I host a wine tasting at my home once a month, with my inimitable friend and caviste Hervé Lestage (La Feuille de Vigne, Honfleur http://www.comhonfleur.com/lafeuilledevigne/
Hervé brings wines from his favorite producers, always keeping them a secret until the dramatic unveiling at the end of the tasting.
Like the good professional he is, Hervé prefers to do wine tastings accompanied by nothing more than a few morsels of baguette. His theory is that anything else diffuses and distracts the tastebuds, detracting from the wine. He is correct, but his Achilles heel gets him every time, for he loves to try new culinary dishes. That’s why the wine tastings at my house each month are near-Pantagruelic events, with his blessing.
The wine tasters range from a jolly (and very good) farmer to a raucous middle-school math teacher, the soberly hilarious president of a multi-national corporation to a wackily disruptive and adorable fine artist. In between is a silent high-school chef, a husky voiced real estate sales person, a super-organized engineer who suddenly melts into laughter, and a table-dancing sales manager for a multi-national. I point this out to illustrate the varied nature of the group (and the occasional tenor of the evening). What they have in common is their love of wine and food. While each respects the purity of our tastings, they would be terribly disappointed if there weren’t delicious things to eat alongside.
Last night was a bit of an exception to our rule. I didn’t make a main course. Instead, I toasted a variety of nuts and made a simple cheesecake confection for dessert. The farmer in the group – Baptiste – had called earlier to say he was bringing asparagus. Sure enough, he arrived ten minutes early with a huge platter already cooked, and a big tub of creme fraiche. “Susan, do you have any paprika?” he asked officiously, as he set down the platter and took out a bowl from a drawer. He’s been part of our lives for so long he knows where everything is, and has no trouble directing traffic in my kitchen should the need arise.
Hervé’s face lit up, then fell. He adores Baptiste’s asparagus, which I’d kept a secret from him. Why? Because he is a contrarian. If he’d known about it in advance, he would have moaned and complained about how it ruins wine, how no one would pay attention to the wine, how it would ruin the evening. He’s right, and wrong. Asparagus isn’t great for wine, but he knows we’re all aware of this and will do the necessary to cleanse our palates. He also knows that for the past six years we’ve always had Baptiste’s asparagus once during the season, and the wine tasting goes fine and we’re all thrilled.
So, I kept mum, with Baptiste’s collusion. We ate the asparagus right away with a beautiful rose Hervé had brought to warm us up before the tasting. Both were delicious. A few judicious bites of bread and big glasses of water followed, and our palates were ready for the tasting.
We loved the six wines, interspersing our tastes with the toasted nuts, some Norman cheeses, some air-cured sausages. There were leftover cheeses and sausages, but not one single nut, of course.
Clos d’Alari, Cotes de Provence 2005; La Sarabande, Domaine des Costes 2007; Clos d’Anhel Les Dimanches 2006; Mas des Dames La Diva 2007; Camuzeilles Fitou 2007; Domaine la Tour Vieille Collioure Puig Oriol 2007.