepare potatoes as if making mashed potatoes. I like to slice them very thin (1/8″ using a mandolin) then cook them sous vide at 90°C (194°F) for 90 minutes with cream and butter.
- Once patatoes are cooked and mashed, layer on top of the meat/sausage filling.
- Cover with grated Gruyère and sprinkle with Parmesan (if using).
- Bake, uncovered in oven for about 30 minutes at 180-200°C (350-400°C) or until sides start to bubble and the cheese has melted and turned a golden brown.
Serve directly from Dutch oven.
I decided to pair the Hachis Parmentier with another Sauternes satellite, a 2016 Château Garbes-Cabanieu 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!).
22019 Chasing Rain Blend Red Mountain, WA: Retail $25. Heavy bottle. 44% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc. This is my third(?) go around with the Chasing Rain brand from Aquilini. Despite the familiarity, I am still amazed that they can produce a Red Mountain wine for a mere twenty-five bucks (and I am sure there are many others on Red Mountain thinking the same). Rich fruit, mostly dark, on the nose with healthy doses of spice and earth. The palate is quite fruity, on the verge of ripe, with the added element of vanilla and oak. More than adequate acidity that serves to balance the wine and defines the story all the way through to the above-average finish. Once again, another fine effort from the Aquilini Family. Excellent. 91 Points.
2018 Château de Garbes Cadillac, Bordeaux, France: Retail $18. 100% Sémillon. Under cork. Another bottle in my “Sweet Bordeaux Challenge” where I compare a Sweet Bordeaux wine with a more “traditional” pairing. This wine went up against a US red blend from Washington State and my Hachis Parmentier (a French Shepherd’s pie). Close to golden in the glass with pineapple and lemon the predominate fruits on the nose and palate. Far from unctuous and more of a “moelleux” than a dessert wine, this 100% Sémillon is impressive. Great fruit, tartness, finish, and verve, this Cadillac really delivers. While the Red Blend held up better to the richness of the Rachis Parmentier, this real is a fantastic wine. Perhaps a bit lighter fare, say, roast chicken or take-out Chinese? Excellent. Excellent. 91 Points.
Before this “episode” of the challenge began, I knew the Sweet Bordeaux would have a tough go at it. My Hachis Parmentier is pretty robust and rich and needs a bit of tannin to help cut through it. Having said that, the Château de Garbes held up surprisingly well with all of that acidity that hides under the fruit and sweetness. In the end, though, I had to give the nod to the Chasing Rain Red Blend from Red Mountain.
The Standings (thus far):
Sweet Bordeaux: 1
The Drunken Cyclist: 1