The Wine Show: Episode 6 Series 2
In the sixth show in the current series of The Wine Show James Purefoy and Matthew Goode are in the belly of France – the food-obsessed city of Lyon – to find a wine for the dessert course of their epic French feast. They visit a traditional bouchon where they eat tripe, calves head and pike before heading off to satisfy their sweet tooth at Pralus, a patisserie famed for its Praluline brioche. Time for them to put on their aprons and get baking. With their wines chosen they had back to the villa for the judgement of Jancis Robinson, the world’s most influential wine critic. Joe Fattorini is in the Basque Spanish city of San Sebastian with chef José Pizarro. They head to Rioja to find wines for a dinner at one of San Sebastian’s oldest Gastronmic Societies, Kanyonetan. Named after the cannon balls fired into the city by the British, Joe bravely decides to serve an English wine alongside his Spanish find. How will this go down with the diners and surprise guest legendary chef Juan Marie Arzak? And Jaega Wise is tasked with trying to convince Joe that he should really be drinking beer in a very festive Munich, in the southern German state of Bavaria. Needless to say, Joe returns the favour with a quick lesson in how to choose the perfect German wine to go with your sausages. And back in London, Matthew Rhys is at Berry Brothers & Rudd in London’s St James’s looking at historic and modern gadgets.
José Pizzarro’s secret tour of the Basque country
There’s a story of a Roman general who visits the Basque Country. He asks his guide who the people in the forests are. He’s told “They are Basques. In two thousand years nobody will speak your language. But they will still speak theirs.”
And they still do. In this corner of modern-day northern spain, Kaixo means “Hello”. Zer moduz is “How are you?” On egin! is “Bon appetit!” The last one is particularly useful. To be Basque isn’t just to speak Euskera – the name of the Basque language. It’s to eat and love some of the greatest food in the world. And drink some surprising wines too.
Chef José Pizarro has been in love with Basque food for years. And he has friends across San Sebastian/Donostia. So he’s driving me on a gastronomic tour of the region. The Basque country contains one of the world’s most famous wine regions, and one of its greatest secrets. We start in Rioja Alavesa, one of three sub-regions of Rioja, lying inside the Basque country. I have to choose wines to go with dinner that José will cook in Donostia.
In the city we can then explore the Basque country’s wine secret – Txakoli. It’s pronounced “chaque-oh-lih”. A light, aromatic, spritzy white. Low in alcohol, and beautifully refreshing. But it’s not the only secret José has lined up. After a quick tour of his friends’ pintxos bars, José takes me to a sociedad gastronomica, one of the city’s famous gastronomic societies.
The societies are part-social club, part-communal kitchen, part-cultural centre. They’re hidden away in the back streets of the city and were often where the Basques preserved their language and identity when it was under threat, not least from the British. José takes me to one where cannonballs were fired by British troops on Donostia in 1813, before they looted and ransacked the city. Everyone is surprisingly welcoming. All things considered.
And as we settle down to cook a traditional supper, José has one final surprise up his sleeve…
You know that prickle of refreshing zest you get in a perfectly made gin and tonic. This is wine’s answer. And it’s better. There’s a spectrum of citrus with everything from lime to grapefruit, and then the wine’s characteristic tingly fizz. It’s the perfect sharpner at the start of the evening, or at 11.5%, it’s a great choice for lunch.
German beer foundation
The foundation of German beer is tradition and simplicity. The centuries-old Reinheitsgebot – literally purity law – demands that beer contains only water, barley, hops & yeast. Munich, Bavaria’s capital, was instrumental in the invention, development and popularization of the world’s most popular alcoholic drink, lager.
People come from all over the globe to drink in Munich’s beer halls, from the massively popular Hofbrauhaus to the traditional beer gardens, of which there are many. Although seeing revellers with a glass in hand is common, public drunkenness amongst Bavarians is verboten, something left to tourists. Bavarians themselves don’t have to justify drinking weissbier at 10am, or comfortably nursing 1 whole litre of 6% beer without batting an eyelid. Beer to them is not just a drink, it’s a way of life.
We quickly took to this as our ‘breakfast beer’, and regarded the banana aromas and malty sweetness like a healthy friut-topped cereal. It has a punchy alcohol though, so you don’t want too much. This has a lovely clove complexity and a frothy, refreshing head. And you can taste the purity of the ingredients and process through the beer, too.
Of wine and Lederhosen
The things we do for the wines we love. We praise. We pour. We wear leather shorts. But it’s worth marching cold-knee’d in lederhosen if it encourages you to go and explore the joys of German wines.
It’s true, if you’re in Munich as we are, you won’t find many wines from around the city. And Jaega will insist that Munich is an all-beer town. It’s true. There is a lot of beer. But Munich has a centuries-old bond with the Palatinate, or Pfalz, one of Germany’s top wine regions. And Pfalz is a perfect place to explore German wine. The wines are as dry as these lederhosen. But considerably more fragrant. They’re also increasingly red. Pinot Noir (or Spätburgunder) and Dornfelder grow alongside Riesling and other whites.
They’re the perfect wines with hearty, German food. Sausages. Pork knuckle. Pates. When you visit Munich (and you should) you’ll find no shortage of great beer. But head down the side streets. Pop in a weinstube. Relax the straps on those leather shorts and enjoy the legacy of a centuries-old bond with the winemakers of the Palatinate north.
THE WINE SHOW CASE – Challenge Six
Finally the finale! And rather than a fancy and complicated piece of patisserie, our hard-working chef Stephane Reynaud decides to end on a simple yet sweet note – a Tarte Praline. This dessert is unique to the city of Lyon so it’s off to the ‘gastronomic belly’ of France for James and Matthew.
But they don’t want to visit this wonderful city without really getting to grips with its cuisine. Lyon is famous for its ‘bouchons’. These little restaurants (of which there are fewer and fewer every year) were the first restaurants in France. After the French Revolution, Lyon was a hive of artisanal activity with silk weavers and other skilled workers providing a ready source of hungry people. It was usual for them to start early and stop for a breakfast at about 9am. This meal is called a ‘machon’ – literally a ‘bite’ – and was often an offal-based dish and always accompanied by a ‘pot’ or small bottle of local wine.
James and Matthew taste some dishes at the legendary Café des Federations. These dishes are still classics today, although nowadays less often for breakfast! Matthew isn’t entirely sure it’s an offally good way to start the day. Owner Yves Rivoiron does, however, suggest two wines which he feels will match the tarte praline.
Then it’s off to find the sweet stuff and there’s no better place than Pralus, home to another classic Lyonais creation – the Praluline. After a lesson in making this brioche-based desert from owner Francois Pralus, he opens a bottle of local sparkling wine. Will it be the one to win the day? It’s all in the hands of judge Jancis.
Stephane Serol Turbullent – Winner
Jancis Robinson’s Verdict
“The Turbullent is very dry although very fruity as well. The Bugey is neutral especially next to something so full on; however, with the added Armagnac it becomes quite wild. Both full marks for effort but I think James gets the nod both for the colour matching but also its fruitiness.”