Peacocks Along the Ionian Sea
Dining with charming winemakers from Alsace and Peloponnese and a lesson in Chablis Grand Cru
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It’s always fun to dine with a winemaker whose family estate goes back to 1720 and who owns the prestigious Alsace winery, Domaine Joseph Cattin. Now run by Jacques Cattin, 27, and owning 50 hectares in the Upper Rhine area at the base of the Vosges Mountains (including the Grand Cru du Hatschbourg), the winery makes some fabulous Cremant D’Alsace white and rose. Grand Cuvee 2007 is aged for 2½ years (when most cremants age only a year or 18 months). The Chardonnay takes on warm toasty notes.
At Brassiere (a French restaurant that’s been in my neighborhood since an eternity and is still packed at lunch), we discussed how well Alsace wines go with Chinese food, especially spicy Szechuan. Pinot Blanc for mussels and lobster, Riesling for the fish and Pinot Gris for Peking Duck—a legendary pairing because the toasty notes of the Pinot Gris goes perfectly with the smoky notes of the Peking Duck. In fact, the Chinese people themselves have embraced Domaine Joseph Cattin wines and in 2010 Cattin became the number one selling Alsace wine in China.
“The Chinese took to the sparkling the Cremant d’Alsace Rose ($18),” said Jacques Cattin, “and they also especially like the Gewurztraminer because it’s sweet on the palate and tastes a lot like lychee—a favorite taste for the Chinese.” I have to say I share the Chinese taste of the Cremant d’Alsace Rose; it was fresh and festive with the fruit de mer tiered platter we shared over lunch.
Jacques looked around the large room of New Yorkers and admitted he was a bit dazzled by all the people. “My village has 500 people,” he said humbly. I asked if he knew everyone of them personally and of course he did. His village is 350 meters high, one of the highest villages in Alsace. And his family owns the region’s truly mythical vineyard, Clos Madelon, at an altitude of 425 meters, which was the site of a major battle during WWI, and planted only to a singular variety, Pinot Gris (whereas most Alsace vineyards are planted to many varieties). Yes, pair that with your next Peking Duck.