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Pairing Bordeaux wine with food: beyond claret and lamb

Red Bordeaux is the default choice for a classic main course – but what if you’re eating more adventurously? Nine chefs and wine professionals share inventive dishes that pair perfectly

Red wines from Bordeaux have long enjoyed their share of classic pairings: roast lamb, venison, duck breast or beef-based dishes. Yet there are plenty of alternative options for the more adventurous Bordeaux lover.

Decanter enlisted the help of chefs, sommeliers and team members from renowned Bordeaux estates to gather inventive food matches for their classic grands vins.

Bordeaux wine with food: Seafood & fish

Grilled red mullet & Provençal potatoes

Benjamin Camy, sommelier at Château Pape Clément, suggests enjoying a recent vintage of the estate’s grand vin with grilled red mullet and Provençal potatoes. A youthful wine will not overload the taste buds, he says, and the potatoes help support the suppleness of this particular bottling, which also pairs beautifully with the meaty texture and juiciness of the fish. The red flesh of the grilled mullet makes for an aesthetically pleasing match too, says Camy.

Château Pape Clément, Pessac-Léognan CCG 2017

Cognac-flambéed langoustines with simmered vegetables

Stéphane Moulon, chef de cuisine at Château Pontet-Canet in Pauillac, suggests langoustines flambéed with Tesseron Cognac, served with simmered leeks, raw beets and reduced langoustine jus. ‘The idea behind this dish is to link the land to the sea,’ he explains. ‘The leeks and the beets represent the land, and the langoustines the sea. The Cognac and the jus binds them together.’

Moulon notes that Cognac brings candied notes to the dish and complements the bright fruit flavours of the wine, whereas the aromatic, herbal elements of the leeks emphasise its freshness and minerality. ‘The reduced langoustine jus softens the wine’s tannins and, through adding sweetness, creates a subtle [and delicious] complement to the notes of black fruit found in the wine, and to the energy of the 2012 vintage.’

Château Pontet-Canet, Pauillac 5CC 2012

Grilled lobster & spring vegetables

Seafood is also the chosen route for Claude Broussard, chef at Le Saint-Julien, a restaurant near Château Gruaud Larose. Broussard proposes a ‘signature vineyard twist’ on grilled lobster by adding Médoc vine shoots. He suggests cutting the lobster in half and grilling it over the shoots with the shell on the fire. ‘Brush with olive oil and add salt, pepper and fresh thyme, then put it in the oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking,’ he says, noting to serve the dish alongside fresh spring vegetables – as well as an estate red wine with a bit of age.

Château Gruaud Larose, St-Julien 2CC 2004

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Tuna mi-cuit with black rice

Corinne Ilić, director of communications at Château Pichon Baron, and Marine Castel, director of press relations, suggest pairing the estate’s 2011 vintage with a tuna mi-cuit (‘half cooked’) with lardo di Colonnata (Italian white bacon fat) and truffle, chervil mousseline (French parsley sauce) and black rice – an original recipe created by chef Thibaut Servas.

According to Ilić and Castel, the estate’s 2011 vintage has a beautiful aromatic presence, and spicy, delicate, chocolatey and toasty aromas. ‘The attack is fleshy, and the tannins are rich and silky with good maturity,’ says Castel, adding that this rather light vintage has opened up well and is very accessible with the tuna.

‘[The fish] is tasty and fleshy like red meat, but finer and more tender,’ she explains, citing that the woody and spicy aromas of the wine are highlighted by the bacon and truffle. ‘The chervil mousseline acts as a binder and brings smoothness and freshness to the dish, while the nutty notes found in the black rice echo the toasted notes of the wine.’

Château Pichon Baron, Pauillac 2CC 2011

Bordeaux wine with food: Poultry

Duck fillet with mango & spiced cabbage

Although duck is a rather common pairing for Bordeaux reds, chef Jérôme Banctel of two-star Michelin restaurant Le Gabriel in Paris adds a unique twist by matching the wines of second growth Château Cos d’Estournel in St-Estèphe with duckling fillet, candied and cooked mango, and spiced cabbage. ‘The Goulée cuvée has ample notes of spices. Serving it alongside the mango and cabbage emphasises its length.’

Château Cos d’Estournel, Goulée, Médoc 2016

Roast pigeon & foie gras en croute with ceps & potatoes

In 2019, two-star Michelin chef Hélène Darroze was tasked with preparing her signature dish for the annual Accabailles celebration at Château Carbonnieux in Pessac-Léognan. Darroze presented roast pigeon with foie gras encased in beef Wellington-inspired puff pastry and served with cep mushrooms and roast potatoes, alongside the estate’s 2016 red wine.

‘This food and wine pairing is a divine culinary affair!’ exclaims Darroze, noting that this youthful wine’s fresh and floral aromatics, coupled with its ripe red fruit flavours, provide an elegant and well-balanced match for the dish.

Château Carbonnieux, Pessac-Léognan CCG 2016

Spicy stir-fried chicken

Florent Genty, commercial director at Château Nénin, suggests an unexpected pairing for the estate’s 2012 vintage: kung pao chicken. Genty notes that the dish originates from China’s Sichuan region and is made with chicken, sautéed vegetables, peanuts and chillies. ‘The lusciousness of the wine, coupled with its fresh, lingering acidity, perfectly matches the warm and spicy chicken,’ he says, describing the pairing as ‘dramatically comforting’.

Château Nénin, Pomerol 2012

Pairing wine with Chinese food 

Bordeaux wine with food: Other great matches

Mozzarella & Pata Negra pizza

In St-Estèphe, chef Killian Martin of Château Phélan Ségur proposes a ‘late summer’ pizza with the estate’s 2012 vintage. ‘The liquorice and lightly smoky notes of the 2012 complement the flavours, and pair well with the crispy dough,’ he says, noting that a gourmand wine is necessary to stand up to the hearty ingredients, which include mozzarella, Pata Negra ham and Parmesan. ‘The dish is rich, and this savoury wine creates balance, which ultimately provides digestibility and elegance [in the pairing].’

Château Phélan Ségur, St-Estèphe 2012

Pairing wine with pizza

Tomato souffle

Hortense Idoine Manoncourt, president and co-owner of Château Figeac, picks the estate’s 2011 to match her tomato soufflé recipe, which calls for six large tomatoes, béchamel sauce, four egg yolks, grated Gruyère cheese and a few cubes of ham (find the recipe at Decanter.com/tomato-souffle). ‘The 2011 is a great wine with a full mouthfeel, velvety tannins and a beautiful aromatic complexity,’ she says, stating that the generosity of the vintage calls for an equally rich dish marked by an ‘explosion of flavours’.

Château Figeac, St-Emilion 1GCC 2011

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