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Celebrating 100 issues! A special FOOD & WINE issue dedicated to Jean-Louis Palladin

WINTER 2011-12

$5.95 U.S. / $6.95 Canada /



the best of culture, tr avel & art de vivre

“Rhubarbe et fraises à l’orange, pralines aux amandines” by Alain Passard

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pioneering Château Haut-Brion to not only dare this combination but to pull it off—and in the presence of hundreds of international journalists and winemakers, no less. The event was last June’s biennial dinner for the press hosted by the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés en 1855. Exemplifying a growing trend among Bordeaux châteaux toward more sophisticated cuisine and precise pairings, Haut-Brion had invited a trio of three-star chefs—Anne-Sophie Pic, Yannick Alléno and Alain Passard—to prepare the meal, asking each to create a different course to complement the Médoc and Sauternes served that evening. Passard’s dish—betterave pourpre en robe des champs à la vinaigrette aigre douce, cacao et miel d’acacias—was the most provocative, stimulating lively discussions about the many ways food and wine interact. Such conversations are increasingly commonplace here, with many winemakers now paying nearly as much attention to what’s on the plate as to what’s in the glass. On the following pages, we take you into the kitchens and dining rooms of some of the region’s most famous estates to discover just how fascinating and fun this new Match Game can be. As one chef knowingly observed, “More than ever, drinking Bordeaux in these châteaux is like drinking it no place else in the world.”


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Waiters at Château HautBrion carry in the grand cru wines to be served at dinner. INSET: The roast veal dish prepared by three-star chef Yannick Alléno.

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eople tease me about

harvesting with tweezers,” says Véronique Sanders, manager of Château Haut-Bailly, a Graves estate that previously belonged to her family. Showing visitors around the immaculately tended vineyard, she explains that grapes here are picked by hand and only when they are at peak ripeness—even if that means spreading a 10-day job over five weeks. “It’s a bit extreme, but we try to be very precise in everything we do. We think that makes for the best wine.” Now she is encouraging that same level of precision in the kitchen. “When I was growing up here, meals were very good but simple—meat grilled over vines, regional specialties, that sort of thing,” she says. A few years ago, she decided that the château’s wines deserved better, so she hired Tanguy Laviale, a promising young chef with experience in two- and three-star restaurants. His mission: to create lighter, more refined fare carefully matched not only to the Graves appellation but to the château’s wines and even to its different vintages. Precise indeed. Laviale admits that he would have


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been incapable of pulling this off when he arrived in Bordeaux in 2007. He had followed his wife here, but rather than look for a job right away, he decided to get a diploma in wine. “Véronique took me on as an intern, and I helped her come up with a more sophisticated approach to the château’s entertaining,” he says. “It was a win-win.” After a year in the vineyard, he moved into the kitchen, where his newfound understanding of wine radically changed his views of food and wine pairings. “Before, all I really knew was ‘red with meat, white with fish,’” he laughs. “Now I like to think that I take a somewhat more intelligent approach.” Before each meal, he carefully prepares the wines that will be served, closely overseeing temperature and decanting, varying the time wines are allowed to breathe according to how “open” or “closed” they are. He considers these same characteristics when tailoring his dishes to specific vintages. He cites as an example the 2005 vintage, which is still a bit closed. Growing conditions were ideal that year, and Haut-Bailly picked the grapes at just the right moment. “The result is a spicy, warm wine that retains a

wonderful freshness. It will develop even more flavors and aromas, but already it has silky tannins similar to those in spices such as cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. So I use those flavors in dishes I pair with that vintage.” He contrasts 2005 with 2007, when there was more rain and cooler temperatures. “That vintage is already more open, so its fuller flavors go well with beef, duck or mushrooms.” His favorite pairing with HautBailly is his roast squab with muscovado sugar. “Squab has a wonderful taste that is somewhere between game and red meat—just enough flavor to go with these wines without overpowering them.” And the sugar works well, he says, because it has notes of caramel, tobacco, licorice and coffee, all of which come through in the château’s barrel-aged wines. Laviale has also created a signature chocolate for Haut-Bailly—a rather cheeky move given that chocolate and red Bordeaux don’t typically get along. “The problem is usually the tannins,” he says. “But older vintages have softer tannins that don’t fight the chocolate, and some even have lovely cherry flavors that go well with it.” Of course, not just any chocolate will do. Laviale’s confection, which also includes toffee and toasted pine nuts, works because of its studied balance of sweetness, saltiness, fat, texture and other elements. In addition to cooking for HautBailly’s professional lunches and dinners, the chef also directs the estate’s new Tables Privées. Corporate or private groups of eight to 15 people may now rent the château’s reception rooms for the evening, enjoying his haute cuisine thoughtfully paired with HautBailly vintages. “I love doing these dinners,” Laviale says. “Guests enjoy this rare opportunity to walk around the château and vineyard, have drinks on the terrace, dinner in the dining room, coffee and Cognac in the salon.” When good friends and fabulous food and wine come together in such a setting, it can be a match made in heaven. Château Haut-Bailly, 33850 Léognan; Tel. 33/5-56-64-75-11;

In recent years, Haut-Bailly has become known for its sophisticated and gracious entertaining. LEFT TO RIGHT:

Guests enjoy drinks on the terrace; Chef Tanguy Laviale’s signature roast squab with muscovado sugar; the chef gathering herbs from the château garden.

Pairing Like a Pro “I have noticed that when the weather is bad, people are much less interested in trying new things. So I suggest more adventurous pairings only on beautiful sunny days, when people are in a good mood and are more openminded.” —TANGUY LAVIALE

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rinking Château d’Yquem

anywhere is a rare privilege. Partaking of the “wine of kings and the king of wines” at the château itself can be breathtakingly magical, with centuries of history and legend enhancing every sip. Given Yquem’s extraordinary prestige, it’s not surprising that the chef here is expected to be more respectful than innovative, yet even in this rarefied environment, ideas about food and wine pairings are changing. Already in the 1990 s, former owner Count Alexandre de LurSaluces enjoyed drinking Yquem


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with lobster and oysters—a rather bold idea at the time. “He found that vintages with less sugar, say a 1991, work particularly well with oysters, and that wines that have aged about 10 years are wonderful with lobster,” says spokesperson Valérie Lailheugue. “More recently, we’ve discovered that Yquem’s complexity, a result of the mosaic of soils here, allows it to interact beautifully with dishes that have many layers of flavors.” A new favorite is tagine d’agneau avec épices et légumes confits. “It pairs best with vintages that have aged 10 to 15 years; that’s when they develop notes of jam, marmalade, orange peel, saffron….”


The legendary Château d’Yquem has been making wine since at least 1593; the grand salon welcomes guests with original wood paneling and Philippe Starck chairs; amuse bouches prepared by chef Marc Demund.

The toque behind Yquem’s cautious culinary evolution is caterer Marc Demund, who started working here in 1985 after training with starred chefs in Switzerland and France. His father and grandfather also cooked for the Lur-Saluces family. “Yquem still uses the very best ingredients—Breton lobster, caviar, squab, rack of lamb,” he says. “But preparations have definitely become lighter and more contemporary. Instead of canard à l’orange or poulet aux cèpes, I now make dishes such as grilled line-caught fish or crab with avocado and citrus fruit.” There is a code to entertaining at Yquem, and Demund prides himself

We never add sugar because if the dessert is too sweet, it will smother the wine.”

on mastering it to the letter. The menu is always in five acts: apéritif, appetizer, main course, cheese and dessert. Occasionally, Yquem is served throughout the meal. More typically, Champagne is served before dinner— Dom Pérignon, Krug, Ruinart, Veuve Cliquot La Grande Dame or another gem from the wine portfolio of current owner LVMH. Then the first course might be accompanied by Y, the château’s dry white wine, with Yquem poured throughout the rest of the meal. Usually wines from the 1990s or 2000s accompany the main course, and older vintages, sometimes going back to the 1940s, are selected for the cheese and dessert courses.

In all cases, close attention is paid to pairings; even Roquefort, long the château’s go-to cheese, has been reconsidered. Today Yquem serves Roche Baron, Bleu d’Auvergne and aged Comté, all deemed more precise matches for its wines. Given that the oldest vintages are always served last, dessert is the high point of every meal. Yquem demands modesty in its pastry chef, and Demund delivers with simple desserts conceived to let these wines reveal their full glory. “Mildly acidic fruit works very well,” he says. “For example, a carpaccio of pineapple with a passion fruit juice or a tarte tatin with apricots. But we never add sugar

because if the dessert is too sweet, it will smother the wine.” Nor do they serve ice cream. “It chills the palate, preventing you from properly appreciating the wine.” The other big no-no is chocolate, considered too sweet. Some of the world’s top chefs have concocted chocolate desserts specifically to go with Yquem, but such flights of fancy are not the house’s style. In this dining room, says Demund, elegance is invariably subtle, restrained and understated—much like Yquem’s famously simple label. Château d’Yquem, 33210 Sauternes; Blog:

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peaking at the Masters of

Wine symposium in Bordeaux last year, Bérénice Lurton issued a mock call to arms: “Libérez les Sauternes!” The manager of the highly regarded Château Climens implored the audience to finally free her appellation from outdated stereotypes and clichés. Her playful rebellion included a luncheon pairing Sauternes with Chinese cuisine. Everyone loved it. “I wanted them to realize that it’s high time we stop thinking of Sauternes as merely a dessert wine or an accompaniment to foie gras,” she says. “I guess I got my message across because soon afterward, someone launched a ‘Libérez les Sauternes’ Facebook page!” Lurton, who took the reins at Climens in 1992, has been working with chefs to push back the frontiers of Sauternes pairings for the past 15


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years. “Back then, we knew to avoid anything too sweet or too acidic, and that white meat is always a safe bet,” she says. “But what we were surprised to discover is that there really are no limits. Even matches we thought would be impossible worked if we found the right Sauternes, the one with the right freshness or opulence, with flavors that were young or old or caramelized.” Lurton gives visitors a taste of these exciting possibilities during meals at Château Climens, where she audaciously serves her wine with every course, from apéritif to dessert. “It’s fun to do this with any Sauternes,” says Lurton. “But Barsacs lend themselves particularly well because they have a freshness that doesn’t tire your palate.” Each dish prepared by chef Florence Camaly is painstakingly tailored to the specific vintage that accompanies

it. “Obtaining this sort of precision with pairings requires countless tests and tastings,” explains Lurton. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a beautiful exercise. And it is so wonderful to see how thrilled guests are when they experience our wines this way.” What is remarkable about the Lurton/Camaly duo is that they are as adventurous as they are exacting. As a student, Camaly lived above a North African grocer in Bordeaux’s Saint Michel


For centuries, Climens has produced top-quality wines, earning the sobriquet “Lord of Barsac.” ABOVE:

Manager Bérénice Lurton (left) offers guests dishes that have been painstakingly paired with specific vintages.

roasted pineapple with saffron and vanilla ice cream sang beautifully. What’s more, even the most perfect pairings don’t last. “Wine continues to evolve in the bottle,” explains Lurton. “For years, one of my favorite combinations was a 1972 Climens and a crème brûlée with saffron. But the last time we served it, we realized the wine had changed, and the pairing was a total flop!” As hard as she works to give visitors a unique experience, she never loses her sense of humor and advises against taking all of this too seriously. “To be honest, I’m not a great cook. At home, I’ll invite friends over for an osso bucco, a blanquette de veau or even a simple roast chicken—they all go wonderfully with Climens. Sauternes is such a festive, fun wine. Just open a bottle with some friends and try it with lots of different things. If they don’t go together perfectly, who cares? What’s important is that you enjoy yourselves.” neighborhood and was intrigued by the scent of spices wafting up from the shop. She eventually began experimenting with cumin, cinnamon, coriander and other foreign flavors; these forays into Moroccan cooking soon led to Thai, Indian, Chinese and other cuisines, all of which show up on Climens’s menus. “Their wines work with such a broad range of spices and hot peppers,” marvels Camaly. “They have a roundness and richness that

beautifully softens these seasonings and calms the palate. It’s hard to describe, but it’s as if their lushness wraps around the spicy flavors.” Camaly and Lurton are both quick to point out that matching food and wine is not an exact science—even they don’t always understand why some things work and others don’t. Recently, they were surprised to see that roasted pineapple with vanilla didn’t hit the right notes with one vintage, but

Château Climens, 33720 Barsac; Visits are by appointment only; Tel. 33/5-56-27-15-33; Recipes by Michel Guérard, Pierre Gagnaire, Florence Camaly and other chefs designed especially for Château Climens are posted on Additional recipes created for Sauternes and Barsac wines may be found on the Grands Crus de Sauternes et Barsac 1855’s Web site:

Pairing Like a Pro “Wines within the same appellation can be very different. Château Bouscaut and Château Fieuzal, for example, are both Graves, but I pair them with very different foods. Fieuzal is very mineral, so it can stand up to stronger flavors. Bouscaut has a lot of finesse, so it works better with something mild like salmon tartare.” —FLORENCE CAMALY

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n the early 1980s, no one except

Jean-Michel Cazes would have seen the remote little town of Pauillac as a potential luxury destination. But that is exactly what this visionary winemaker had in mind when he bought the property next door to his Château Lynch-Bages. He promptly moved Château Cordeillan-Bages’s winemaking operations to his own vineyard and transformed its 19th-century chartreuse into an elegant hotel and restaurant. Now a Relais & Chateaux, it has become a mecca for international


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gourmands and wine enthusiasts. For years, the kitchen was run by the irrepressible Thierry Marx, known for his passion for Asian and molecular cuisine. When Marx left to join the Mandarin Oriental in 2010, executive chef Jean-Luc Rocha took the helm. A Meilleur Ouvrier de France, the two-star Rocha is equal parts classical rigor and creativity, and is refashioning Cordeillan-Bages into a restaurant where wine and food hold equal pride of place. Rocha and sommelier Nicolas Geoffroy spend a great deal of time

together, learning from one another and sharing ideas. “Everyone knows that Médoc wines go with regional dishes, but wines from other places work very well with them too,” he says. “By the same token, Bordeaux wines can complement cuisines from around the world. We want this to be a place where guests can explore all these possibilities.” Between Rocha’s talents and a wine list that Robert Parker calls “stupendous,” they have plenty to work with. Recently, Geoffroy began looking into alternatives to Sauternes to


Cordeillan-Bages offers guests an extraordinary wine cellar and a two-star chef who delights in exacting food and wine pairings. A recent menu included this artful king crab and pumpkin dish. Suggested wine: a 2009 white Sénéchaux.

Extreme Pairings

go with the chef ’s sautéed foie gras and fruit compote. Initially he tried some very dry French whites but had to venture even farther afield to find the best match for this classic Southwestern dish: a Spanish sherry. “I was really surprised,” he says. “But it made sense. The sherry’s aromatic and mineral qualities were a great foil to the richness of the foie gras.” Many Bordeaux chefs avoid certain ingredients because they can ruin the taste of wine, but not Rocha. “I used to live in the Rhône Valley, and when I arrived in Bordeaux, I was told that olive oil wouldn’t work with the wines here,” he says. “But I have found many ways to make it work—now we even have an olive oil dessert on the menu.” He also heard that artichokes were a bad match because of their bitterness and metallic taste. “But you can get around that simply by peeling and cooking them the right way. It’s not the foods themselves that are the problem,

it’s the way they are prepared.” And while any decent restaurant these days will advise guests that white wine is a better match than red for most cheeses, Cordeillan-Bages has gone a giant step further, ditching the sacrosanct cheese trolley altogether. Instead, Rocha offers “fromages cuisinés,” such as his Roquefort glacé. Inspired by nougat glacé, it retains the pungent taste of Roquefort but adds a sweet unctuousness. Geoffroy recommends pairing it with a dry white wine, perhaps one from the Loire Valley. “Today people expect food that is perfectly prepared, has great flavor and is beautifully presented,” says Rocha. “But they also want to be surprised, to be able to say, ‘Wow, I could never do this at home.’ That is the experience we try to give them here.” Château Cordeillan-Bages, Route des Châteaux, 33250 Pauillac. Tel. 33/5-5659-24-24;

Cordeillan-Bages has turned food and wine pairing into an extreme sport with its new “Alliances” dinners. Each course is tailored to match specific vintages from a single château or Champagne house; to date, participants have included Latour, Branaire, Dom Pérignon, Krug and others. “We always start from scratch,” explains chef Jean-Luc Rocha. “First, the sommelier and I meet with their cellar master to taste the wines and talk about their various characteristics. Once the vintages have been selected and put in a certain order, we make some very general matches on paper.” Then the real work begins, with Rocha creating dishes that are tasted with the wines, then re-thought and re-tasted until everyone is satisfied. “When you start, it’s an intellectual exercise,” he says. “Then it becomes sensual.” Pairings generally play up either similarities or differences—an aromatic escargot course, for example, was conceived for a fullbodied, exuberant Latour vintage, while a smoked sturgeon and caviar dish contrasted nicely with the bright freshness of another of the château’s wines. “Ideally, you want there to be a backand-forth between the food and wine,” says Rocha. “Both should be better together than either one is alone.” The provocative chef also enjoys nudging guests out of their comfort zone. “I love it when people look at the menu and say, ‘This dish will never work with this wine.’ Then they taste them together and are blown away by the explosion of flavor.” For more information and reservations, contact the Château Cordeillan-Bages restaurant.

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riving down Médoc’s

Route des Châteaux, it’s only natural to wish that you could visit more of the legendary estates that line what is perhaps the world’s most famous wine road. Many have begun opening their doors, but there are historical reasons for wine tourism’s cautious development here. Unlike other winegrowing regions, most Bordeaux vineyards have never sold wine on their premises or directly to consumers. Here, wine has always been sold


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to brokers, who in turn negotiate deals with retailers in France and importers around the world. Many estates, such as Château Palmer, still limit entertaining to these professionals, although wine lovers may arrange visits by appointment. Hosting guests in their opulent dining rooms has long been serious business, with white-gloved butlers passing gleaming silver platters and winemakers generously pouring multiple vintages to accompany each course. “It has always been very important for the top Bordeaux estates to receive people


Palmer boasts one of the most beautiful châteaux and some of the greatest wines in the Médoc. When entertaining, hosts do everything possible to make the experience as distinctive as the estate’s famous black-and-gold wine labels.

in a manner that is in keeping with the excellence of their grands crus,” says Thomas Duroux, Palmer’s general director. “But up until fairly recently, most of us just didn’t pay that much attention to one aspect: the cuisine. It was always good, just not on the same level as our wines.” He decided to remedy that six years ago when he hired full-time chef Olivier Gibault. Although Gibault had the culinary chops for the job, his knowledge of wine was limited. “Thomas took me under his wing and taught me everything,” he says. “Early on, I would

make a dish, and we would taste various vintages with it so that I could begin to understand how each interacts differently with the same food. He also gave me private tasting lessons involving wines from many regions and countries. Eventually, I was ready to start thinking of the wine first when coming up with new recipes.” The idea of devising fish dishes for red wines was entirely new to him. “I learned that the trick is to have a garnish or sauce that works with the wine,” he says. “For example, the other day I made a roast wild turbot with baby vegetables that worked beautifully because the vegetables were cooked in a very reduced chicken stock with emulsified butter. The stock, which was also ladled over the fish, was the bridge to the Alter Ego de Palmer 2000 that we served with it.” With Gibault’s talents added to its

arsenal, Château Palmer, a third growth often referred to as “the pretender to the crown of Margaux,” can now mount a charm offensive that is hard to beat. The seduction starts the moment guests drive up to the estate—even crusty old wine critics get a little giddy at the idea of dining in a turreted château. The apéritif is usually Champagne, and the first course is typically paired with Alter Ego, either a 2006 or older. The main course and cheese are served with Palmer vintages; right now, the 2000 is the youngest that Duroux will put on the table. With six years of experience under his belt, the chef says that his dishes are always good matches. “On occasion, Thomas might suggest that we go with an older vintage, or we might substitute, say, a risotto for spring vegetables to slightly improve the pairing, but these are just incremental adjustments.” Then there are the

times when even Duroux is surprised at how brilliantly the food complements the wine. “Unfortunately, I can’t always explain how I make it all work,” says Gibault. “There are some general principles, but a lot of it is intuitive.” As many as 900 international guests are seated around Palmer’s massive wood dining table throughout the year, and the chef tries to anticipate their likes and dislikes. “For example, many are Asian and don’t like red meat. So for them, I tend to make seafood, fish or white meat.” Whatever their nationality, whatever the menu Gibault dreams up, it’s an experience that few will forget.

I can’t always explain how I make pairings work; a lot of it is intuitive.”

Château Palmer, 33460 Margaux. The estate will be closed for renovations through June 2012, but requests may be made for visits after that date. Tel. 33/5-57-8837-16;

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eople who say that Bordeaux

winemakers are conservative clearly haven’t met Bruno Borie. The owner of the stately Château Ducru-Beaucaillou has a Keith Haring in his tasting room and a huge neon sculpture of a cat dribbling a ball in his wine cellar (by Alain Séchas, sounds like “ses chats”). The new label on his La Croix de Beaucaillou was designed by Jade Jagger (daughter of Mick). And when he invites guests for lunch or dinner, he is usually the one doing the cooking. “When I was a kid growing up here, I used to love helping the cooks during the harvest—peeling potatoes and carrots, that sort of thing,” he recalls. He has since honed his culinary skills and outfitted his kitchen with all the latest professional equipment, from sous-vide machines to special cooling chambers. He is particularly fond of two enormous cauldrons that he remembers from his childhood, now conveniently mounted on pivot mechanisms. “Just like back then, we use them to cook things super slowly,” he says. He describes his cooking as a 21stcentury version of la cuisine de bonne femme. “It’s a lot like winemaking— we are doing the same things we have always done only with new methods and techniques, better temperature controls and improved equipment. It’s all much more precise now.” And just as top-quality grapes are essential to making great wine, Borie is adamant about having top-quality ingredients.


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His fruits and vegetables couldn’t be any fresher—they are grown in a large garden to one side of the château. Meals at Ducru-Beaucaillou typically involve either vertical or horizontal tastings, affording guests the opportunity to experience the estate’s range. “I tend to serve younger vintages in the summer and older ones in the winter,” he says. “When it’s cold out, for example, a poule au pot or a truffled chicken, both of which have relatively mild flavors, go great with vintages from the ’60s or ’70s, because they have a lot of elegance and finesse.” Good pairings, he says, are like good marriages: “Each has to make an effort, each has to take a step toward the other.” Sometimes they need a little push. “Most people say that asparagus and peas don’t work with red wine. But asparagus is fine if you blanch it and add ham. And tiny, fresh peas are no problem because there is no bitterness in their skin. It’s the larger, mealy ones

Pairing Like a Pro “Everyone now says that cheese is best with white wine, but I think that it can also go very well with young reds. Sometimes, I like to serve a young red with the first course, go on to something else with the main course, then come back to that first wine with the cheese.” —BRUNO BORIE

that will break a wine’s sweetness.” Yet while he pays careful attention to his matches, meals here are above all about enjoying good food, good wine and good company. “I can’t stand boring wine dinners—the kind where everyone sits around analyzing everything, talking about exactly what time the harvest started that morning, how many Mexican virgins were brought in to pick the grapes and so on. Wine speaks for itself, it tells a beautiful story.” Borie made this abundantly clear during the 2009 Vinexpo trade fair, when he hosted a dinner for 350 guests. He had to build a hangar just to house the many rotisseries brought in to cook the huge slabs of beef, pork and veal. “For the first course, we made terrines of guinea hens; we decorated them with feathers, just like in the movie Marie Antoinette,” he says, relishing the memory. “The main course—carré de veau, côtes de boeuf and carré de cochon—was served on huge platters that were set on the tables. Everyone shared, and there was a great sense of camaraderie. It was beautiful.” The wines? Magnums from all the great vintages: 2005, 2003, 2000, 1995, 1970 and even 1961, considered the vintage of the century. For the grand finale, Borie burned down his château. “Well, it was only lighting and special effects, but everyone loved it. You should never be afraid to overdo things.” Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, 33250 StJulien-Beychevelle. Visits available to professionals only.


Borie, owner of Château DucruBeaucaillou (left), is an accomplished cook and frequently prepares meals for clients as well as friends. Here he shows off the quality ingredients he says are the foundation of any good meal.

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n 2004, Château La Lagune

became the first grand cru classé vineyard in the Médoc to open guest rooms and a restaurant designed for the general public. In spite of its resounding success, it remains the only one to have done so—an indication of just how reluctant the great châteaux are to take on anything that might distract them from their winemaking. The initiative was part of the Frey family’s extensive investments in the property, which they purchased in


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2000 . Renovations to the estate’s lovely 18th-century chartreuse, built

by the same architect responsible for Bordeaux’s Grand Théâtre, included a charming vaulted country kitchen with an adjacent herb garden. It is here that chef Florian Lameul holds court, preparing meals amidst a blinding array of copper pots, bouquets of flowers and bowls overflowing with fruits and vegetables. Guests dine at a long wooden table, just across from his gorgeous brasstrimmed Lacanche range. Lameul shifts seamlessly between

cooking for professional lunches and dinners hosted by the owners in the formal dining room and preparing meals for châteaux guests. His style— classic and not fussy (“I don’t ‘deconstruct’ or ‘revisit’ anything”)—is well suited both to the demands of his job and the relaxed décor. When it comes to wine pairings, he has a lot of latitude, given that the Freys also own Billecart-Salmon Champagne and the Jaboulet Ainé collection of vineyards in the Rhône Valley. “We serve all of their wines here,” says Lameul, who also fills the role of sommelier. “Over the years, I’ve gotten to know their wines well, but I still vet all pairings with Caroline Frey, the château director. It’s rare, though, that we disagree.”


Winemakers at La Lagune use candles to evaluate clarity; vintages selected for the evening meal; chef Florian Lameul at work in La Lagune’s country kitchen; an example of his “classic but not fussy” cuisine.

When matching food and wine, Lameul considers many factors: the food itself, of course (whether it’s meat, seafood, fowl, etc.), but also how it is cooked, the spices used, the vegetables served with it and so on. “You don’t want the food to overshadow the wine or vice versa,” he says. “Pairings should be subtle so both can shine.” One of the most important elements is the sauce. “If you have a chicken dish made with tomatoes, basil, celery and other vegetables, those flavors will be stronger than that of the chicken. So you want to pair the wine with the sauce, not the chicken.” He finds white wines a bit more difficult because of their acidity. “People typically think of serving white wine with fish, but that’s not always a

good marriage. The acidity can kill the taste of fish, especially if it has a sauce. I frequently find that young red wines can work better.” While he creates very different dishes for young and old vintages, he says that his general approach is the same. “For both, I rely on my personal memory as well as the château’s tasting notes. For example, I know that the 2007 La Lagune is fruity and floral, with a little smoky note, a little balsamic, so I develop my menu in function of those characteristics. My meat may be a little caramelized, I might serve magret de canard fumé and so on. For older vintages, a more neutral meat would generally be a better complement, perhaps with mushrooms to add a note of underbrush. But these are

People typically think of serving white wine with fish, but that’s not always a good marriage.”

elegant wines, so you don’t want any flavors that are too strong.” He admits that discovering the perfect marriage is sometimes a matter of pure luck—and doesn’t even have to involve great vintages. “Once I was given a bottle of 1993 La Lagune; it’s a good but not exceptional year,” he relates. “I served it that evening at a dinner with friends, with a Saint-Félicien cheese. It was unbelievable! I had never experienced such a perfect pairing— f and it was a total accident.” Château La Lagune, 33290 Ludon; Tel. 33/5-55-88-82-77; To inquire about booking a room or to make reservations for lunch or dinner, contact Karine Joffre at Tel. 33/5-57-88-82-77 or

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Top châteaux are taking food and wine pairings to an exciting new level. By Karen Taylor.