Wine First: 3 Dishes To Pair With White Burgundy
Probably because of its relative novelty, the idea of food and wine matching has generated excitement and discussion in Asian wine circles for many years. However, the truth of the matter is that for the truly wine-dedicated, the question as often as not isn’t “what wine shall I pick to go with my chou doufu?”, but “what meal can I summon up to accompany my Corton Charlemagne?”.
Hence, we’ve decided to kick off a series covering food and wine matching from a wine-first perspective. Each time we’ll pick a category of wine and give you a suggestion of three different pairings you could opt for to highlight the qualities of your chosen bottle. First up is white Burgundy.
For the purposes of this article, when we say white Burgundy, though the term technically covers any white wine made in the larger region known as Burgundy, including Chablis or Bourgogne Aligoté, what we mean is the white wines made from chardonnay in the Côte d'Or (primarily the Côte de Beaune, since the lion’s share of whites are made here rather than in the Côte de Nuits to the north). This includes wines from Grand Crus like Corton Charlemagne and Le Montrachet (and all its many associated Grand Crus) as well as villages like Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet or––more affordably––St Aubin.
The style we’re referring to is one made with an impressive array of winemaking inputs, from the veils of hazelnut and vanilla perfume contributed by new oak to the creamy texture of lees stirring and malolactic fermentation. Because of Burgundy’s still somewhat cool climate relative to other chardonnay regions, we’re talking about wines of power and intensity but not that much body or alcohol (say 13.5% at the upper end) that have bright, forthright acidity. The aromas generally tend toward the savoury and ethereal––the fruit component is rarely dominant and tends to lie at the citrus to unripe stone fruit end of the spectrum.
A less discussed feature of white Burgundy, and something that adds dimension from a food-matching perspective, is the phenolic texture of the finish, brought by either oak ageing or the grape skins themselves. The presence of tannins is one reason why, despite being white, these wines are not necessarily the most apt choice for a delicate seafood meal.
Pairing 1: Baked Stuffed Crab Shell
On its home turf, white Burgundy is often served with rich, creamy dishes that echo its own creamy texture. To replicate that effect but with a somewhat Asian twist, consider a high-end East-West dish like baked stuffed crab shell that incorporate rich ingredients like onions, bread crumbs, sweet crab meat, curry powder and Worcestershire sauce. Though lacking any actual dairy, the pungently flavoured combination tends to give an eerily dairy-like effect.
A side bonus is that if you have a white Burgundy that is just on the edge of premature oxidation and starting to taste a little flat and nutty, a dish with a vinegary component like Worcestershire sauce (friends of mine who love this dish say that only Lea & Perrins will do) will perk it right up.
Pairing 2: Salt-Baked Chicken
The salt crust of this traditional Hakka dish, used to amplify the juiciness of the chicken, likewise helps draw out the fruitier side of the wine. The acidity and lightly phenolic texture of the wine help cut through all the indulgent fattiness lurking under the chicken’s crispy skin. For bonus flavour points, consider additions like fresh Gunba mushrooms (a truffle-like Yunnanese seasonal delicacy) that offer a delicious riff on the mushroom dishes that go over so well in Burgundy.
To complete the meal, consider adding some nice leafy greens with ginger, which I personally find plays more happily with chardonnay than garlic, and possibly some egg noodles.
Pairing 3: Beef Ho Fan
Yes, the idea of matching your HK$6,000 bottle of DRC Le Montrachet with a plate of fried noodles sounds obscene at first blush, but hear me out. Sometimes it is the humbler dishes that bring out the best in trophy wines (and really, there’s something delightfully indulgent about the high-low mix that I promise will elevate the experience).
The wide, flat rice noodles and the succulent chunks of beef, not to mention the cheerfully greasy sauce, meld together delectably with the slight waxiness you get on a perfectly ripe white Burgundy, while the tannin texture and acidity help keep everything bright and cleansing. Gentle browning on the onions likewise echoes the savoury flavours of the wine.