Monday, April 9, 2018

A French Food And Wine Pairing: Châteauneuf-Du-Pape And Ratatouille

Looking for a wine to pair with your “meatless Monday” dish? Here’s the perfect bottle we selected for our vegan Ratatouille.

Ratatouille: Flavorful French Country Dish

Honestly, I eat a lot more tuna fish and hot dogs than I do Ratatouille. But when our daughter Rachel, the vegan baker and chef behind Earth N Oven, was in town it was a different story.
After a few months backpacking in Southeast Asia, she was interested in creating amazing plant-based dishes in a big, American-style kitchen. I was standing by to pair her work with the best wines I could find.

Ratatouille is a hearty dish from the Provence region of France. It’s a vegetable dish, with eggplant, zucchini and tomato. With olive oil, herbs and garlic, it is a sumptuous dish. Rachel created a flavorful layered ratatouille served with a warm white bean salad and loaf of sourdough bread.

This dish not only satisfied the appetite, but had an amazing presentation. The veggies were layers and spiraled around the circular pan. It looked so wonderful, it was almost a shame to eat it. Almost!

Southern Rhone Wine To The Rescue

In thinking about the wine pairing, I decided that a light-bodied red would be in order. I actually had an excellent Spanish Rioja Crianza teed up for the meal. The chef had other ideas. She demanded that her French dish be served with French wine.

Rhone is one of my favorite French regions, because we go gaga over Syrah and Grenache, two of the regions main red grapes. The cooler climate of the North Rhone is more suited to Syrah, while Grenache thrives in the warmer south. For this dish, the lighter Grenache grape would be the way to go.

My cellar was appallingly low on French wine, with most clearly not suited for this dish. Lingering in the shadows and waiting to step into the spotlight was the 2009 Vignobles Mayard Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau de ma Mère.

Some of France’s best wines come from Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Maynard’s “Crau” parcel contains Grenache vines 105-years-old. The blend is 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre. The wine is aged 18 months in “foudres” – a large wooden vat significantly larger than a typical oak barrel.

We decanted the wine for about a half hour before dinner. The wine is still quite lively nine years after vintage. It is drinking in its prime now, but could probably age for up to three more years. The tannins are soft and the wine was jammy with a nice acidity. Just as there were layers in the Ratatouille, there were delicate layers of complexity in the wine, with cherry, blackberry notes.

A good rule of thumb when pairing food and wine is to opt for wine from the country of the cuisine. Ratatouille and Southern Rhone equaled an evening of French elegance. Viva la France!

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