Decanter's Lucy Shaw has been out matching foie gras and wine: Henriot Brut, Jurancon, Qupe Chardonnay and others. She discovers there IS a match made in heaven - and others that are nearly as good
Olivier Ripert, head chef of Le Bouchon Breton in Old Spitalfields Market in London is mad about foie gras.
For the month of November he has devised a menu of seasonal starters showcasing its versatility. Each of the dishes has been paired with a different wine, from Champagne and Jurançon to the more traditional Sauternes.
Never being one to turn down a challenge, I headed to Le Bouchon Breton on Wednesday night to sample the menu and see which wine pairings worked best, bringing along a chef friend for an expert opinion.
We were greeted in true Gallic style by a tall red-headed waiter, who thrust two glasses into our hands. Glancing at the menu, the first wine on the pairing list was the 1998 Henriot Brut. After a swirl and a sniff we couldn’t work out how this 11-year-old was still so ebullient. It also seemed to lack the complexity one would expect from vintage Champagne.
The red-head soon returned with two more glasses – this time of the 1998 Henriot. He’d served us the non-vintage by mistake. This faux pas did little to spoil the evening. We went on to find some fantastic matches, which had clearly been well thought out, from the juicy Jurançon and apply foie gras mille feuille to the finale – a crisp, creamy Rully with truffle-filled foie gras Tagliatelle.
The key it seems is to pair foie gras with crisp, fresh, citrusy wines with a backbone of acidity that cuts through the fat. Here are my top five matches of the night…
Henriot Brut Champagne 1998 with foie gras brioche
The nose showed wonderful maturity and elegance, with an attractive honeyed bouquet and a crisp, rounded palate. It proved an excellent match for the foie gras brioche – the toasty notes in the Champagne complemented the toastiness of the brioche, while the crispness of the Champagne lifted the dish, which could have easily come across as too rich.
Clos Lapeyre Jurançon Sec Vitage Vielh 2005 with mille feuille of foie gras with caramelised apple in a Calvados sauce (pictured)
A zingy nose of freshly squeezed limes tempered with honeyed notes. Fresh and zippy on the palate, it showed both the complexity of age and vigour of youth. Another great match – the apple in the rosti enhanced the citrus in the Jurançon, bringing out a lovely lip-smacking limey freshness. The rich and creamy foie gras was cooked to perfection and paired deliciously with the sweet apple in the dish, while the acidity in the wine cut through the fat brilliantly.
Castelnau de Suduiraut Sauternes 2004 with foie gras and ox tail terrine in a Sauternes jelly
Sauternes has always been considered the ultimate pairing for foie gras, its waxy sweet mouthfeel complimenting the rich creaminess of foie gras. A charming wine with marmalade, apricot and orange peel on the nose and a smooth palate of white flowers and honey. The foie gras got lost among the dominant ox tail, so the sweetness of the Sauternes jarred slightly with the savoury notes, but the Sauternes jelly helped redress the balance.
Qupe Bien Nacido Cuvée Chardonnay Viognier 2007 with Cassoulet of foie gras with ceps, butternut squash and spinach
Fresh, young, lively and acidic, the blend cut through the fat of the foie gras and lifted the dish wonderfully. A sublime flavour combination – the ceps worked well alongside the foie gras.
Vincent Dureuil-Janthial Rully 1er Cru Les Mazieres 2005 with Tagliatelle of girole mushrooms and foie gras
A delicious wine with a crisp, fresh, apply nose and a rich creamy mouthfeel. It proved a fantastic pairing for the oily pasta and rich foie gras, its crisp minerality searing through the fat. The dish, garnished with shavings from a black truffle the size of a walnut, was the epitome of what a good foie gras experience should be – an intense flavour sensation that makes you tilt your head back and close your eyes in the pure pleasure of it all.
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Written by Lucy Shaw