August 2011 Wine feature: Desvignes Morgon

Wine Feature:
2009 Domaine Louis Claude Desvignes “La Voute Saint-Vincent” Morgon

Currently available in limited quantities on the wine list at Le Pichet and
to take home with you.  Special take-out wine prices apply to go bottle purchases,  including 10% discount on orders of 6 or more bottles with pre-order.

Please call Le Pichet for availability and special August pricing for this wine.

A perfectly roasted chicken may be my favorite thing to eat bar none.   It combines absolute simplicity of preparation, an absolute minimum of  ingredients and and an absolute reliance on the quality of the star attraction, the chicken…it encapsulates in a single dish the ideal esthetic of simple, well prepared food.  Because it is so simple, there is no hiding any imperfections in technique or in the quality of product.  Because it is so easy to do (although some people, including some professional cooks, still contrive to do it badly), one can find wonderfully delicious roasted chickens in a wide range of settings.   Whether it is purchased from the rotisserie in front of a Paris butcher shop and enjoyed on a sheet of paper in the nearest park, or roasted in an impeccably spotless copper pan and carved table side at a three star restaurant or hacked into manageable pieces and served with handmade tortillas, avocado and lime at a fonda in Zihuatanejo or just roasted at home on a quiet evening ….man those all sound so good, I forgot what point I was making.

Anyhow, the fact is I eat a lot of roasted chicken and have consequently eaten roasted chicken accompanied by many different wines.  I think that, with the chickens described above, the accompanying wines were, in order, a light Cabernet Franc from the Touraine, a powerful, well aged white from Graves in Bordeaux, a Pacifico with lime, and a modest Macon chardonnay (at least the  last time I roasted chicken at home).  Clearly there are many good choices to go with roast chicken.  

Being a cook and not a wine professional, I have developed a shorthand method of matching wines with food that has served me well over the years.  The governing premise of this method is that the food and wine from a certain region always make a harmonious pairing.  Its easy;  just figure out where the dish is from and match it with the wine from the same region.  With grilled sardines stuffed with chard and ricotta in the nicoise fashion?  Try a  rosé from the hills above the Cote d’Azur.  With  a crispy duck leg, a specialty of the southwest of France?  How about a Madiran or a Tursan from the same region.  You get the idea.  Its not foolproof, but nearly.

So when it comes to selecting wine to accompany a roasted chicken, my first though was to look for a wine from the region around Lyon, where the poulet de Bresse, the most highly esteemed chicken in France, is raised.  This leads in short order to Beaujolais, the wine of choice in the rustic  bouchons (traditional Lyonnais bistros) one finds there.  So would my wine selection method be up to the task?  Is Beaujolais a good choice with roasted chicken?

I posed this question to Cafe Presse and Le Pichet wine director and co-owner Joanne Herron who agreed that Beaujolais is a successful pairing.  She recommended a Morgon that is currently on the wine list at Le Pichet.  Morgon is a wine growing commune in the Beaujolais region .  Wine from the Beaujolais region is sold under many appellations (that is, designations awarded by the French wine authorities)  and very broadly speaking, the more regionally specific the appellation (or AOC), the better the quality of the wine.  In Beaujolais, the most general AOC is “Beaujolais”, above that there is “Beaujolais Village”, and highest of all are the wines that bear the actual name of the commune where they are produced, like “Morgon”.

When I think of Beaujolais, what jumps to mind are light, fruity wines for quaffing, cool from the barrel, with a plate of charcuterie, preferably while standing at the zinc at some wine bar in Paris or even better in Lyon, but if those are not at hand, here in Seattle.  All AOC red wines from Beaujolais are made from 100% gamay, a grape known for its youthful vivacity but not so much for its structure, firmness or elegance.  But the wines from certain communes in Beaujolais, including Morgon  can have a much more muscular character that not only stands up well to hearty fare, but can even benefit from some aging.

Joanne’s recommendation for a  roasted chicken is  the 2009 Domaine Louis-Claude Desvignes “La Voute Saint-Vincent” Morgon.  This wine is made by the Desvignes family with grapes from their own property (as the name implies, the family has been in wine making for many generations).   This  property is in the Montagne de Py, which is at the center of the commune of Morgon and is considered to be the premier section.  The grapes are hand harvested, and  vinified in small batches by father-daughter winemaker team  Louis-Claude and Claude-Emmanuelle Desvignes using only indigenous yeasts (in other words, no laboratory produced yeast is added).   They employe a longer, slower fermentation process than is typical in Beaujolais to get maximum color and flavor from the grapes.  The result is a dark, intense wine much  different from the raspberry colored wines of Beaujolais Nouveau parties.  Joanne thinks that this wine is very good right now but that it has the structure to improve with 4-5 years  of age, during which time the she expects that it will mellow with a grace and elegance reminiscent of wines made in neighboring Burgundy from pinot noir.

I think that this wine makes a very nice match with the current roasted chicken preparation at Le Pichet, which features a sort of summer succotash of flageolet beans, corn, bacon, scallions and Forme d’Ambert bleu cheese.  Yummy.  The richness of the bleu cheese needs a wine with a firm structure that will stand up to it and the Morgon from Domaine Louis-Cluade Devignes certainly fills the bill.  Joanne says that she thinks that this wine would be excellent with warm Saucisse de Lyon served on a potato gratin.  These sausages, which are made with 100% pork studded with pistachios and simmered in broth, are a staple of Lyonnais cookery.

So I guess that could be called another success for my wine pairing method.

PS To see good friend Bob Peterson’s photos from a 2009 visit with the Desvignes family, check out this post.


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