Perfect Pairings for mature Burgundy

Charles Curtis at a dining table

The ideal environment for enjoying well-aged Burgundy wine is quite often at home. The wine’s cellar conditions, provenance and service are assured and – given current market prices for Burgundy – it’s bound to be a bargain if you’ve cellared it yourself. These advantages beg the question, however, of what to cook to accompany it. I recently set out to experiment with friends in our apartment building. I love to cook. My wife and I met while studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris 30 years ago. I finished a few internships at Michelin-starred establishments in Paris and worked as a chef for 13 years in California, the Caribbean and Boston before hanging up my toque to pursue a career in wine in New York City. Despite taking on amateur status, however, I have never lost my desire to cook, and uncorking a great bottle of Burgundy from my cellar often provides the occasion to up my game a bit.

I have concrete thoughts about pairing Burgundy with food. I started my deep dive into the topic 15 years ago while working on my book The Original Grand Crus of Burgundy. It has, if anything, only accelerated since becoming the Burgundy correspondent for Decanter. While it is often true that the wine from a particular place goes well with traditional dishes from the same region, not every delicious Burgundy needs to be paired with a classic of the regional cuisine. Of course, I enjoy jambon persille?, escargots and boeuf bourguignon as much as anyone, but the greatest wines need something more than even the best renditions of these bistro classics.

I feel using fresh seasonal ingredients is essential, and when asked what we’re having for dinner, I usually respond, ‘I’ll know once I see what they have at the market’. Like many New Yorkers’, my kitchen is tiny, and I shop nearly daily for food. I have my preferred fishmongers, butchers and speciality stores, and New York is fortunate to have the Union Square Greenmarket for vegetables. On a recent evening, I made the rounds and persuaded my friends to let me cook in their well-appointed kitchen.

The right white wine

White Burgundy is incredibly versatile, but keep in mind the great diversity of styles. A crisp, mineral Chablis is perfect with shellfish or oysters, but to pair the same with a rich, buttery Meursault would be less than ideal. The dense, slightly oaky opulence of the Meursault (or Puligny, or indeed Chassagne-Montrachet) would be more suited to a roast Bresse chicken or sole meunie?re. However, the wine I had chosen for dinner on this occasion was none of the above.

I have long been partial to the Morey-St-Denis 1er Cru Clos des Monts Luisants from Domaine Ponsot. It’s from ancient Aligote? vines (see Charles’ feature on Aligote?), planted in 1911 just up the slope from grand cru Clos de la Roche. Ponsot harvests the meagre yield and vinifies them in older, neutral oak casks. The Aligote? grape retains a lively acidity that needs some time to come around. I purchased a case of magnums of this wine and had cellared it for more than a decade. A recent magnum shared convinced me it was drinking at its peak.

I opted to pair the 2008 vintage Monts Luisants wine with large, wild-caught sea scallops. These exotics are three times the price of the smaller ones dredged from the ocean floor, but they are worth a splurge. Luxurious last-of-the-season white asparagus matched the richness of the scallops. Still, the two rich ingredients needed something clean and fresh to accompany them, so I devised a broth to use the stalks and trimmings from a bulb of fennel, reserving the centre for another dish. A pinch of saffron gave the broth an interesting twist. The slightly exotic aroma of saffron responded to the aged character of the Ponsot. The wine was still youthful and mineral but showed developed aromas of dried apricot and candle wax. By way of contrast, I pulled a young Bourgogne Aligote? – the 2019 vintage from Goisot (2021, £20.95 Sip Wines) – to have…

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Perfect Pairings for mature Burgundy Perfect Pairings for mature Burgundy *Perfect Pairings for mature Burgundy