Wine to pair with traditionelle familiale French cooking

Updated 6/15/2015 9:55 AM

In the U.S., French cuisine calls to mind the French chef, imperious in his starched uniform and tall white toque.

But the real French chef is more Julia Child than Georges Auguste Escoffier.


In a nation that has canonized gastronomy since the 18th century, dining begins at home.

"Escoffier and Paul Bocuse, this is not the French chef," according to Vincent Avenel of Domaine Faiveley, wine producers in Burgundy since 1825. "The real French chef is my mother, is my grandmother, and of course, is my wife."

While France's famed haute cuisine (literally "high cooking") involves the grandiose recipes favored by Paris's post-Revolution nouvelle riche ("newly rich"), la cuisine traditionelle familiale celebrates home cooking of ingredients sourced from local farms and vineyards.

Lucky for Avenel, that involves beef raised in famed Charolais pastures, Bresse chicken, Dijon mustard, wild mushrooms, seafood and game and the chardonnay- and Pinot Noir-based wines of Burgundy.

A Burgundian meal may begin with cured ham or Jambon Persillé, (ham and parsley terrine), escargots (snails in parsley/garlic butter) or simply Comte or Gruyere (cow's milk cheese from nearby Jura) with Faiveley Bourgogne chardonnay (about $23.)

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Keep reading, members of the ABC Club (Anything but chardonnay!) This is chardonnay as nature intends it to be -- long and texturous but invigorating to the palate, with flavors of green apple, toasted almond and minerals, all balanced by bright acidity.

As le plat principal (main course), Burgundy families enjoy Poulet a la Gaston Gerard (chicken with white wine, grated Comte and mustard) a recipe created in Dijon by accident when a mustard jar fell into the casserole.

Mushrooms lovers enjoy Volailles aux Morilles (chicken breast with mushrooms) or the cross-cultural Risotto au cèpes (rice with wild mushrooms.)

Serve these richer dishes with Faiveley Puligny-Montrachet (see Ross's Choice.)

Burgundy's most famous dishes are Boeuf a la Bourguignonne and Coq au Vin, seemingly elegant titles for beef and chicken stewed in red wine.

In Burgundy, red wine means Pinot Noir.


Faiveley Bourgogne Pinot Noir (about $20) is silky, with aspects of mushroom, forest floor, pepper and cherries.

"We went against tradition by printing grape names on some labels," explains Avenel. "The grape is more important to people in the U.S. than anywhere else. Also, the movie "Sideways" introduced Pinot Noir to many people. We want them to know we've been growing Pinot Noir for centuries."

Faiveley Mercurey "La Frambroise" (about $30) has a juicy palate of red berries, brown spice and long, plush tannin.

"We don't use expensive Burgundy to cook," advises Avenel. "A simple Syrah from the Rhone will do for the pot."

He also advises to practice French recipes before final service. "There may be some techniques that are new to American cooks. It's not just tac-tac-tac!"

Like all world travelers, Avenel has introduced international dishes to his table, including Peking duck, "American steak" and smoked brisket. "Just add mushrooms and wine, brisket is perfect for Burgundy," he proudly reports.

There's no disputing Burgundy's soaring prices, a function of the region's tiny supply meeting international demand. "We have commitments for the entire vintage before the wine is even bottled," Avenel reports.

Burgundy's Grand Cru's (Great Growths) are reserved for the most elegant meals, including Pigeon au Jus and Venison aux sauce Grand Veneur (venison in huntsman's sauce.)

Faiveley Corton "Clos des Corton Faiveley" (about $200) is powerful and firm, with plenty of black currant, meat and earth flavor that pulls that palate onward toward an opulent finish.For this legendary wine, Avenel recommends Lièvre a la Royale, considered France's culinary masterpiece, with recipes hotly-debated but including a red-furred, mountain male hare, stuffed with truffles and goose foie gras, braised in wine, then oven-browned.

"But no one can do this dish except a trained chef," says Avenel. "Do not try this at home."

• Write to Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross at food@daily

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