Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Deployment Special Edition: Le Plat Principal du Soir - L’escargots

Baked snails in an austere environment.
The aluminum foil “shells” each have the requisite escargot topped with melted butter, dried parsley, and garlic salt, baked at the highest setting in a decrepit toaster oven.

Given that today’s main course is far from a traditional deployment food, I will counter by offering somewhat traditional wine pairings for it, both from Burgundy.  To start, let us find a pinot noir from the heart of the region, where the Côte d’Or offers protean expressions of this varietal.  The snails themselves are rich without being heavy, so finding the appropriate match will be partly dependent upon the garlic-to-butter ratio.  The more garlic present, the greater the need for tannic structure, whereas a high butter content demands equally high acidity for balance.  In this desert setting, the ratio was even and the absolute amounts were small, so a more finessed expression of Burgundy would be fitting.  Described by some as a feminine style, the villages of Chambolle-Musigny in the Côte de Nuits and Volnay in the Côte de Beaune may offer the best options for this style across the board.

Turning to the north of Burgundy takes us to the cooler climate home of chardonnay in Chablis, set off the beaten path mid-way between Champagne and the Côte d’Or. 
Limestone soils in this terroir lead these wines to express such diverse flavors as gun flint and steel, as well as nuts and toast.  With yields kept in check, they can offer precision and depth suitable for a pairing with a variety of foods.  For the escargots, the natural acidity of these wines is a fine foil to the butter.  Without taking a stand here on the merits of using new versus older oak for the élevage, suffice it to say, as above, that an increasing proportion of garlic will require a matching wine of increasing body, however that end might be achieved.

Complementary Pairing:
Try:  Domaine Georges Roumier Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Les Amoureuses
From a lieu-dit at the southern end of the village and adjacent to the eastern edge of the grand cru Les Musigny, there are those who argue this premier cru should also be elevated to grand cru status.  Yields are kept low by a combination of older vines and ongoing work in the vineyards, with the majority of clusters de-stemmed after a severe triage.  Punching down the cap during fermentation and pumping the wine over afterwards precedes a slow malolactic and aging in barrels, of which a minority are new.  The domaine produces a uniquely perfumed wine from this cru that is both elegant and powerful, but above all else it is expressive of its terroir.

Contrasting Pairing:  Chablis, Bourgogne, France
Try:  Domaine Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos
This comes from the largest of the seven grands crus, which all face southwest looking back over the town of Chablis.  The domaine’s vines in this cru are on average a half-century old, and are harvested entirely by hand.  The wines age in barrels and half-barrels, none of them new, for 18 months.  The Raveneau family consistently offers one of the top expressions of Chablis from each of its vineyard holdings, and Les Clos is no exception.

The author removing the masterpiece from the oven.   

This embroidered logo is our local tribute to Julia Child’s famous Ecole des 3 Gourmandes.  Frequently featured Chef/Dr. Tim Weiner is the leader of the local gourmand wolf pack, with the author as his humble assistant and personal would-be sommelier.  The third gourmand is whoever was kind enough to send us the key ingredients for each of our deployment culinary adventures.  In the case of l’escargots, that was the author’s wonderful wife, Shannan.