A few weeks ago I was approached through this blog to take part in a Chablis Challenge. The premise was simple; they would send me two bottles of Chablis and I would suggest what I thought would pair nicely with the wine. The ultimate prize being a trip to Chablis. Well, I wasn’t going to say no to two bottles of wine was I?
My knowledge of wine is limited. I know what I like and I have a basic understanding of the processes involved in making wine but apart from that I don’t really know anything! Chablis wasn’t really something that had come across my radar before. I knew the name and I knew that it was French but apart from that I couldn’t really tell you anything about it.
So here are three quick facts about Chablis:
1. Chablis is a town in the Burgundy region of France.
2. Chablis is made from the Chardonnay grape.
3. The limestone based soil of the region is said to give the wine a flinty note.
So, that’s the kind of information that Wikipedia can give you. It doesn’t actually tell you much about the wine itself. The only way to find out that was to drink it! One bottle was duly sacrificed to taste testing and recipe development.
I found Chablis to be a nice fresh, crisp, almost green tasting wine. Definitely something that I enjoy. The most powerful association for me was granny smith apples. Overall the foods I was leaning towards were chicken or fish and bright citrusy flavours with nice green vegetables. I played about with various ideas some to complement, some to contrast with the wine then I duly came up with three menu suggestions:
The sharpness of the wine to my mind would pair nicely with rich and flavoursome but simple ingredients, something along the lines of the classic French dishes. Chicken, mushrooms, potatoes, butter! Something to contrast nicely with the bright, fresh flavours of the wine so that the overall effect of each was tempered and enhanced.
My next thought was that French was too easy, it’s a French wine, so French food was a little obvious, why not go for something different, something unexpected. A mild Thai dish with lots of fish sauce and sharp lime really sprang to mind. Lots of fresh green vegetables and crunch! I think that a fish curry in particular would be a great match and some prawns in there too would be lovely.
And then I thought why not find a middle ground? Zesty lemony chicken served with roasted pattypan squash and pasta lightly dressed with a nice peppery olive oil dressing.
I tried all of these recipes in turn. Each of them went well and lent itself to a different aspect of the wine. So for the Pièce de résistance, the meal I would cook for my whole family to enjoy, I put it to a vote. Dad’s vote carried the day and French it was!
Palmiers and Gougères
Chicken thighs stuffed with mushrooms with grilled asparagus, chantenay carrots and pommes Anna
Hopefully my family weren’t just humouring me when they said it was all delicious! We all agreed that the contrast of the richness of the food and the sharpness of the wine meant that neither overwhelmed the other and that the wine was robust enough to hold its own against the stronger flavours but was light enough that it didn’t clash.
All in all I really enjoyed this challenge. It brought a new wine to my attention and really made me stretch my recipe development skills trying to come up with flavours that would complement the wine and then adjusting the dish to make each part really shine. Normally as far as I get with wine matching is to choose a red or a white dependent on the meat! In the future I will definitely pay more attention to pairing the right wine with the right food as the advantages are great. All in all it was an excellent exercise and I shall certainly be adding Chablis to the list of ‘wines that I like’!