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Sauternes with crabcakes or scallops ?

JMTorch Aug 2, 2011 05:49 PM

Any opinions on if this might work or crash and burn ?


  1. j
    JMTorch Sep 12, 2011 07:06 AM

    We had the dinner - it went well. The Y'Quem was a little too subtle for the crabcakes and scallops. It didn't hurt but it didn't help either. The standout of the dinner was the 1990 Bollinger Magnum of GA. Still one of the greatest champagnes ever with apologies to RPs take on the 1990 RD.

    We also had 1995 Calon Segur (1 of the 6 bottles had an off taste - it wasn't corked just off). We also had the 1994 Taylor port that was amazing with the flourless chocolate torte.

    At the end of the meal - I had no problem saying that no one else in the world had a better meal, finer wine and good company on that night. Aug 25, 2011.

    Sincere thanks to everyone in the forum.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JMTorch
      chefdilettante Jun 8, 2012 07:02 AM

      Thanks for reporting on the pairing. It's a nice denouement to a spirited discussion above.

      1. re: chefdilettante
        Bill Hunt Jun 8, 2012 08:12 PM

        OTOH, that "spirited discussion above," seems to have focused on the Sauternes NOT being the ultimate pairing.

        Is that not correct?


    2. maria lorraine Aug 5, 2011 03:47 PM

      I think it will work. I've had lobster/shellfish with Sauternes/other botrytis wines many times. Plain lobster, bourride, crab, shellfish and preparations with same. The sweetness will pair adequately; the acid will work well; the salt-sweet synergy is a good one; and the bottle is being opened anyway. Sauternes is quite versatile with food (not universally so, but mostly). Let us know.

      2 Replies
      1. re: maria lorraine
        maria lorraine Jun 4, 2012 07:07 PM

        Update: I stand corrected.

        The other evening, a magical night with all the elements of good dining companions, location, setting, and mood in place. The early wines on the table: Sauternes, Champagne and good quality Chard with partial but not cloying ML. The course: scallops caught that day, plump, sweet, briny.

        Now I am a sticky lover, have had stickies with all sorts of savory and sweet foods, and of the mind that Sauternes is a near-universal wine -- not as much as Champagne, but still universal.

        My guess at this dinner was that the caramelized scallops would work well with the Sauternes -- a lovely sweet/salty synergy -- that I've had and enjoyed before. In the moment, I even remember this thread. But one taste and sip told me I was wrong. The Sauternes didn't work.

        The reason wasn't a flavor clash, but too big a difference in flavor intensity. The Sauternes was a powerful, exotic wine -- it drowned out the sweet, briny, buttery deliciousness of the caramelized scallops. It was way too big a wine for the scallops.

        The Champagne added little flavor, but its acid cut through the fat. The real winner was the Chard with the nice amount of ML (diacetyl acetate meets real butter, same amount of intensity, adequate acid in the wine cuts through the fat in the dish).

        What I learned is that the intensity of the individual Sauternes or late harvest makes a enormous difference in a successful paring.

        My experience was the exact opposite of our OP. My Sauternes was too intense for the scallops; our OP's wasn't intense enough. Neither pairing was harmonious. So, there's no set rule, and I have to taste both the wine and scallops/crabcakes to know for sure if the pairing will work.

        I still love lobster bourride, with more complexity/intensity than lobster, with certain Sauternes. Plain lobster with butter, and I'm with Bill Hunt all the way.

        1. re: maria lorraine
          Bill Hunt Jun 7, 2012 08:25 PM


          You beat me to the punch. Unless there were other elements n the scallops, to tempt me to Sauternes, I have found them to overpower the subtle sweetness of the mollusks.

          While I like reds with many seafood items, and enjoy well-made Merlots, with most seafood, and this extends up to Alaskan Salmon, I get an unpleasant "metallic" taste, that ruins it for me. Some wines just work for me, and some do not.

          With Scallops, and depending on the prep, I can easily see many SB's, and Chards, plus even a Chenin, or a Riesling (an austere Kabinett, perhaps Alsatian?).

          A Tokay might work, but at only about 2 - 3 Puttonyos, at the very most.


      2. ChefJune Aug 3, 2011 08:56 AM

        with 90 d'Yquem? I wouldn't. Crabcakes? Meursault. Scallops? Chablis Premier Cru (preferably Les Fouchaumes, depending on the preparation). 90 d'Yquem? Seared Foie Gras OR Roquefort cheese.

        I don't think your pairing would be dreadful, but 90 d'Yquem is too special to experiment with, imho.

        1. s
          sedimental Aug 2, 2011 07:57 PM

          The correct answer would be that it pairs with it ....if you like it!

          I personally don't care for Sauternes much anymore. Sadly, my tastes have changed. I can only take that level of sweetness with strong, stinky cheese as a balance and crunchy palate clearing crackers, otherwise- the sweetness just overpowers everything and coats my tongue.

          Maybe you should ask yourself if you like seafood and fruit sauces? If so, it may work well for you.

          1. Chinon00 Aug 2, 2011 07:27 PM

            My first reaction was if the scallops were wrapped in bacon it might work. Crabcake is rich too so maybe it could work as well with Sauternes.

            1. d
              dubchild Aug 2, 2011 06:22 PM

              Sauternes are incredibly flexible with food. I've had them with lobster, mussels, sashimi, lobster bisque, maple glazed black cod and oysters. I can't remember if I had one with scallops, def haven't with crab. I imagine it would work brilliantly with both and wouldn't require a sweet sauce. Even though I had most of these pairings with many other ingredients, some bridge ingredients may help the pairing work even better. Sauternes work with saffron, pineapple, mango, and peaches.

              19 Replies
              1. re: dubchild
                JMTorch Aug 2, 2011 08:11 PM

                This is where I was headed with it - the salt and richness of the two battling back and forth with the Sauternes. One last disclosure - it's a 1990 Y'Quem.

                Second thoughts ?

                1. re: JMTorch
                  Bill Hunt Aug 2, 2011 08:49 PM

                  For the '90, I would opt for a seared foie gras, or perhaps bring it out for a nice piquant Rocherfort or maybe a Stilton.

                  Just my opinion,


                  PS - have not revisited my '90s, since about 2000, so I could be slightly off, but tasted it many times, near release.

                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                    JMTorch Aug 3, 2011 02:30 PM

                    Bill - agreed that foie gras is the easy and certain choice but when you consider the taste profile of rich, fat and salty crab cakes and well seared scallops it seems worth a try.

                    We're going to go for it either way. The dinner also includes (in this order)

                    1990 Bollinger Grand Annee -

                    1990 Y'Quem

                    1995 Calon Segur

                    1996 Clape Vielle Vignes Cornas

                    1992 Taylor Port

                    ( I may decide to swap/upgrade the Bordeaux and Cornas depending on tastings )

                    1. re: JMTorch
                      zin1953 Aug 3, 2011 06:33 PM

                      I predict you'll love it . . . .

                      1. re: JMTorch
                        Bill Hunt Jun 7, 2012 07:35 PM

                        I *think* that you might find the Sauternes a bit too sweet, and fear that it will overpower the sweetness of the crab, or the scallops, but if you have the right prep, with say a marmalade, etc., then things might work.

                        Personally, I like to taste foods with several wines, whether they are on my "radar," or not.

                        We do a ton of Chef's Tastings, with the Sommelier's Pairings, and then often with a bottle of FR Chard. We keep tastes of all wines, including our own choice, throughout much of the meal. That is why our dossier lets many restaurants know to put us at a 4-top, even if it's just the two of us - we end up with a dozen wine glasses per each, before the meal is over.

                        Sometimes, my initial choices/decisions do not pan out, and often we find new, great pairings, that I try to remember.

                        For foie gras (soon to pass away on these shores), I love to experiment. While a good Sauternes is usually first choice, along with a Barsac, we often go far abroad to try other possibilities. The ultimate pairing was an apple-infused foie gras, with a Late Harvest Canadian Apple Cider. That just flat blew me away. It was actually better than some 1er Cru Sauternes, with seared foie gras - no infusion.

                        In a few days, foie gras will be moot in the US, so we will not be having this discussion - though I think that crabcakes and scallops are safe, for the time being.

                        Good luck, and please report back. Never hesitate to try several wines, with each dish. That is how we learn... and learn.


                        1. re: Bill Hunt
                          ChefJune Jun 8, 2012 10:03 AM

                          Thankfully, Hunt, it's only California that has banned foie gras. The rest of us can still enjoy it, and hopefully California will reverse that silly law and get down to protecting its citizens.

                          1. re: ChefJune
                            Bill Hunt Jun 8, 2012 08:10 PM

                            Yes, but NY is not far behind. That then kills the two main US producers.

                            I am heading to Paris (goose vs duck), and will ply myself with foie gras, for most of the trip. Heck, I do not have a physical for many mos., so should be able to recover in time...


                    2. re: JMTorch
                      zin1953 Aug 2, 2011 08:49 PM

                      I wouldn't . . .

                      Crab cakes, I'd opt for a Chavignol or maybe a Champagne. Scallops? Depending upon the preparation, I'd have a Jasnières, a Pouilly-Fumé, or a Pouilly-Fuissé . . . even an Alsatian Pinot Gris (which -- depending upon how the crab cakes were done -- wold work there, or an Alsatian Riesling!).

                      1. re: JMTorch
                        dubchild Aug 3, 2011 06:36 AM

                        Here are some ideas which are not mine:
                        The great French-Canadian sommelier, Francois Chartier, in his book "A Table avec Francois Chartier" dedicates a whole chapter to Chateau d'Yquem pairings. Just a side note, I found his following book, "Tastebuds and Molecules", to be flawed. Here is his d'Yquem menu:
                        1982 - Duck foie gras mousse with stilton mashed potattoes
                        1986 - Steamed anglerfish with orange zest and slices and a campari and saffron emulsion
                        1979 - Sweet and sour marinated and grilled shrimp with a red peppercorn, ginger, espelette chili salsa and a daikon and radish slaw
                        1985 - Duck breast lightly smoked and glazed, on a chickpea galette with a sauce nacree (I'm not sure if that is peach) and a leek hay garnish
                        1994 - Fried sweetbreads with curry powder, a spiced honey sauce, a warm camomille vinaiger and julienne celeriac
                        1989 - Roquefort crostini with chopped noix de Grenoble (this may be walnut), julienne pears and honey
                        1990 - Galanterie des neiges au quinoa (unfortunately I'm not 100% sure what is this, I looks like a dessert made with quinoa), with lychee mousse and dried apricots perfumed with lemongrass
                        1988 - Warm peach with pecan tuile with peach caramel perfumed with star anise, cinnamon and cloves
                        (I made have made some mistakes in translating)

                        Olivier Poussier, voted best sommelier in the world 2000, pairs the 1990 d'Yquem with gingerbread with orange-honey blossom. His book, "Desserts and Wine", is worth seeking out.

                        Alain Senderens, who I consider to be the master of food and wine pairings, pairs Ch. Guiraud 1953 with a chicken liver mousse with two sauces, bacon and lobster. His restaurant in Paris is a must for those who are interested in food and wine pairings.

                        Philippe Faure-Brac, who also won world's best sommelier, pairs a Sauternes with a pear and roquefort tart.

                        I hope this shows how versatile this wine can be and that it gives you some ideas.

                        1. re: dubchild
                          zin1953 Aug 3, 2011 07:37 AM

                          I don't think anyone thinks that Sauternes is a "one-trick pony" as far as pairings is concerned, although I'm having a difficult time with one of the pairings above (Sweet and sour marinated and grilled shrimp with a red peppercorn, ginger, espelette chili salsa and a daikon and radish slaw -- just can't imagine it).

                          But then, EVERY wine is versatile and works with more than a single dish. Every dish is versatile, and works with more than one wine. If not, we've have labels like Château Rack-of-Lamb, and Domaine Lamb Chop; Porterhouse Winery and T-Bone Vineyards . . .


                          1. re: zin1953
                            dubchild Aug 3, 2011 08:06 AM

                            No doubt that wines work with several dishes. But it seems to me that certain wines are considered more flexible than others such as Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Champagne. Australian Shiraz strikes me as a little more limited. What I am trying to suggest is firstly that scallops and crab would work well with a Sauternes and second that Sauternes should be elevated to the same versatile wine status held by Pinot Noir, Riesling etc.. My experience is that people only think of Sauternes as working with foie gras or blue cheese. Even the mention of a classic pairing such as oysters and Sauternes raises eyebrows.

                            1. re: dubchild
                              zin1953 Aug 3, 2011 12:49 PM

                              As with *all* things, YMMV. In other words, if YOU think Sauternes and __________ go great, enjoy them together! OTOH, if you think that particular combination is an abomination . . . well, enjoy a different wine with __________ instead!

                              There are no "right" or "wrong" answers, only one's own personal palate preferences.

                              Speaking just for myself, and based solely upon my own personal experience, I do *NOT* find Sauternes to be as versatile as Champagne, Pinot Noir or a (dry) Riesling. I find the sweetness of a Sauternes (or, of a Trockenbeerenauslese, a Tokaji Essencia, a Coteax du Layon, etc.) to *interfere* with my enjoyment of the food. But there are some pairings where, in my mind, nothing is better . . .


                              1. re: zin1953
                                dubchild Aug 4, 2011 06:29 AM

                                JMTorch will try the pairing and zin1953 predicts he will love it. You have your way and I’ll have mine. These are the sentiments of a relativist. It is a view that world consists of opinions and there are no truths. So we see paradoxical statements like “There are no right or wrong answers, only one’s personal palate preferences.” If we are consistent with this attitude then “only one’s personal palate preferences” is also not a truth, after all “there are no right or wrong answers”. One can never be right because there is no right, but this also means one can never be right about one never being right because there is no right. This is why it is called a paradox; it is a self-contracting statement. My concern is that this sentiment attempts to shut down the conversation. The idea is that all that can be expressed is opinions and yours is no greater then mine.

                                They say there are three levels of knowledge, the first is opinion, second is belief, and the last is true knowledge. Opinion is the most basic, it doesn’t take much, all one has to do is open their mouth and state their opinion. Belief is a little better, it involves someone taking an opinion and really believing it so that becomes part of their life, it influences how they live. Knowledge is the peak, when we state something with knowledge; we state something, which is a verifiable fact. Francois Chartier in his book “Taste buds and Molecules” attempts to show that wine pairings are based on sharing certain molecules. He believes that science has confirmed his observations. I question the rigor of his method and doubt that his findings represent true knowledge. But I do admire that he seeks this out.

                                When JMTorch asked if scallops and crab would work with a Sauternes my response was rooted in first hand experience with many similar ingredients and by drawing from the experience of experts in the field and classic pairings. That Sauternes are food flexible wines was similarly drawn. I doubt that what I present is true knowledge. Knowledge may be something, which eludes us all but it, is in striving for it, rather then shutting down the conversation, that we all grow.

                                1. re: dubchild
                                  zin1953 Aug 4, 2011 08:06 AM

                                  Now that we're onto philosophy . . .

                                  In matters of taste and wine pairings, I suppose you *may* say that I am somewhat of a "relativist," to use your terminology. That's the "true knowledge" that *I* have come to after working with wines since 1969 -- I may think that Chateau Cache Phloe's 2016 Chardonnay is outstanding, and you may not; you may think that the 2018 Domaine Jean Deaux is a great match with __________, while the "magic" of that pairing may elude me. Which one of us is right? The *knowledge* that I possess tells me we both are right -- for ourselves, for our own taste buds and palate!

                                  If we are talking mathematics, science, history, or any number of other topics, the margin for error diminishes greatly, and you'll find I'm not much of a "relativist" at all . . . but in maters of personal taste? Who was better, Bach or Mozart? van Gogh or Picasso? Joël Robuchon or Ferran Adrià? Different individuals can have different opinions, and I -- for one -- have a difficult time *proving* someone wrong.

                                  Now I have spent much of my life making recommendations to individuals about what wine(s) they should buy, what wine(s) they should serve, and so on and so on. When I get feedback, it is overwhelmingly positive, but once in a while . . . be that as it may, my final words to ALL of my customers have always been, "Come back and tell me what you think." After all, regardless of how good (or bad) that first (or second, third, or 25th) recommendation may be, the more I know that individual's taste, the more accurate, the "better" my recommendations will be the next time . . . for me, THAT is true knowledge -- or, at least, it comes close: I am putting *their* tastes ahead of mine; recommendations are thus based on their palate preferences, rather than my own.

                                  When I "predicted" that the OP will love the pairing, I think that's a no-brainer, but it also takes into account far more than just what is in the glass and what's on the plate. There is more to enjoyment than *just* what's placed in front of you on the table: it's who else is at the table, it's the entire evening, the magical moments sharing a memorable lineup of wines, an evening of (no doubt) exquisite food . . . all that transpires. Evenings like this are frequently, typically, generally greater than the sum of its parts.

                                  Take the 1990 Château d'Yquem as an example, though the same can be said of any of the wines the OP mentioned. Taste it by itself, and it will/should be marvelous (presuming proper storage, the bottle isn't corked, etc., etc.). Match it with the right food, and the wine will taste even better -- and the pairing will be magical. Pair that wine and that food with a group of family and close friends at a 50th birthday celebration, a 20th anniversary, or even a random Saturday night -- and whether it's in your home, at Black Hoof, or at the "last supper" at El Bulli -- that evening will be etched in one's memory for a lifetime . . .

                                  As for François Chartier, I am personally unfamiliar with his efforts, but then again, I'm in California and he's in Québec, so our paths don't really cross. That said, I'll look into it.

                                  Finally, nothing that I've written/said on these pages is EVER meant to "shut down a conversation." (Though I admit to occasionally saying something along the lines of, "OK, I'm through," but that is entirely a different matter.)


                                  1. re: zin1953
                                    Chinon00 Aug 4, 2011 09:59 AM

                                    "I may think that Chateau Cache Phloe's 2016 Chardonnay is outstanding, and you may not; you may think that the 2018 Domaine Jean Deaux is a great match with __________, while the "magic" of that pairing may elude me. Which one of us is right?"

                                    Well doesn't it depend at least a degree upon whom "you" and "I" are? If an individual has little experience with wine is his opinion as valuable (in regard to the quality of the wine) as zin1953? We all have preferences and opinions but when JUDGING a wine we all may not be as equally suited.

                                    1. re: Chinon00
                                      zin1953 Aug 4, 2011 10:42 AM

                                      Judging is, indeed, (IMHO) an entirely different matter.

                                      I was speaking strictly of "drinking," as opposed to "tasting" or "judging." These are, in one sense, three different activities.

                                      Tasting is done when a bottle is freshly opened before dinner -- it is (again, in one sense) a pessimistic activity: one is looking for faults, and if there are none present, one served the wine with dinner. Drinking is, OTOH, an enjoyable activity . . .

                                      Judging is when one tries as best as possible to set personal palate preferences aside and taste objectively. (Total objectivity is impossible, but . . . ) So it matters not if Judge A loves, for example, White Zinfandel or not -- it is Judge A's job to taste the White Zinfandels and evaluate them fairly, for variety tipicity, balance, and so on.


                                      1. re: Chinon00
                                        Bill Hunt Jun 7, 2012 08:12 PM

                                        I can see differences between "you and me," but I do not think that one' experience should come into play, much. If a pairing works for You, or for Me, regardless of how our histories might differ, it should be about how each of us enjoys the pairings. That does not relate to science, or to art, but to how each of us enjoys the pairing. I might love it, and you might hate it, though we are talking the same wines (takes science out of the mix, along with art).

                                        Some pundits tout certain pairings, that I just do not get. Also, some of the same folk pan other pairings, that work perfectly well for me.

                                        While I do read a lot about food and wine pairings, I use those "tips" loosely, and taste for myself. Then, I make mental notes, both good and bad.


                                  2. re: zin1953
                                    Bill Hunt Jun 7, 2012 07:44 PM

                                    <<There are no "right" or "wrong" answers, only one's own personal palate preferences.>>

                                    I agree completely. That is why we usually hang onto our wines, from all courses, plus any that we bought at the start of the meal. Often, I am surprised by some of those pairings, and often, so is the sommelier. To me, that is just great fun!

                                    I have read many "wine pairing books," and do rely on some general suggestions, but am basically an iconoclast, and like to do some odd pairings, as long as they work.


                              2. re: dubchild
                                Charles Yu Aug 3, 2011 05:47 PM

                                Just a side note!
                                Though most of Alain Senderen's cuisine I tasted in general were great. However, I also had one of the 'worst' Michelin 3* dish in his restaurant Lucas Carton ( early 90's )It was pig's liver with dark chocolate sauce! May be he was experimenting with Mexican food and used me as guinea pig?!

                          2. Charles Yu Aug 2, 2011 06:15 PM

                            Too sweet for crabcake
                            If scallops are nicely seared and glazed with a caramelized sweet sauce, the sauternes 'might' work?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Charles Yu
                              Bill Hunt Aug 2, 2011 07:39 PM


                              I am with you. For the crabcakes, I would imagine a lovely SB (probably not NZ), or a Vouvray (not much RS).

                              Scallops, would be similar, up to a Chablis 1er Cru, if there is much sweetness. A dry Muscat might also work here, but cannot see a Sauternes, however much I love them.

                              Now, a Brut Rosé should work with both.


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