A couple of weeks ago, I received an invitation to take part in a blogger challenge to match Chablis wine with takeaway food, an opportunity I was excited to accept despite living in a takeaway desert in the wilds of North Dorset. Two bottles of wine duly arrived from the competition organisers – a Petit Chablis on sale at Marks & Spencer and a Chablis from the Wine Society, both from the 2011 vintage (another good year for Chablis) – and it was time to decide on my preferred takeaway style.
I must admit right here to having enjoyed more than a few glasses of Chablis in recent years and the wines are commonly thought to pair well with seafood, elegant fish dishes, white meats and local Burgundian favourites such as snails in garlic butter and gougères, the delicious little cheese puffs often served as canapés in the area. Anne Willan, describing the wines of Chablis in her book ‘A Kitchen in Burgundy’, tells us “No visit to Chablis is complete without a glass at the café….. If I’m lucky there’ll be a basket of gougères on the counter, the perfect accompaniment”. And Michel Roux Jr’s book ‘Matching Food and Wine’ suggests matching a young Chablis with a lovely dish of tartare of sea bass with dill, a combination I can certainly vouch for.
The wines of Chablis are made in and around the town of the same name which is situated in the northern part of Burgundy some 120 miles south-east of Paris. I am a fan of the fresh, minerally and elegant style of the wines from this area despite never having visited Chablis itself. Depending on the site of the vineyards where the grapes were grown, the wines are labelled according to the rules of four separate appellations – Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru. The wines gain added complexity, weight and ageing potential as you move up through these four levels and the specific exposure and rich subsoil of the Grand Cru sites are the most prized. Chablis wines are made exclusively from the Chardonnay grape and their steely acidity and mineral qualities make Chablis one of the great white wines of the world.
So, Chablis with takeaway? A little research seemed to suggest that Chablis can stand up well to foods with a hint of chilli, garlic and perhaps a creamy, lightly spiced sauce. Armed with this information I headed off down the Indian takeaway route initially but, after hearing recent comments from friends about a local Thai place, we got hold of their menu and made our selections.
I wanted to avoid ordering anything too chilli-hot and the menu was helpfully labelled to indicate the styles of the dishes from mild through to spicy. Hefty doses of chilli in a dish can kill the flavours of the wine and you would be better advised to go for a beer instead. We chose four dishes and then settled down to try them with the wines.
The Petit Chablis 2011 from Jean-Marc Brocard (Domaine Sainte Claire) is a fresh, unoaked Chablis with flinty, citrus flavours and a palate-cleansing and long, limey finish. The retail price of £7.50 represents excellent value for money. It could serve as a refreshing aperitif but it also worked extremely well with two of our Thai dishes. Tod Mun Pla, or Thai style fishcakes, were subtly spiced and the fresh, chilli, peanut and coriander dip added an extra dimension – the citrus flavours of the wine complimented the fish and its steely crispness was not at all overwhelmed by the chilli dip. The Petit Chablis was a good match for Massaman Gai, a lightly spiced chicken curry with a coconut sauce. Again the wine was not fazed by the hint of chilli and its personality held up alongside this traditional Thai curry.
Perhaps the surprise of the evening was how perfectly the Chablis 2011 from Louis Michel & Fils (£16 a bottle) paired with chicken satay and peanut sauce. This Chablis was heavier and more complex than the Petit Chablis with ripe stone fruit flavours but the same fresh, minerally style. With the satay dish, it was a triumph, seeming to be perfectly at home with the delicate spiciness of the peanut sauce. We went on to agree it was the better of the two wines alongside Goong Krathiem (fried tiger prawns in garlic and pepper) and confirmed my earlier research that young, cool-climate Chardonnay is a delicious match for garlic-based dishes.
I am happy to report that our Chablis and takeaway matching evening was a great success and a lot of fun. My husband reckons we should try a fish and chip takeout tonight with the rest of the wine. The crisp style of Chablis would certainly work well with the fish and cut through the oiliness of the dish admirably but perhaps that’s an experiment to bear in mind for another day…
I received two bottles of wine from the Bureau Interprofessional des Vins de Bourgogne free of charge in order to take part in this Chablis Blogger Challenge and I would like to thank them for inviting me to be involved.