Should you drink Burgundy with boeuf bourguignon?

For the impatient : nope. But you might as well…

Before I tell you more about the wines, let’s have a look at the recipe. Boeuf bourguignon is a beef stew made with wine as a basis for the sauce. On Anglosaxon websites you will see that there is no particular preference for the type of wine you use. Julia Child, for example, recommends Beaujolais, St Emilion, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy. BBC Good Food even suggests “cheap red wine”. According to French recipes, however, you have to make it with Burgundy. And drink it with Burgundy of course, as it is a Burgundian dish after all. But as is the case also with our Belgian beef stew, there are a zillion ways of making it. Personally, I used the recipe of Bernard Loiseau, a French top chef, who died actually just one year before Julia Child. Not of natural causes however… The chef committed suicide  only weeks after Gault and Millau gave him 17/20 instead of the 19/20 that he had earned previously for his creations in La Côte d’Or, his restaurant in Saulieu. Rumours also had it that he was going to lose his third Michelin star. If these events led to his premature death, who will tell… But it sure is a tragic story.

His legacy still lives on though. It was his wife Dominique Loiseau who took over and who still leads the Groupe Bernard Loiseau today. There are several hotels and restaurants that are named after the French chef. One of them is Tante Louise in Paris, or was Tante Louise rather. I found out that it was renamed Loiseau Rive Droite. I ended up eating at Tante Louise one evening in Paris, after a long stroll through the city. I had no idea where I had ended up (neither that I would pay so much…) but I had an unbelievable dinner that night. It still is one of my culinary highlights so far. And… it is here that I fell in love with the wines of Burgundy! I was not such a wine geek at that time so I don’t remember exactly which wine I had, but I believe it was a Burgundy from his own label.

Now, let’s get to the dish and the wines : his version is made with carrots and pearl onions. And of course with Burgundy for the sauce. I used François Legros’ Burgundy. (Sorry M. Legros, I don’t only eat your wine, I also drink it.) I made quite a lot of it so we had enough for two dinners. For the first dinner we drank the Beaune 1er cru Les Grèves 2009 of Jean-Marc Morey with it. I chose this wine because I wanted one that was not too young : stews require mild wines without strong tannins. 2009 is also a hot vintage and the richness that I expected in the wine would also suit the intense flavours of the boeuf bourguignon. The wine was already pretty evolved with underbrush, earth and dried fruit in the nose. Luckily the wine still had a nice concentration and a silky mouthfeel. A nice wine, but I would not
recommend further cellaring. As for the combination with the dish, it worked. But it didn’t make me go wild. Nothing wrong with it, really. One and one is definitely two here, but not three…

For the second dinner I took a completely different wine! The Gran Vos Reserva 2009 of Vinas del Vero, Somontano, Spain. I wish I could tell you from which grapes it’s made, but our Spanish friends only tell us that they use the best grapes every year… Now, now, that’s not very transparent or client-friendly, señores y señoritas del vero! Since their other wines are made of grenache, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and pinot noir, I suppose there will be a bit of everything here…

Anyway, I chose this wine to see how a more concentrated and richer wine would go with the same dish. Matter of fact, the wine did not completely match the profile that I was expecting. The wine was very closed just after opening, with just a hint of mint. Luckily I opened it well in advance so the wine had enough time to open up, but it never became the fruit-driven, rich wine that I expected it to be. It actually proved to be more of a cold climate wine than warm climate, resembling a Bordeaux more than a Spanish wine. If you take a closer look at Somontano, that shouldn’t come as a surprise actually. This Denominacion de Origen lies at the foot of the Pyrenees, the vines being situated between 350m and 700m above sea level. This allows for cool temperatures at night, which is important if you want to achieve phenological ripeness (not only sufficient sugar levels but also ripe tannins from skins and seeds) and to avoid jammy wines. The funny thing with this wine is that the boeuf bourguignon totally altered the way I perceived the wine . From a rather elegant and introvert wine, it turned into a more concentrated wine with dark chocolate coming through clearly now, while the acidity still kept it nicely in balance. The dark flavours of the stew were beautifully echoed in the wine, making it a perfect companion. The added value that I expected from the Burgundy rather, was definitely to be found here! So the one and one is three prize here surely goes to the Gran Vos 2009. And for the price quality aware among you, it also comes at a much lower price than the Burgundy (nothing surprising there…). I paid 11,99€ for it. Nice deal!





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