Cyrille Thebault and Yuna Tegani for providing the Caviar Sturia
Vincent de Beler for bringing Château Guiraud.
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When my friend Cyrille suggested a wine and food pairing exercise between Sauternes and caviar, I thought: “Hum, not sure about that one!” Then I remembered how Sauternes goes well with foie gras; the sweetness and the acidity of the wine cutting down the saltiness and fat of the meat. Could the same effect work with caviar? I had to try!
Our Sauternes was the renowned Château Guiraud. It is the oldest property in Sauternes (dating back from the 15th century), one of the largest 1st Great Classified Growth and the only one to be certified organic. Château Guiraud stands out. Not only because of its black label, apparently chosen to commemorate the death of Napoleon, but also because it is the only Sauternes château that uses a high proportion of Sauvignon Blanc in the blend (30%). As a result the wines have a unique freshness and minerality.
Such a great wine had to be accompanied by the finest caviar and Cyrille treated us to the best French caviar that you can find in Hong Kong: Caviar Sturia, which epitomises what caviar is all about: luxury, subtlety and depth. We had three caviars to taste. Aged only for one month, the Primeur is delicate, light and creamy with aromas of butter and hazelnut. The Vintage has been refined for 6 months and has much stronger seafood aromas mixed with grilled hazelnut and some fruitiness. Third but not least, the Oscietra, aged between 3 to 8 months, full of iodine and walnut with a touch of undergrowth aromas.
With three vintages of Château Guiraud (2011, 2004 and 1998) and three different styles of caviar, we started our tasting to try to find the best pairing possible.
The 2011 vintage has distinctive mandarin, yuzu and orange peel notes. Extraordinary fresh and vibrant, it matched really well with the Sturia Primeur bringing out the citrus notes of the wine and the hazelnut notes of the caviar. Both products benefited from the pairing bringing out aromas that we had not seen when we had tasted each product separately. Similarly, the 2011 vintage brought out the undergrowth notes of the Oscietra in a very subtle way.
The 2004 has aromas of candied fruits, hazelnut with peach and apricot notes while retaining its amazing freshness and long finish. It paired beautifully with the Sturia Vintage revealing the iodine and the sea freshness of the caviar. We felt like we were standing right in front of the Atlantic receiving a wave a sea air while the wine interacted with the caviar. It was truly amazing! Same impression with the Oscietra with more subtlety. The two revealed each other with perfect harmony bringing out elements that we had not tasted when isolated. That was our perfect match: harmony and revelation.
The 1998 is absolutely gorgeous with candied fruits mixed with dried fruits (figs, dates) and almond paste and a surprising note of tobacco on the back palate. Extremely powerful, it proved just too powerful for the caviar. We had a very nice match with the Vintage but it did not reveal new elements.
I loved the exercise. How many times in your life do you get to taste some of the best caviar with some of the best wines in the world? Not that many I am afraid. What I loved the most about the experience was the surprise that it provided. What a pleasure to get this ‘wahou’ effect when the wine reveals the essence of the food and vice versa. This is pure magic.