In praise of … The Ilkley Book Festival
Starting a little bit off topic (but it links to wine soon), I just have to mention how much I enjoy going to events at the Ilkley Book Festival each year. This year’s dates are from 2nd to 18th October. I just hope that it goes ahead this year. Always a great mix of major events at Kings Hall, where I have seen people ranging from Alan Bennett to Alan Johnson and smaller events at places like the Ilkley Playhouse. And it is at the Ilkley Playhouse where Majestic Wines often sponsor a book linked to wine, and kindly offer some tastings of their wines.
And on two occasions, I have bought the books, and had them signed by the author. There is something so nice about having a book signed by the author. The first of these was “The Wine Dine Dictionary” by Victoria Moore, and the second was “Red & White” by Oz Clarke.
I had originally intended to write reviews on each of these books. But one does not really read them. Instead one uses them as references. So in this post, I am going to refer to The Wine Dine Dictionary and particularly what it has to say about pairing food with St Emilion. This book is specifically about what wines go best with which foods, and what wine is best to serve with different meals. It is divided into two main sections. The first “From Food to Wine” looks at foods and which wines go with them. The second, “From Wine to Food” looks in more detail about different wines. Normally one would choose a dish, and then pick a wine to match. So I am just concentrating on the first section for now.
Saint Emilion and me
I was first aware of St Emilion when I took a trip there whilst visiting my mother, who lives about an hour and a half drive away. I learnt that this is an area that produces wine up a level in expense than many from the main nearby ‘left bank’ Bordeaux region. However it is still usually considered as a Bordeaux, but a ‘right bank’ Bordeaux.
This Vivino website has a very good basic description of St Emilion. Here is the first paragraph from their web page. ‘Made predominantly from Merlot and Cabernet Franc, Saint-Émilion wines tend to have a rich, mouth-drying tannic structure, which is balanced by the more juicy characteristics of plum and black cherry fruit, along with chocolate and sweet spice, developing savory tobacco and cedar characteristics with age.’
When buying wine in the supermarkets in Boulogne, I would often buy a couple of these, and save them for more special occasions. However when I tasted them, I was not actually all that keen on them. They are quite strong and heavy. I realised that one did need to ‘pair’ it with stronger meat dish.
Reviewing the Wine and Dine Dictionary
I had this confirmed when looking Victoria Moore’s ‘Wine Dine Dictionary. As a technical author, one way that I judge a reference book is to look at the index, and see how easy it is find what you need..As you can see below, it was very easy to find references to St Emilion,
The first three are in the “Food to Wine’ section. For example, on page 42, Victoria writes this about beef Wellington ‘I often see this dish served with St Emilion …. . The two go together well. The slightly fruitcakery right-bank bordeaux has a richness that marries well with the rich food.’ Interestingly on page 186 Victoria does not recommend a St Emilion with a veal chop. This confirms what I thought, that, as a heavier and stronger wine, it does need a stronger heavier meat to go with it. Note that there is no section or index entry for ‘Steak’ Instead there are many subheading under beef. For some steaks, she recommends ‘all types of maturing Bordeaux’. I think a St Emilion would count as one of these.
I was interested in what would go with steak because I had planned a meal of steak with a peppercorn sauce (served with sauteed potatoes and broccoli) and I had a bottle of one of my more expensive St Emilion wines that I wanted to try. There was not particular entry in the book for steak with peppercorn sauce. The closest was one for a steak cooked in a black peppercorn crust, where she recommends a syrah, ideally from the Rhone.
A very nice St Emilion
The St Emilion wine that I had was a Cuvee Menvielle, Chateau Fleur de Lisse. I had bought this quite a while ago, so have lost the receipt to provide the exact price, but it was sold in as a pair in a lovely wooden box, at around €25 to €35 for the pair. (I will try to get find out when next in France.) Buying wine in these boxes does make a lovely present if you are looking for a gift for someone when coming back from France.
I started making some notes with my dinner companion on this wine. But they were not as detailed as I planned.
A very nice aroma, strong, but also quite subtle. Not as overpowering as the Mouton Cadet. The taste was rich and strong, but also quite delicate. Dark fruit flavours, quite strong tannins. However it really complement the steak very nicely.
I have definitely learnt a bit about wine pairing. From having tried some St Emilion wines before, I had an idea that they needed a stronger meat. I still have the other bottle of Chateau Fleur de Lisse, and will save that for another strong meaty dish. A lovely wine really does compliment the right food.
Victoria Moore’s Wine and Dine Dictionary is very useful to help pair wines. Although sometimes I found it a bit contradictory. For example in the Veal section, for a veal chop or roast, she recommends to pair it with a left bank claret, but specifically not a St Emilion, but later, when having veal in a creamy sauce, to pair with an Italian red, or a ‘richer, heavier wine from Bordeaux’. I would have thought that this would include St Emilion.
However I will definitely be referencing this book again, and will mention it in my blog posts when I do. If you are interested in buying it, here is a link on Amazon.
And look out for posts soon where I review Oz Clarke’s ‘Red & White’
France travel update
Fingers crossed, my mother, who has been unable to return home to France, will now be able to fly over in early July. A delay of nearly 3 months. Only concern now are new restrictions from the USA as they have opened up too soon and are having an increase in Covid 19 cases.
And I am going to to drive to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport collect her, and then drive down to the Charente. I will stay there about a week and then go to my house in Boulogne for my first trip over this year. I will update you all next month on how the trip went.