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Friday, 19 July 2013

Matching Loire Wines and Food‏ - with Fiona Beckett

For an evening of matching Loire wines with food, having @winematcher as the presenter is good place to start.

@winematcher, aka Fiona Beckett, is a Guardian columnist who writes a blog on matching food and wine, and who had selected some Loire wines to match with a series of dishes at upmarket hotel, Andaz.

We were a mixed group of food and wine bloggers, but in her introduction, Fiona made the very good point that food bloggers self-evidently have a palate, so merely need to view the wine as one of the ingredients of the meal.

She added that they should also develop a palate memory - essentially, being able to recall what certain wines will typically taste like - in order to have a sense of whether it is likely to match.

Dispelling older myths and cliches, she emphasised the notion of focusing on the general descriptors of the food to find a suitable wine match - light foods delicately cooked need correspondingly light wines, whilst heavier, more robust dishes need bigger wines.

With London in the midst of a heatwave, it was as if the weather had conspired to make it a suitable evening for tasting the light and refreshing wines which are the hallmark of the Loire.

Traditional matches for Loire wines, such as Muscadet and shellfish, Sancerre and goat's cheese, are based on the principle of a light wine with an unfussy dish.

That rather goes against the restaurant zeitgeist of intense, concentrated and unexpectedly contrasting flavours, and that for me was where the exercise did not quite succeed; the wines, all good, when put up against the complex, aromatic, intensely flavoured foods prepared by the Andaz, often seemed a bit overwhelmed.

A dish of Vietnamese prawn and rice noodle salad with coriander leaves and lemon would have been better, I felt, with a more full-bodied, but equally well-structured wine.

However, the one revelation of the evening was a Côt, also known as Malbec - since this is a grape that typically only ripens properly south of Bordeaux, to find a Loire example was unusual to say the least.

The non-surprise of the evening was that two wines from The Wine Society were amongst the best and most popular.

We reviewed the wine in pairs with small dishes of food.

Starter: crostini with goat's cheese and broad beans

Tesco Finest, Les Chaumes, Touraine Sauvignon 2012 citrus nose, crisp and mineral, herbaceous. For me, this was overly lean and was overpowered by the food.

Lionel Gosseaume, Les Marcottes, Touraine (Lea and Sandeman) a Loire Gamay, it had expressively varietal aromas of strawberries and raspberries with lilac and violets plus good acidity. Stands up to the food well, but the red fruits on the finish clash with the herbaceous food aromas.

Vietnamese Prawn and rice noodle salad with lemon juice and coriander

Thierry Delaunay, Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2012 aromatic expressive nose, pure fresh and precise. A good wine, but overpowered by the food and needs to be just that bit bigger.

Morrison's Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2011 less aromatic, more weighty and stands up to the food well. A darker, more yellow colour and has something of a prematurely aged character about it - not quite squeaky clean, perhaps slightly faulty ?

Sole goujons and chips with tartare sauce and lemon juice

For me, deep-fried food needs beer - add in an oily sauce and lemon juice and any wine will struggle, so I avoided these.

Calvet, Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2012 pure varietal Sauvignon aromas, hint of white pepper, fresh linear acidity with aromatic citrus zest and a touch of leanness. Nicely refreshing with the food, like a squeeze of lemon.

Domaine Guenault, Famille Bougrier, Touraine Sauvignon 2011 more colour than the Calvet, bigger, fuller more assured, textured and complex. Good. A popular favourite, too.

Rare seared tuna with a sesame crust and soy sauce

Again, I avoided the bowl of salty dipping soy as inimical to wine.

Domaine Pre Baron, Touraine Sauvignon 2012 pure, precise aromatics, good linear acidity, citrus and aromatic zestiness. Good. For me, this clashed with the nutty toasted aromas of the sesame crust. I would have matched these to a dry oloroso sherry and matched the Sauvignon to something with more coriander and chili aromatics.

Domaine Guy Allion, Les Quatre Pierres Touraine 2010 classic Cab Franc wild raspberry aromas, mushrooms, cherry, sweet ripe red fruits and juiciness; herbaceous palate and a soft texture. The wine proved a good match with the food - one of the best matches of the evening.

Smoked Venison with cider-pickled mushrooms and a red wine jus

Domaine Guy Allion, Les Quatre Pierres Touraine 2010 - the same wine as previously. The acidity cuts through the dish nicely, but the flavours do not match.

Henry Marionnet, Vinifera, Touraine, 2010 a Cot, aka Malbec, this was very dark in the glass with an inky texture, dark fruit and aromas of pencil shavings; a firmness on the palate becomes grippiness on the finish. Good.

Works really well with the meaty, gamey venison which makes sense of its acidity and tannins. The dark-fruit jus and sweet-sharp cider-pickled mushrooms also work wonderfully - a really successful match.


For dessert, we were given a Domaine Paget, Sparkling rose NV to try and encouraged to select our own combination from a range of basics - strawberries, raspberries, meringue, Chantilly cream, mascarpone, shortbread and chocolate sauce.

The wine, a deep sockeye salmon pink, was only slightly off-dry with aromas of fresh raspberries. Pleasant and simple with more red berry fruit on the palate, it was a light sparkler.

Eschewing the beautifully elegant visual presentations of some of the food bloggers, I opted to concentrate on finding a match; this meant red fruits and not too much sweetness.

The raspberries and mascarpone worked well with the wine, but the sweetness of the strawberries, meringue and Chantilly cream - although delicious - was too much for it.

At the end of the evening, we were presented with two of the wines we had tried and encouraged to find and write up our own food matches; I am intrigued to see what my fellow bloggers will come up with, but I suspect mine will be more Nantaise cafe and less upmarket restaurant.

Recommended wines

All the wines were good, but those that stood out were:

Domaine Guenault, Famille Bougrier, Touraine Sauvignon - The Wine Society
Domaine Pre Baron, Touraine Sauvignon, 2012 - Majestic
Henry Marionnet, Vinifera, Touraine, 2010 - The Wine Society

Other related articles
Matching Loire Wines to Sushi
Matching SW France Wines At Comptoir Gascon
Domaine Rablais Touraine and a Risotto Recipe

InterLoire - website
Fiona Becket - website, twitter

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