Once in a while everything just comes together with food and wine and it can sometimes be when you’re least expecting it.
We normally make an effort to cook something nice on a Sunday (well we cook something nice every day but make a bit more of an effort on a Sunday don’t ask me why).
I was feeling rather lacklustre last night to be honest. Nigel had bought a magret de canard at Les Halles in Tours so that was the starting point but then – what to cook with it?
After poking my head in the fridge for inspiration I decided upon some buttery cabbage cooked with lardons and onions and some tiny roast potatoes.
And so to work. I scored and seasoned the duck breast during the afternoon (seasoning in advance is always preferable to leaving it to the last minute). My task was duck and cabbage, Nigel was on roastie duty.
I always cook magret in a non-stick pan on the hob. Fat side down for 8-10 minutes on a moderate heat, draining off the fat that is released as it cooks. I’ll keep the fat as it makes the best roast potatoes on the planet.
After 8-10 minutes (if it’s a really fat magret 10 if not quite so big, 8) I flip the magret over, turn the heat up to maximum, add a crushed clove of garlic, a big knob of unsalted butter and baste it constantly for another 2 minutes.
Then it’s off the stove and leave it to rest for a good 10 minutes or so.
It works every time. Crispy skin and lovely pink meat, cooked just as we like it. Perfect, juicy and tender.
This particular breast was quite fatty but don’t let that put you off. The fat is drained off as you go along. That’s how you get delicious crispy skin.
For the cabbage, I put a knob of butter in a small saucepan, added a few lardons and a finely chopped onion. After that had sweated for a few minutes I popped in some finely chopped white cabbage. Lid on, a quick stir from time to time and it takes about 5 minutes.
Nigel’s potatoes were cooked in boiling salted water until nearly tender then drained and finished off in the oven with fresh rosemary from the garden.
So that’s the food. Now for the wine.
We rarely venture out of the Loire but Nigel picked up a bottle that intrigued him this week and we thought it would potentially be a good match for the duck.
It’s fair to say that after living in the Loire for 15 years, we crave a certain freshness in our wines and that isn’t always delivered by wines from ‘down south’.
De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté 2018 Cotes du Roussillon Villages from Domaine du Clos des Fées is a Syrah from way down south in the Languedoc Roussillon region of France. The winery is located not far from where I did a ‘stage’ removing grappions (the teensy tertiary bunches of grapes that form high up in the vine and are not wanted) in the summer of 2005 in the village of Maury.
The vineyards are wild and exciting, rugged and exhilirating. The landscape is so totally different to the Loire valley with all its lush green and gentle plateaux. Here you’re in arrid land with the wild herbs of the ‘garrigue’ perfuming the hot dry air around you. Vines nestle among the mountains and valleys that punctuate the landscape.
The parcel of Syrah that makes De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté is at 600m altitude (aha, things are becoming clearer now). A vineyard discovered in 1997 close to an abandoned quarry with huge blocks of granite poking out of the earth.
It’s a really beautiful wine. From the moment we poked our noses in the glass we knew.
Notes of spices and plum, licorice and stones. Lovely concentration on the palate with beautifully integrated tannins. It’s rich and complex but – it’s fresh too. You hardly notice the 14,5% alcohol.
A winner; and the perfect match for the duck. What was an ordinary Sunday dinner suddenly took on a new dimension as we basked in the combination of the two.
Upon doing a little research I find that the estate doesn’t always look for full phenolic maturity when picking its grapes. What does that mean? Well, that’s a tricky one to explain but basically it means that they pick their grapes earlier than some might do. If you wait for full phenolic maturity in your grapes you’ll get higher alcohols and richer riper flavours.
We love the restrained elegant mineral character of this wine. We love the label too. It’s intruiging and entertaining and tells the story of the terroir from which the Syrah grapes come from.
De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté costs 18 euros a bottle here in France. That’s quite expensive isn’t it? Is it? For something as delicious as this?
It’s the best wine we’ve tasted in a long time. Worth every centime. It turned our ordinary Sunday dinner into something extraordinary. That’s the pleasure of wine.