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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Case study: Chablis (and its food friends)



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.

Oh well.

Too bad.

Too late.

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!





22 comments:

  1. I'm loving your wine posts!!!
    And, I'm learning so much! I enjoy wine but I'm in no way an expert on any of it so this is fun for me!!

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    1. Thanks Kim! I'm no expert either, I basically learn as I go. Being curious and attentive is all you need. :-)

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  2. You have done more to teach me about (some) wines in the last 2,000 words, than many of my wine making friends and clients here in Southern California over the last decade -- truly.

    I am going to reread both of these, and any future writing you do on wine, because you have an excellent way about you in teaching. And I am reminded, all the knowledge of something (anything) is wasted on teachers who don't have the communication skills to share that knowledge.

    Thank you.

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    1. I'm glad you're enjoying those posts!

      I truly believe wine is a pleasure that should be shared... and that's what I'm trying to do. I'm no expert though, don't forget! I just like to read about it, talk about it, and taste it! :-)

      Once again I love your creative name! :-)

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  3. You are lucky! I use cherry tomatoes with red onions, cucumbers oil & vinegar dressing with fresh dill. You can also use them for pasta salads and top chicken piccata with them.

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  4. What a lovely blog. Your thoughts on Chablis make me want to go out and buy a bottle. I remember how trendy it used to be to drink this back in 'the olden days' when I was a young mother. Then chablis went out of fashion. We've been drinking a few Marlborough wines from New Zealand lately but I think it's time we revisited chablis.

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    1. Thank you Maureen for your comment! :-)

      Funny, I have never wondered if a wine was trendy. I just try, and if I like what I taste, then I buy some more! :-)

      New Zealand has a couple great ones!

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  5. I am not usually a white wine drinker, except that I love it with fish and shellfish. This is a nice post - I like learning more about different wines and what they pair with food-wise. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by mine, Amy! :-)

      I used to prefer red wine, but I have discovered whites, and really enjoy them now.

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  6. What a lovely blog and post! Thanks for commenting on my blog, I love finding new friends that way. This was a really great post on wine, I learned so much. Hope you have a wonderful 2014!

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    1. Thank you Christine! I was very happy to stumble on your blog as well. :-)

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  7. Hi, great posting about wine. I love wine too, thanks for sharing the info. Your appetizer look good.
    Thanks for dropping by my blog, I'm following you.

    Have a great weekend. Regards.

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    1. Thanks Amelia! I really appreciated your blog too! :-)

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  8. I wish my palate liked wine, but it doesn't... AT ALL... And I also cannot drink anymore wine so I guess... I don't have to worry about me not even enjoying it, LOL! But my family would LOVE YOU because they ADORE THEIR WINE!!

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    1. A palate can be worked on... but a stomach, not so much I'm afraid! :-)

      Thanks for coming by GiGi!

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  9. Sounds like a perfect meal. Chablis is magic with oysters on the half shell. One of my fave pairings.

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    1. We agree on that then! :-)

      Thank you for your comment.

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  10. Hi - only just found your blog and will need to read more. But loving the pictures and Chablis is a great wine.You seem to be into your wine and good food ...... I love good wholesome food and a glass of wine with dinner .... lovely.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thank you for visiting! Glad you agree with me on those pleasures of life! :-)

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  11. Great post! I think learning about wines is so interesting. When we lived in California I learned how to cook with different wines. So much fun!

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    1. It is fascinating to learn about wines! You are lucky you lived in California!

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