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Jun 19, 2008 06:21 PM

Interesting wine pairing for foie gras

Sometime ago, in a Alain Ducasse restaurant, I had a very interesting wine pairing of the following 'foie gras' dish - ' Roasted foie gras with port wine reduction sauce and sauteed apples and grapes'. Expecting something sweet like a Sauternes or a late harvest Riesling etc, the dish was paired with a glass of 1982 Trotanoy Pomerol! The pairing was weird but the result was surprisingly compatible!. Has any fellow chowhounder experienced similar 'red wine pairing' with foie gras or am I the first?

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  1. In my family, we always go for red wine ( bordeaux or something from the the region).

    1. Sorry to say this, but I have the feeling the much celebrated Foie Gras - Sauternes pairing is an American invention.

      At least, I always got FG served in "L 'Hexagone" with anything but.

      Sorry don't have handy right now Alexandre Dumas' Grand dictionnaire de cuisine. Will check & report back. Or even better, are you there marie ?

      8 Replies
      1. re: RicRios

        I don't believe it's an American tradition, though you may be right. Obviously, any wine from one of the same regions as foie gras (Perigord/Dordogne/Bergerac/Bordeaux/Gers) will be traditional and have a historical precedent. Sauternes is certainly from the area, and foie gras has long been paired with a fruit -- in the sauce or in the wine. Red wine is also traditional (and regional). A common pairing is the rustic, even harsh Madiran wine (the tannat grape) from the region of Gers. But all that fat in the foie smooths the rough edges in the wine, and all that acid in the wine cuts the fat of the foie.

        Which leads me to what I feel are the keys to the pairing: high acid to cut the fat, and the addition of fruit in some form. Certainly in the OP's dish by Alain Ducasse, the port wine reduction helped create the bridge to the red wine...and both the wine and fresh fruit lent acid and fruit flavor.

        My favorite version ever of the dish takes me back to Gary Danko's version that he did at the Ritz in San Francisco in the early 1990s: lightly seared foie gras with caramelized peaches, served with a sauce of peach juice, stock, 25-year-old sherry vinegar, honey and caramelized onions, accented by mache dressed with a sherry vinaigrette. Paired with an '85 Raymond LaFon Sauternes, picking up on the flavor of the peaches and honey.

        I've also found that goose foie pairs better with white wine than with red. Duck foie, not as delicate as the goose, can go either way (quack!), but any pairing of foie gras with red wine has to be artful.

        Or, better said, I would prefer it to be artful, but I'm sure that throughout the midi-Pyrennes one can find foie gras, simply seared with no adornment, accompanied by a glass of rustic Madiran wine.

        1. re: maria lorraine


          Just one word: Chapeau!

          As far as Maître Dumas, this is what I could endure:
          " L'opération par laquelle on obtient les foies gras consiste principalement à engraisser les oies de manière à produire chez eux une tuméfaction de cet organe. Le foie d'une oie soumise au traitement que leur font subire les engraisseurs de Strasbourg arrive à être jusq'à dix ou douze fois plus gros que nature. Pour en arriver là, on soumet ces animaux à des tourments inouïs, qui n'ont pas même été déployés sur les premiers chrétiens: on les cloue les pattes sur des planches pour que l'agitation ne nuise pas à l'obésité; on leur crève les yeux pour que la vue du monde extérieur ne vienne les distraire; on les bourre avec des noix sans jamais leur donner à boire, quels que soient les cris de souffrance que leur arrahce la soif."

          Sorry, I won't translait.

          1. re: RicRios

            Your restraint was wise. As you know, this is not gavage as it's currently practiced. Back on subject: Did you find the part about Dumas' foie gras and wine pairing?

            Maria (with an "a") Lorraine (with an "e") but you can call me Bob...

            1. re: maria lorraine

              Under “Order de Service des vins de table”, at the end of the long entry “VINS”, Dumas borrows “from the little book of M.Maurial”:

              "According to custom, the sequence of wines with the different services depends on their general characteristics, particular renown or even their taste and color. But the most hygienic rule is the one from Brillat-Savarin, which is to consume in the order from more austere to more generous and perfumed.

              The usage in the aristocratic houses, which are the ones more frequently referred to in this regard, consist in offering dry Cherry or Madeira after the soups. These wines, very tonic, help assimilate this first and watery nourishment.

              With the oysters and hors-d’oeuvres, white wine from Burgundy or Bordeaux is served, or both at the same time, and of the best possible quality.

              With the first service, first red Bordeaux, then red Burgundy. These ones should be chosen from the bottom quality level to be offered.

              Between the first and second services, a glas of Madeira, old Cognac, Rhum or even a first quality Vermouth is served. This is what is called “le coup du milieu”.

              With the second service, it is served alternatively red Bordeaux, Bourgogne or Hermitage, but of a quality called “Grands Ordinaires” [ Medoc Cru Bourgeois, Saint-Émilion, Fronsac, Monthelie, Dijon, Fixin ….].

              With the entremets, fine wines of any provenance, in the hygienic order above, but reds.

              At the beginning of dessert, the wines of grand reputation, grand crus of diverse provenances and colors, beginning with the reds. The wine of Champagne, Sillery frappé, is the last one to be served together with food. In case no ice or even no Sillery is available, replace with the best Champagne available."
              [END OF QUOTE]

              As an illustration of the above general principles, here is the menu prepared by M.Verdier for a party of 15 dinner offered by Alexandre Dumas at Maison-Dorée, “on 10 November” [sorry, no year listed].

              1) Deux Potages. ( Soups, don't count as "Service" )
              Consommé de volaille.

              2) Hors-d’Hoeuvre. ( Don't count as "Service" )
              Petites timbales de nouilles au chasseur.

              3) Deux relevés. ( "First Service" )
              Saumon Chambord.
              Filets de boeufs financière.

              4) Deux entrées. ( "Second Service" )
              Mauviettes en caisse aux truffles.
              Suprême de volaille.

              5) Rôtis. ( "Third Service", or "Entremets" )
              Cailles, perdrix, ortolan.
              Haricots verts sautés.
              Gelée noyaux, garnie d’abricots.

              6) Dessert.
              Fruits de saison.


              Premier Service: Saint-Julien et Madère.
              Deuxième Service: Château Larose, Corton, Clos-du-Roi.
              Troisième Service: Champagne, Cliquot, Château-Yquem.
              [ END OF QUOTE ]

              Curiously enough, I couldn't find any Foie Gras dish in any of the many menus listed in the Dictionaire.
              But I assume it's placement in the menu would be somewhere in the middle, between the "bottom quality level" and the “Grands Ordinaires”, which rules out any Foie Gras - Sauternes combination. Or at least, any Foie Gras - Château d'Yquem pairing, which is the one I can happily negociate.

              1. re: RicRios


                The date attributed to the above was 1868 in one reference, but 1865 in another. I think we can safely state that it was in the mid-latter 1860's.

                Now, I do ascribe to the lighter first with body, etc., working up, but have never had a problem with a heavier wine served, with the proper course, earlier. I have observed very closely, how the next course/wine might interact, and when done properly, have never had a problem.

                However, I usually offer several full-bodied whites with a cheese-course, even though reds have been consumed with earlier courses. It depends on the cheeses. Normally, I'll go for selections, that match with reds at that stage, but still will pull out some bigger whites, if the cheeses indicate it, and never have a problem. Is this proper, based on 19th Century wisdom? Probably not, but, given the right courses/ingredients, it does work - at least for me.

                Personally, I am less likely to serve a red Bdx., prior to some fine older red Burgs, but that is just me.


                1. re: Bill Hunt


                  What I like most of the 19th century approach to food & wine pairings, particularly illustrated in the above quotes from A.Dumas, is the peculiar "holistic" philosophy involved. They considered a banquet as a flow. You have a flow of "services" ( i.e., sequences of dishes served at the same time ) and a parallel flow of wines. They don't seem to be much concerned with a dish-to-wine matching, as we do now, but rather at, I'd say, keeping the two streams running in synch. A progression of food on the one hand, a progression of wines on the other, where you pay more attention at "hygienic" and/or qualitative virtues of the wines, rather than specific tastes to accompany specific dishes.
                  As an example, notice the use of madeiras and cherrys to go with the soup. To 20th/21st century wine dilettanti, such a pairing without more specifics is anathema. To 19th century gourmets, it was the way to go.
                  Who's right, who's wrong? Well, as with any other issues that move around wine, the most probable answer is "everybody, and nobody".

                  1. re: RicRios

                    Yes, it certainly sounds that way. Thanks for the clarification.

                    While I do get hung up on the pairings, I also like a fluid experience, and try for both, though more emphasis IS on the dish-2-dish pairings.


          2. re: maria lorraine

            Most memorable accompaniment that I have experienced was a little dish of goose foie gras, seared with an apple infusion, at the Greenhouse, Mayfair, London. The sommelier paired this with a Late Harvest Canadian Apple Cider, that was absolutely perfect with the liver. The apple elements paired, and the acid of the cider cut the fat wonderfully.

            Now, I’ve had some great, rare and expensive Sauternes with my goose liver, and all were good, however some more so for the Sauternes, rather than the “perfect match.” Still, the one that I recall the most fondly was that cider.

            In very general terms, I find that non-dessert reds, go better with pâté, than seared, but that is just my palate. Also, while I’ve had hundreds of different wine courses with foie gras, there are many, like the Zin mentioned elsewhere, that I have not experienced.


        2. We had it with aged zinfandel at this tasting and it worked.