On Saturday night I went to a splendid dinner at Bordeaux Quay in Bristol hosted jointly by a group of Bordeaux producers in conjunction with the city’s best-known chef Jean-Pierre Xiradakis of La Tupina and Barny Haughton of BQ, as it’s known locally.
There’s a long history of cultural and commercial exchanges between the towns which have been formally twinned for 60 years. Wine has played a big part in this so it was fitting that the group which represent less well known appellations such as Cotes de Blaye and Premires Cotes de Bordeaux chose the occasion to announce that from next year they will be called Les Cotes de Bordeaux*
The logistics of organising a dinner for over 80 are always complicated , particularly when there are two or three wines to be served with each course but between them Xiradakis and Haughton managed to be true to Bordeaux culinary heritage and produce robust food that did the modest but attractive wines real favours.
The evening kicked off with a choice between an attractive lush oaked white Chateau Monconseil Gazin 2006 and a delicious but lethal cocktail called pousse rapire based on an orange and armagnac-based liqueur of the same name, topped up with sparkling wine and decorated with a fine slice of orange zest. With them were served oysters dressed with shallot vinegar and red mullet on rosti, larger-than-bite-sized canaps that were slightly unwieldy to handle but which provided a good stomach-liner for the succession of wines to follow.
The first course was a sure fire flatterer for almost any dry white or sparkling wine - a white bean soup with shavings of black truffles. It also suited the wet, blustery weather we had experienced earlier in the day. (Seasonality is as important as taste in planning a menu). Of the two wines we had with the course I preferred a crisp, clean citrussy 2006 Chateau la Rose Bellevue, to the slightly fuller Chateau Lacaussade Saint Martin, both from the Blaye.
Then there was, for me, the dish of the night - a macaronade aux trompettes de la mort (basically a macaroni cheese/mac and cheese with wild mushrooms but the sauce, which was made with white wine, mustard, shallots and Comt, Beaufort and parmesan cheese was almost more like a fondue.You’d have thought it would have been a classic white wine dish but in fact in went incredibly well with its two accompanying mid-weight reds, a Chateau de Plassan Premires Cotes de Bordeaux and a Chateau La Rose Bellevue (Ctes de Blaye), both 2005s
That was followed by braised hare in a red wine sauce. It’s hard to go wrong with a choice of main course with Bordeaux, of course, but the hare added a touch of glamour and the fact that it could be pre-cooked made it easier than a roast which would have needed last minute attention and accompanying vegetables We had two 2003s to drink with it, Chateau Monconseil Gazin and Chateau Montfollet and a very forward, slightly over-oaked 2004 which I found less attractive, L’Ame de Fontbaude, Cotes de Castillon
A carefully chosen selection of British and Irish cheeses including Cashel Blue, Berkswell and Ragstone served with an original and deliciously fresh side salad of apples, celery and new season’s walnuts (a very nice touch) didn’t trouble the next pair of wines, a smooth Chateau Brethous 2001 and a taut Chateau de Francs Cuvée les Cerisiers 2004. (Bigger, more tannic wines might have been a problem)
And the final course was a south-western classic - prunes in armagnac with (I think) a sabayon ice cream which was paired with a 2001 Chateau de Plassan Cadillac (a little light - some tuiles with the prunes would have helped)
The partnership of relatively simple bistro-style food with what the Bordelais refer to as ‘petits vins’ has a lot to recommend it. No gastronomic or oenological fireworks, admittedly but a well-balanced, enjoyable meal that didn’t leave you feeling over-full or with a morning-after headache. A model to follow, surely.
* The Cotes de Bordeaux will encompass Cotes de Blaye, Cotes de Castillon, Cotes de Franc and Premiere Cotes de Bordeaux. From 2008 labels will display the Cotes de Bordeaux title prominently with the more precise indication of origin, such as Blaye or Castillon underneath.