15 April 2013

Provençal Lunch with Château d'Esclans Rosé

When three bottles from Château d'Esclans arrived at the house, my first thought was not about the right glass or temperature for the wines, but rather about what I was going to eat with them. Rosés are amazingly food friendly, but I knew these would be delicate, closer to white wines than your bolder, fruitier pinks. While my menu was made with a nod to France and the Mediterranean, it is perhaps not 100% Provençal, but delicious nonetheless.

The Château goes back to 1201, but it spent a few years in the 90s under the ownership of a Swedish pension fund. Since then, it has been purchased by Sacha Lichine who has restored the winery to its former glory and has made what is perhaps the finest rosé in the world, something that was mostly a legend to lovers of dry rosé like me: Garrus.

I've had crudo multiple times in the past two months and it's my new favorite food, which is unfortunate when you're so far from the ocean. This was my first attempt at making it myself, using a block of frozen yellowtail tuna from the international market. I know that sashimi-grade is not a legal classification, but I felt it was the best bet for what I was doing. Just a little extra virgin olive oil, parsley, sea salt, lemon zest, and thin slices of serrano pepper. So many incredible flavors and textures in such a simple dish.

2012 Château d'Esclans Whispering Angel
Côtes de Provence
Proprietary blend of Grenache, Rolle, Syrah, Cinsault and Tibouren
$20, 13.5% abv.

Due to the stainless steel fermentation, this is the most traditional rosé of the lineup. Light aromas and flavors of wild strawberry, with no tannins and low acidity providing a mild and mellow experience that melts on your tongue. An excellent bargain that is highly recommended.

Next, I served an asparagus tart. A pastry base pre-baked, then topped with a goat cheese/egg/milk mixture and the tops of some tender asparagus. At the last minute I sliced spring onions to top the tart, and baked it until just golden brown. The asparagus still had a little crunch to it, but the cheese mixture was well-set. Quite tasty, and perfect for a spring afternoon.

2011 Château d'Esclans Les Clans
Côtes de Provence
Proprietary blend of Grenache and Rolle (Vermentino)
$60, 13.5% abv.

This wine spends some time on oak, though the end result is far more like a well-crafted white Burgundy than anything red. Hints of vanilla, butter, and caramel on top are dead giveaways, and in a blind tasting this would easily pass for a French white wine. The added structure provides some additional strength, allowing it to stand up to heartier cuisine than the Whispering Angel.

I don't know why cassoulet hasn't really caught on in the US. It's dead simple and combines so many of our favorite things. I started with a fresh duck (not confit), which I butchered and roasted in the oven to render out most of the fat. Bacon, cannellini beans, tomato sauce, chicken stock, an onion, loads of garlic... A few other ingredients were combined and allowed to simmer in the enameled cast iron pot for a few hours. The resulting dish was full of deep duck flavors combined with some earthy structure from the Weißwurst. The beans held up well and did not become too mushy, and thanks to some judicial skimming during cooking, the dish was not laden with duck and pork fat.

2011 Château d'Esclans Garrus
Côtes de Provence
Proprietary blend of Grenache and Rolle (Vermentino)
$120, 14% abv.

Not a lot of this wine is made--between 2-3,000 bottles per year, and it's something I've always wanted to try. The oak elements are far more balanced in this wine, and there is a rich peach and floral nose. White fruit and berry flavors intermingle on the palate along with a round body. The finish is gentle yet long lasting, and every sip makes you come back for more. For such a rare style of wine, it is delicious and should be on the life list of every serious wine lover.

Note: These wines were received as samples.


Paul M. Jones said...

I will have the cassoulet at Table Three here in Nashville from time to time. It's fantastic.

Unknown said...


I'm convinced that a lot of Americans would have a much different opinion of French food if their first exposure was cassoulet. "Take a 15 qt. Dutch oven, and start browning duck legs, bacon, ham hocks, and some lamb shoulder for good measure. Add in bratwurst, beans, and tomato sauce, and just simmer it for a few hours."