November 28, 2010

On French Wine and Food

By In Food and Wine, Wine Notes

chateau blomac 2008

How quickly our glorious Autumn has slid into Winter. Early this year are the snows, the ice, the school closures and the postmen ditching their shorts for scarves, gloves and woolly hats, just like us normal people.

Tastes too change with the seasons. Now it is all slow cooked stews, warming soups, breakfast porridge, deep red wines and autumnal flavours. The evocatively illustrated pages of The French Country Table have helped me along – its all bistro styled foods, simple to prepare but full of flavour. Those with more of an autumnal hue include Hachis Parmentier (Beef and Potato gratin), Poulet Sauté à l’estragon (Chicken with Tarragon) and Gratin de Courge et de Riz (Pumpkin and Rice Gratin) have all been created in my humble kitchen over the last few weeks.

Chou Rouge Aux Marrons et Aux Pommes (Braised Red Cabbage With Chestnuts and Apples) was one of the more successful and flavourful it has to be said. Basically slow cooked sliced red cabbage, cooked with onion and bacon lardons, with a cooking apple and chestnuts added too. It is recommended with an Alsatian Riesling – both in the dish and to drink with it. But with deep, meaty sausages and howling winds outside a red wine seemed more apt.

The cork therefore dutifully removed from a bottle of Chateau Blomac 2008 [Adegga / Snooth]. It’s a typical Minervois blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Carignan and 20% Grenache – one of my favourite grape mixes regardless of percentages. Oldish vines for the Syrah and Carignan, 45 years apparently, from an estate brought just two years ago. Chateau Blomac’s 200 acres of vines lie between Narbonne and Carcassone producing mostly Vin de Pays varietal wines (retailing for around £6.49). This Minervois goes for £7.99 a bargain for its silky palate, fine structure and berry-led flavours. There is more to the wine than a simple berry-fest though, a fine complexity of spice and thigh-hugging leather makes a recent Gold Medal win at some French wine competition more understandable. Justified too; a delight and gorgeous with the Beef and Potato Gratin (basically a glorified Cottage Pie) the following night.

The Absolutely Cracking Wines From France trade tasting seemed to manage without my attendance at the beginning of October. Superbly though Sopexa sent me a few left over samples to try but those trouser wearing postmen managed to deliver a dripping, crushed box – I hope that wasted Beaujolias made a right mess in the back of the Parcel Force van! What did survive though was a bottle from Domaine Sainte Rose. Their La Nuit Blanche Roussanne 2008 [Adegga / Snooth] was sublime! I’ve sampled it in the past and was underwhelmed; this though – due to a little bottle age perhaps or just maturing vines – was stunning. The perfect match to that Tarragon Chicken.

Way, way back in ‘the early days’ I visited Charles and his family not long after they had brought the estate just outside Péxenas. I’ve been a fan of their red wines since. This Roussanne was superb; coupling a wonderful textural quality with a rich softness and long lasting finish. There has been a little oak aging I think with some lees stirring to add to the complexity. I’m off down Waitrose to buy a bottle – £8.99 I believe – to see how it matches with Pintade aux Lentils (Guinea Fowl with Lentils), another tantalising dish from The French Country Table.

sainte rose roussanne 2008

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