Monday, January 26, 2009

Organic wine & food matching: Thevenet Morgon & eggs in balsamic butter

Randy Caparoso is an award winning wine professional and journalist, living in Denver, Colorado. For a free subscription to Randy's Organic Wine Match of the Day, visit the Denver Wine Examiner. You can reach him at

Ah, 2009… I’m already feelin’ it getting better. Maybe it’s because of the wine and meal I had yesterday, when I was still feeling the previous day’s bloated repasts, nevertheless in need of sustenance, physically and spiritually: a Beaujolais with eggs in balsamic vinegar and butter.

Then again, the 2006 Jean-Paul Thévenet Vieilles Vignes Morgon is a wine that would make any jaded wine dude feel that way. This is real wine, and I’m not just blowing smoke. First, it’s red, which is a good start. Second, it tastes the way it’s supposed to; meaning:

1. Morgon is a Beaujolais grand cru, a village producing richer, broader, denser styles of reds than “regular” Beaujolais (which are usually light, limp, almost watery).

2. Yet it’s still a Beaujolais, made from the Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc grape, which will give a softer, rounder tannin feel than, say, most Pinot Noir based reds, even in the higher ranked Beaujolais crus.

3. It’s a vieilles vignes – from “old vines” (averaging 70 years, as it were) – giving this particular Morgon a deep, succulent, lip smacking raspberry and cassis-like aroma and flavor backed by earthy, organic notes of rustique, almost belying the wine’s flowing, fluid, youthful qualities.

4. The overall sensation is of a wine that doesn’t hold back… everything, from the natural taste of the grape to the sticking sensations of terroir, plopped right on the table for you to savor (preferably from big, balloon shaped Burgundy glasses).

As a winemaker, Jean-Paul Thévenet is among Beaujolais’ now-legendary “Gang of Five” – a group of defiant vignerons who believe wine should always be produced in the “old” ways, long before Beaujolais became a jillion dollar industry. Essentially: fermented on natural yeasts (none of the “super” yeasts that mainstream Beaujolais vintners utilize to exaggerate the Gamay grape’s blue-purple color and grapey, strawberry fruitiness); and then bottled unfiltered, unfined (so this wine is technically vegan – all grape!), and completely without the use of sulfites (so it tastes pretty much the way it would taste right out of the barrel).

As a grower, Thévenet practices la lutte raisonnée ("the reasoned struggle"): basically, sustainable grape growing, shunning the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides in as much homage to the past as for preserving the health of vineyards for future generations.Like good Pinot Noir, the soft tannins of grand cru Beaujolais make them ideal reds for fish (especially salmon and tuna). Me, I prefer the gastronomic ideas learned long ago from the legendary Berkeley importer, Kermit Lynch. I still keep one of his newsletters from back in 1990 (now bound together in a book, Inspiring Thirst), prescribing, in Lynch’s words:

These eggs take no more than a few minutes to prepare, and you need not be a genius to succeed. THIS IS NOT BREAKFAST! First, you pour yourself a glass of Beaujolais… then you fry fresh eggs slowly in butter, covered, until the whites are firm and the yolks remain runny. Salt and pepper, then slide them onto a warm plate.

Deglaze the pan with two tablespoons red wine vinegar. Reduce by half, thicken with a slice of butter, and pour over the eggs. You will want bread or toast for sopping up the sauce… you will also want another glass of Beaujolais!

Although Lynch says this is fast, you can’t rush it: slow frying sunny-side-up (no one will see if you scramble it) over low heat with the lid is key; both the butter and cracked peppercorn keep the balsamic eggs in balance with the wine’s mild tannin and full-ish body; and being from Hawai’i, my eggs go right over a generous mound of steaming white rice, which tastes luscious when it absorbs the winey sauce.

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