I Love French Wine and Food - A Burgundy Chablis
If you are looking for fine French wine and food, consider the world famous Burgundy region in eastern France. Although it’s fairly rare, you may even find a bargain. I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a Chardonnay white wine coming from old vines (vieilles vignes) in the Chablis district of northern Burgundy.
Among France’s eleven wine-growing regions Burgundy ranks fourth in acreage if you include the Beaujolais region, which most people do in spite of their considerable differences. Partisans, and they are many, claim that Burgundy is really the number one or number two wine-producing region in France, if not in the world. The wine reviewed below comes from the Chablis district of northern Burgundy that is physically closer to Champagne than to the rest of Burgundy. Chablis is known for its white wines, but some red is produced, especially from a local grape known as César. If I can get my hands on some, I’ll be glad to give it a shot. Until then I’ll have to be satisfied with Burgundy whites.
Chablis is not only a style of wine known around the world. It’s also a village of less than three thousand in a district of the same name. You can enjoy some old houses, the Serein River, and the Length-Depaquit Castle but its main attractions are the vineyards and the wine shops.
The smaller single-street village of Vézelay was a major pilgrimage site in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries. The medieval Basilique Ste-Madeleine (Saint Madelene’s Basilica) is really worth seeing for its Romanesque architecture. The grounds are also beautiful. In fact the complex is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The same guy who restored the basilica also restored the Cathedral of Amiens and Notre-Dame in Paris.
Before reviewing the Burgundy wine and imported cheeses that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and local imported food stores, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region.
Start with Escargots de Bourgogne (Snails in Parsley Butter).
For your second course savor Fondue Bourguignonne (Beef Fondue).
And as dessert indulge yourself with Poires pochées au vin de Bourgogne (Pears poached in Burgundy Wine).
OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.
La Chablisienne Chablis Les Vieilles Vignes 2003 12.6% about $24.00
Let’s start by quoting the marketing materials. Steely Intensity. Vieilles Vignes, or Old Vines, yield less fruit but the quality is much higher than that of younger vines. This intense Chardonnay is consistently excellent with green apple, lemon, and loads of mineral characteristics. It’s dry and steely with a long, crisp finish. Serve it with lemon chicken or oysters on the half shell. And now for the review.
My first meal was a meatless quiche with sesame seeds, broccoli, mushrooms, red and green peppers, and non-imported cheese. The wine is crisply acidic. I really tasted the lime. This wine was imbued with that Chablis taste of flint. And yet the wine and food weren’t a particularly good match. Things worked out marginally better with a tomato, cucumber, red onion, and parsley salad.
The next meal involved a baked salmon filet that marinated for 24 hours in a sesame seed, honey, garlic, soya, and black pepper sauce. The sides were mashed potatoes in bouillon and zucchini in tomato sauce. This combination worked excellently. The wine was lemony and powerful. It was palate cleansing and tasted steely and flinty. I sort of ruined things with dessert, fruit-juice candy that flattened the wine a bit. Honestly, in all my readings and discussions, I have never come across the pairing of fruit-juice candy and Burgundy wine. As per my policy, I don’t blame the wine for weird food pairings that don’t fly.
The final meal consisted of breaded, fried chicken cutlets, potato patties, and caponata, a thick Italian-style commercial eggplant salad including tomatoes and olives. The wine was very refreshing with plenty of lime and acidity, strong and yet subtle. This combination was classic and the wine emerged slightly different with each of the meal’s components. Believe or not, it became ethereal when paired with the same fruit-juice candy tasted above.
The first cheese pairing was with an Emmenthaler (Swiss) cheese that actually came from Germany. Even though the cheese was quite mild, it flattened the wine which no longer came out so nicely acidic. I then tried this Chardonnay with goat cheese from the Poitou-Charentes region of central western France. Even though the cheese gave off a bit of ammonia, the pairing was interesting; the wine was round and a bit thick.
Final verdict. Burgundy brings its expectations, even more so when it is labeled Old Vines. This is not a wine for daily consumption, not for me anyway. But the salmon filet pairing showed the heights that it can reach when properly paired. I would buy it again but watch carefully the accompanying food. And regret, as so often, that it isn’t considerably less expensive.
Levi Reiss has authored alone or with a co-author ten computer and Internet books, but to tell the truth, he would really rather just drink fine French, German, or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He knows what dieting is, and is glad that for the time being he can eat and drink what he wants, in moderation. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his Italian travel, wine, and food website www.travelitalytravel.com and his global wine website www.theworldwidewine.com.