Just as I promised back on April 10, when I got to table in Restaurant Paul Bocuse a couple nights ago, I went for the Beaujolais — a Grand Cru, by the way, a Morgon. I did skim through several pages of the volumnious wine list of Bordeaux, Rhones, and mostly Burgundies ranging in price from about 150 euros to several thousand. The seasoned staff, however, didn’t blink at an order for a 55-euro bottle of Morgon, not even when it would accompany one of the place’s signature dishes, an entire sea bass encased in a pastrry shell. They know their boss and his tastes well. In fact, after a couple coupes of Moet & Chandon Imperial Champagne, the head waiter whisked my wife and me to the kitchen at the height of the dinner service to replicate a photo we had made there in 1984.
Next day was completely different. We were hunkered with other hungry diners under a tarp whipping its flaps over a finger of the Thau Basin, home to the finest oyster beds on the Meditteranean. Chez Francoise is the acknolwedged best seafood restaurant in the port city of Sete. No Michelin stars, no write-ups in food and tourism literature. Just a place that looks after its private shell fish beds where we diners see the oysters and mussels and cockels scooped to fill our orders, a place whose staff meets the incomng boats to get the turbot and sole and lotte and bass before the shipments for Paris are assembled.
No wine list here. With my oysters, Francoise’s wife plopped down a bottle of Terret from the nearby Herault. It’s a white wine I have not seen in my U.S. outlets. In Paris, it’s Muscadet with oysters; In Sete, you get Terret.
Along the Languedoc and Roussillon sea coast, we ran into delightful roses made only from Cinsault, no Grenache, no Mourvedre. Just Cinsault, another different taste, one perfect with moules whether gratinee or steamed. It’s good to get off the highway.
It’s a simple question. Do you use soap/detergent to clean your wine/champagne glasses? Experts say no, as soap residue can distort the smell and taste of wine. It seems awkward not to wash glassware using hot soapy water or a run through the dishwasher with last night’s supper dishes. But according to Peter Svans of Living the Dream: What it’s Like to Own a Winery, there are a few easy steps to achieve clean wine glasses without a drop of soap.
“Keep them out of the dishwasher,” says Peter. There’s clinking and clanging in there and you’d be lucky not to chip or crack a bowl, not to mention the greasy mac’ and cheese residue from the bottom rack dishes. Using a rinse-aid product, according to Peter, will eventually leave a film and also distort the taste. These products work to break down surface tension on glassware, thereby eliminating water spots, but over time, can create cloudy glasses.
“Experts” agree hot water and air drying are the ideal methods for cleaning your barware. Restaurants have commercial glass washers but we can obtain the same results at home. Heat water to 180° F. Place a dish towel in the bottom of your kitchen sink, stopper in place. Set glassware on their sides in the sink and gently pour in the heated water just to cover. Most home hot water heaters are set to 120° F so this water will be scalding. Use caution. When cooled somewhat, gently roll the glassware, then remove and set upside down on the counter to dry. You can also use a microfiber tea towel to dry without leaving cloth fibers behind.
Some other tips: Hold tap water in used glassware that may sit out overnight. For red wine residue, use a dedicated baby bottle brush (less expensive than a glassware brush). Steam from a teapot will clean and freshen a wine glass bowl. Hold the glass by the base and at an angle to avoid burning your hand. Fabric softener products in your washer/dryer will leave a film on microfiber/drying cloths.
We’ve not talked about lipstick stains on wine glasses. An online conversation discusses this quandary. One blogger preferred that women continue to wear lipstick while another suggested that less than a drop of detergent could be used directly on the “dreaded” stain. Out, damned spot!
Yolande Coent-Margerit is patient as she tells me of the changes already made and yet to come at the 18th-century Chateau de Pommard. Her day is stuffed with Skype conferences and hurried reviews of marketing schemes and upcoming art shows and other events, but the 300,000 bottles of aging red wine are unaware of any of this deep down in the chateau cellars.
She pointed out a relatively new display just outside the entrance to the estate museum. Five large glass cylinders are stacked with soil strata taken from different parts of the chateau’s 50 acres of vines. “This shows the effect of soil on the finished wine,” she explained.
The poet Ronsard said the wines of Pommard are “firm, deeply colored, bold and age well.” I wish he could also have said they would be readily available in my part of the United States. King Louis XV and Victor Hugo may have favored Pommard wines, but I get few opportunities to try them because my outlets don’t carry them. It takes going to Burgundy to assure me a glass of this silky, lingering Pinot Noir.
Pommard, part of the world-class Cote-de-Beaune, takes its name from an ancient temple to Pomona, the goddess of fruits and gardens, and lies in the valley where the classic Grand Cru red wines give way to the equally Grand Cru white wines of Meursault and Montrachet.
Yolande said that while the chateau owners are commited to displaying fine art — two Americans, a painter and a sculptor, will be featured in the gallery starting May 1 and the courtyard holds two large Salvidore Dali bronzes – everyone in the chateau is dedicated to the art of wine production.
The wines of Pommard certainly deserve their place in the ranks of those 15th-century Dukes of Burgundy who styled them as the “lords of the best wines in Christendom.”
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