Call me crazy.
I don’t care.
When I heard that Marcus Samuelson was doing a pairing of his famous Yardbird recipe with a sweet Bordeaux wine, I was intrigued. I mean, I have adored Bordeaux wines ever since I first tasted one. Granted, I was IN France at the time, but… you get the idea.
So I started thinking, both about this pairing, and about my youth. I grew up in the deep south. That vision of a “down home” chicken leg brought me back to memories of my favorite soul foods, comfort foods, southern foods.
Why have we always expected French cooking or “fancy” meals with Bordeaux wines? Maybe people have been putting Bordeaux on a pedestal, so to speak. So I picked up a 500ml bottle of 2010 Chateau Loupiac Gaudiet Sweet Bordeaux, and headed to one of my hidden secret soul food hideouts in NYC. Spicy fried chicken and waffles with this botrytis blend of semillion and sauvignon blanc. BOOM! This was a perfect pairing, and I was in trouble. The barely sweet honey note from the wine was the syrup for the waffle, the aromatic nose, golden color, and tremendous golden raisin palate was, bite bite and sip for sip, every bit as decadent and delightful as fried fois gras when paired with Sauternes. Savory, please meet acid and sweet!
Do you have specific memories of the soul food/comfort food you grew up with? “Go kiss your –, and tell her how you liked it.”
Oh, I loved it. If only I had a cellar with these wines back then…
Next was mac ‘n cheese with a Bordeaux white blend. The rich three-cheese blend was no match for the delightful mixture from André Lurton’s Chateau Bonnet 2014 Bordeaux, a 50% sauvignon blanc, 40% sémillon, 10 % muscadelle blend. Light gold in color, the nose shows lemony citrus. the palate offers a blend of pear, green apple, and lemon peel with secondary notes of star fruit, clay, sodium, limestone, and chalk. Heaven. But maybe too easy? So I found a tougher pairing dish: chicken & dumplings with cornbread. A rich and savory, sweet and salty dish, that the bordeaux blend met and stood tall against. Oh, it was a good wine choice. I could tell by the fact I finished both the bottle and the dish, and wished for more of both.
When I tried the mac ‘n cheese again, it was with a 2011 Chateau Argadens Bordeaux Superior, and I was in heaven- the deep inky purple color was met by a nose of black plum, eucalyptus and dusty velvet. On the palate, dark flavors: cassis, mature black fruit, forest floor, saddle leather, granite, chalk, limestone, and cedar. Instead of the foil to this cut through the palate on this rich cheese dish, this was the harmonic equivalent and used deep, powerful tannins to wash the slate clean.
Not to give up easily, I managed a week of southern, comfort, and soul food meals, which included meat loaf, corn bread and cabbage; and red bean chili with dinner rolls. Both of these meals paired nicely with the red Bordeaux wines, in spite of the sweetness in the corn bread, the acidity in the cabbage, or the heat in the chili.
When I got to even more savory meals like pot roast with root vegetables and potted steaks with mashed potatoes and green beans, I brought out the big gun: Chateau Bourgeneuf 2009 Pomerol. Deep garnet in color, the nose shows rose bush, menthol and ripe red fruit. On the palate, red plum, blackberries granite, clay, secondary notes of aged oak, gravel and iron. This wine is drinking nicely right now and should be tremendous in a few more years. The flavors were beautiful against the savory meats and vegetables and elevated them to another level.
What did I feel about this exercise? Well, it might have felt crazy to pair classic Bordeaux wines with Soul Food, but it sure tasted right! So why not step outside your comfort zone and try it? Start with your own comfort food, and see how well the flavors work. I don’t think I’ll be opening a vintage bottle of Latour with a package of hotdogs in the future, but there are plenty of great values in Bordeaux that you can find in the $10-$20/bottle range right?
Overall, I was pleased to have been able to focus on pairing soul food and southern comfort foods with Bordeaux. If you get a chance to try Bourdeaux wines with collard greens, grits, sweet potato and chess pie, do let me know- but right now, I’m stuffed!
À vôtre santé!