Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

Fish and chips … and a glass of Chablis?

two ChablisNobody would now be surprised if you drank Australian Riesling with Thai food or a robust southern French red with Bolognese sauce.   But what about Chablis with its cool climate imprint and association with fine French cuisine?  I can well remember a casual conversation with a wine merchant complaining about the latest in a long line of tax hikes on wine.  The example he used made the point perfectly: ‘the streets of X [insert the name of any large town here] are not crowded with young tearaways smashed out of their minds on Grand Cru Chablis!’  So the very name of this wine is associated with refinement and a discriminating palate. 

The Chablis Bloggers Challenge sets the task of pairing this cool climate Chardonnay from northern Burgundy with take away food.  The marketing aim is clear: let’s get Chablis out of its ‘fine wine and sophisticated French cuisine’ niche, let’s tap into the huge takeaway food market and make Chablis as popular as Jacobs Creek … or even premium lager.  I am sure that the vignerons of the Yonne département are rubbing their hands in anticipation!

The UK fast food market is big but not sophisticated. In general, there has been a huge rise in interest in quality food on this island – in restaurants and on television – but this has not affected the fast-food scene at all. The standard choice is: 

  • overly fatty fish and chips
  • creamy, sweet and oily Indian-inspired curries
  • ludicrously calorific deep-pan American pizzas
  • and, if you are lucky, fragrant Thai curries.

There is a sense of impending doom in attempting to match any of these with stylish, mineral, edgy Chablis.  High levels of chilli make Chablis taste metallic and completely unappealing so that rules out the curries.  The acidity of the wine does something to cut through the fattiness of batter/chips or pizza which owes more to the cheese industry than to light, hand-made, dough but they are not exactly a match made in heaven.  Sushi with its raw fish is a natural but seems a bit obvious given the classic Chablis and oyster match of French cuisine.  So we need a new angle altogether. 

Living in Hampshire, southern England, surrounded by countryside with its pheasant shooting, may give a clue.  Pheasant has become a source of inexpensive, lean meat Pheasant caserolewhich is widely available either to cook or as ready meals through farm shops and specialist butchers.  So a Hampshire takeaway can extend to pheasant pies, casseroles and the like.  Take a bow Pheasant casserole and Chablis, a match which is surprisingly good!  As pheasant is a dry, lean meat it needs a little help with the tanginess of bacon or pancetta, a touch of sweetness from a fruit component – dried apricot or prune – and/or some richness from a wine sauce. You then get a casserole which is tasty, nutritious and healthy. 

Surprisingly both styles of Chablis worked well with it. The super-light and crisp Petit Chablis (details below) is simple refreshment and a contrasting texture.  The marginally richer Chablis works better as the wine has the weight to stand up to the fruit and wine sauce, while the lemon and green apple fruit is a good complement to the white meat.   And I dare say that Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines would be better yet as the wines would not be overwhelmed by the simple but delicious Hampshire take away.  Chablis and pheasant casserole – you heard it first here!

Wines supplied by the Chablis Blogger Challenge

Petit Chablis, UVC Chablis, 2011, 12.5% – a wine from the Chablis cooperative now housed in its smart, glass-fronted, new winery and visitor centre: the wine is clear and bright, pale lemon in colour; fragrant, bright lemon and sherbet on nose and palate, high acidity, medium length, clean sudden finish; good. 

Chablis, Domaine Servin, 2011, 12.5% –  clear and bright, medium lemon; medium and more intensity apple and greengage on the nose with just a touch of honey continuing through to the palate with a touch of richness but retaining the classic Chablis steeliness; medium-plus length; very good. 

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