On Monday, December 23, I decided to launch the holidays with a special supper, and a special wine.
The supper was a fish and shellfish stew that I made with some leeks (one of my favorite vegetables!), onion, garlic, celery, herbs and olive oil. Unfortunately, I was out of saffron - which I know would have enhanced its pleasantness, so we will have to re-try the recipe after a trip to the grocery store.
For dessert, we did as the French people do, and had some greens, some bread, some black grapes and an assortment of French cheeses: Chaumes, Brie de Meaux and Pavé d'Affinois with truffles. I also had an old (aged) Canadian cheddar lying around, which I put on the plate as well.
(In the following mornings, I would have leftover cheese on a toast with some wild crabapple jelly my mother made... a delicious way to start the day!)
I was thinking it had been a rather healthy meal (I had small pieces of cheese) until D produced a plate full of profiteroles ("choux à la crème"). Oh well. It's not Christmas every day.
But wait! It's not even Christmas yet! I thought.
The holidays are the time to eat and drink whatever you don't usually eat and drink. I'm not talking about stuffing your face and working on your cirrhosis; overeating and overdrinking is not my thing. But there is a way to indulge in a couple favorite treats within reasonable boundaries. Which is why I also plan to have (or have already had) beef Stroganoff, "tourtière" (meatpie) that D made with minced beef, pork and lamb... and of course the traditional Christmas dinner, complete with turkey and stuffing.
Not one to neglect vegetables, I have (or will) also enjoy "vichyssoise" (French leek-potato soup, served hot or cold), mashed potatoes with taro (a hairy root vegetable that is toxic until cooked - careful!), never forgetting my usual steamed bok choy/swiss chard, and loads of salad (mixed greens... yum). On Christmas' Eve, D carefully crafted those:
|Green olives, oranges, prosciutto, fresh basil, cherry tomato|
How I love light but colorful and tasty appetizers. I could live on them. But back to Monday's delicacies.
To accompany the "ocean stew", I had purchased a Chablis. As I was drinking, equipped with my "Atelier du Vin" wine discovery kit (see here), I set about to "analyze" the robe, aromas, taste and texture. To do that properly, one has to be dedicated and meticulous. Which does not stop me: I love to spend half an hour examining half a glass of wine with all my 5 senses.
As I was progressing in my evaluation, it occurred to me that it would be fun to share my findings with you, readers. So, here they are.
First, some background: Chablis is a French white wine from the Burgundy region, and is made with Chardonnay grapes. The nice thing about Chardonnay in this region is that it is usually not overoaked like it can be elsewhere, which in turns means less vanilla and caramel-like aromas. I really appreciate it that way, "unoaked".
Because it grows on a soil characterized by limestone, clay and fossilized oyster shells, the vine gives a special taste to Chablis; the latter will often be reminiscent of wet or crushed rocks, or even chalk. This is called a mineral taste. As I said previously, for some reason I really like that in a white wine. Maybe I'm low on minerals; I should get it checked. Anyways, I find it pretty amazing that you can actually taste the soil in the wine!
A good Chablis (not to be confused with the ersatz sometimes found in the States, and which is a pale copy) will also be dry (as opposed to sweet), with a nice acidity. That was very obvious in the one I drank.
When examining the color, I could see it was a pale yellow, which is indicative a young wine. (I could also simply have looked at the label for the vintage, but I guess I like to go the complicated way.) Because this was a young white wine, it had little fruit apart from some apple and a touch of lemon. As the wine ages, it could become more fruity. When Chardonnay grape is grown in warmer climates than Burgundy, the fruit can be of the tropical kind. There was none of that in my Chablis.
Other aromas I perceived were tea (indicative of a "vin de garde", a wine to be kept a couple years before drinking it), and something floral (but I have no idea what flower! Something light and delicate. Any idea?)
Because of its weak aftertaste, I would conclude this Chablis would have benefited from aging a little bit more. I know I have a Chassagne-Montrachet 2009 (Chardonnay, from the same region) that is supposed to be at its optimum in 2015-2016. By then it should be peachy. Literally.
In the same vein, I drank a great Pouilly-Fuissé a couple months ago, which would be another wonderful Burgundy Chardonnay option.
Not to forget Meursault, with which I have had great experiences as well. Be warned that this one could have a more buttery or nutty personality. Which is a quality in its case.
Those wines are nice paired with fish and shellfish (which I love), including raw oysters (which I adore). Oh, and please don't put anything on your oysters. Okay, maybe a droplet of lemon juice. That's all. Don't go ruining the taste of "heaven in a shell"!
For more on white wine, read this (click here).
For more on Chardonnay in particular, click here.
Of course, if you like dry whites in general, there would be tons of other wines worth a mention. In another post, surely!
To learn about wine in general, as well as about some of human nature's weaknesses - plus an apology of pinot noir, watch Sideways.
I also recommend an informative - and fun - book on wine written by Nova Scotian Natalie MacLean (click here).
For a fascinating study linking wine tasting and music, look no further. It's here. Classical music is great as an accompaniment to food and wine indeed, including opera:
Jazz is also a wonderful option. What kind of music do you like to drink to?
Any wines you would like me to analyze? I am more than willing to sacrifice myself!