Last Thursday night, November 17, Beaujolais Nouveau-lovers were treated to a wonderful wine tasting and French feast at Cook Street School of Culinary Arts. The occasion was the release of the 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau, which happens every year on the third Thursday in November. According to French law the wine may not be released until 12:01am on that day. Around the world many celebrated the new wine with a special meal, as was the case at Cook Street School of Culinary Arts.
Kathryn Brinkmann, Cook Street’s Special Events & Recreational Class Coordinator/Wine Buyer, greeted guests with a glass of sparkling white Burgundy, Maison Badet Clement & Cie Fleuraison Vin Mousseux Blanc de Blancs Brut, NV. The wine was light and refreshing, and very floral as its name indicated, with notes of bread dough and hazelnuts.
Sommelier and Wine Instructor Thomas Allen introduced the four Beaujolais wines that would be served that evening by telling the unique story of Beaujolais Nouveau, and how its production differs from that of most other wines. The carbonic maceration process refers to putting whole, hand-picked Gamay grapes in the fermentation tank and accounts for the “fruit bomb” qualities of the wine. The weight of the grapes at the top of the tank crushes the grapes on the bottom, creating a rising level of juice. Before the grapes burst, they undergo intracellular fermentation, which produces alcohol inside the grapes. The wine is aged for less than two months before it is bottled and shipped. Allen said a traditional Beaujolais Nouveau is drinkable typically for 6 months, while a Beaujolais-Villages can be consumed for a few years, and a Beaujolais Cru for several years, similar to other red Burgundy wines.
Allen recommended the best way to appreciate a Beaujolais wine is to drink it for what it is – a young, fruity, fresh wine – and to avoid comparisons to more sophisticated and complex red Burgundy/Pinot Noir wines. The relative simplicity of a Beaujolais makes it food-friendly, and it has no tannins to compete with the flavors and textures of food. Beaujolais is served chilled to 55 degrees to enhance its fruit-forward nature.
Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau, 2011 – This was a good example of a traditional Beaujolais Nouveau: fresh, fruity, direct, with notes of grape jelly, banana, and cherry.
Bouchard Ainé & Fils Beaujolais Nouveau, 2011 – A crowd favorite in part because it went so well with the food. It had a palate rich in blueberries and strawberries.
Domaine Manoir du Carra Beaujolais-Villages Non-Filtré, 2010 – Another crowd favorite. It smelled of dried cherries and was much heavier than the first two wines. It was a fantastic pairing with the blue cheese.
Domaine J Boulon Morgon, 2009 – This Beaujolais Cru will be drinkable for a number of years, much like other red Burgundy wines. It paired well with another crowd favorite, the pâté.
Chef John Parks described the food that was served buffet-style. A common element was the number of days’ preparation the dishes required – days for brining, ageing, and seasoning. The resulting meal was impressive!
Gougères, or cheese puffs. Light, airy, and buttery, these were a tasty accompaniment to all four wines. One gougère was not enough!
White Beans Dressed with Savory Walnut Oil and Cured Confit Tomato Garnish. Parks described how the tomatoes were roasted and dried, which reduced the water content and concentrated their flavor, then infused with olive oil, salt, sugar, and spices.
Smoked Pork Shoulder with Pommes Lyonnaise. The pork was brined for one day then dried for one day, a long process of care aimed at having the meat fall off the bones and taste like smoke. Parks and his team succeeded brilliantly. The pork was served on a bed of “potatoes dressed with bacon dressed with bacon, mustard, and caramelized onions.” This dish was a highlight of the evening and received the most compliments in casual table conversation.
Poulet au Moutard (house-made violet mustard) with Wilted Greens. The chicken was brined and dried then oven roasted and served on a bed of local chard finished with lemon juice. Parks described the “star” of this dish as the violet mustard, made from grape must (leftover skins, seeds, and stems from freshly pressed grape juice) reduced to a molasses consistency then introduced to mustard seed. This violet mustard received as many compliments as the pork shoulder. Parks recommended it as a condiment, not a sauce, but after tasting it, many wanted to use it as sauce. Delicious!
Charcuterie with Jardinière, Cheese, House-Made Assorted Rillettes, and Brioche Toast Points. The jardinière included beans, carrots, and red peppers pickled in good vinegar. The pork, duck, and salmon rillettes were confit mixed with butter for a smooth, spreadable consistency. The cheese included an intense blue cheese, which Parks described as a French cousin of a Spanish Cabrales cheese; a P’tit Basque cheese similar to a Spanish Manchego; and a Burgundy Triple Cream, or “Brie on steroids.” These were served with country-style pâté, “like meatloaf.” Parks said trying the blue cheese with the pickled vegetables and rillettes was a “home run.” Many agreed, as very little remained of the charcuterie display at the end of the evening.
Pear and Black Currant Tartlettes. The simple but elegant dessert was a lovely finish to a wonderful meal. Click here to see the slideshow: http://lodeplus.com/wine-in-denver/cook-street-school-of-culinary-ar…
This wine dinner was an unusual event for Cook Street, which on a typical Thursday night is filled with recreational students doing hands-on learning under the supervision of Wine Instructor Thomas Allen, Chef John Parks, or their culinary colleagues. Watch Cook Street’s calendar for upcoming wine and French cooking classes, and other recreational cooking classes. Or, click on the “Notify Me” button to hear about upcoming classes of interest.
Cook Street School of Culinary Arts is located at 1937 Market Street in Denver.