You won’t believe, with whom I’ve just had dinner. Am still a bit star struck but will try to pull myself together to write this post.
Cured foie gras, with poached pears and aged balsamic
Last weekend, we had the pleasure of meeting Yves Cuilleron over dinner at the French restaurant La Vie en Rose, on Jalan Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur. Yves Cuilleron is somewhat of a superstar, in the Northern Rhône region, his reputation riding on his very fine white wines from Condrieu, although he also produces sound Côte–Rôtie and St Joseph wines.
the Les Vins de Vienne wines
In the space of a decade, Yves Cuilleron has established himself as one of the leading lights of France’s Northern Rhône region. He’s a modernist, but not overly so, so his wines straddle neatly the divide between traditionalists and the new-wave, in the sense that they retain their sense of place, but are slightly more approachable, and great for young people like me, to drink! There’s a purity to the fruit, and where new oak is used it isn’t excessive. I love it!
L – R: Yves Cuilleron, Toulouse-born chef Jean Michel Fraisse (Chef and Owner of La vie en Rose) listening to Gough Chong, of Geovinum give the opening remarks, at the wine dinner hosted by La vie en Rose
As we talked over dinner, I learned that this vineyard, Les Vins de Vienne’s success was actually a story of three friends. Yves Cuilleron, Pierre Gaillardand François Villard count among the pioneers at the origin of the renaissance in the northern part of the Rhone Valley during the 1980s, a time when now globally-acclaimed AOC’s (controlled designation of origin) like Côte–Rôtie, Condrieu, or St Joseph had nearly disappeared from the map. Think that Viognier – one of the most cultivated white grape varietal in the northern and southern hemisphere which finds its origins in the Condrieu area – only had a tiny 50ha left of plantation then and was therefore almost extinct. Having individually become successful winemakers, the three friends later on gathered around a common dream.. reviving the vineyard of Seyssuel, a long-gone terroir across the Rhône river from Côte–Rotie and Condrieu which had a comparable reputation as far as the antique era. They ended up doing so with great passion and pleasure. The adventure began back in 1996 when they decided to rent some fallow land for winegrowing. They planted Syrah for the reds and Viognier for the whites – as across the river- and the prestige Cuvées Sotanum, Tabernum, Heluicum were born.
Little by little, year after year, they extended the role of Vins de Vienne from boutique producer – buying more land in the area of Condrieu, St Péray, Côte-Rôtie, St Joseph – to boutique négociant by carefully selecting vintners to partner with in all regions of the Rhône valley in order to deliver more high quality, tailored wines, giving constant priority to quality against quantity.
Today, Les Vins de Vienne propose a wide range of Rhône wines from North to South, From Côte–Rôtie to Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Crozes-Hermitage, that are exported globally and land on the world’s best tables. Gosh, stories like these are just so inspiring! How great is must be to pursue your dreams till they become larger than you. And that Yves Cuilleron is so cool, humble and approachable.. that’s just the icing on the cake;)
So how did the wines fare, when paired with a terrific Wine Dinner Menu specially constructed and hosted by la Vie en Rose? Well here are the 4 wines that we tasted during the dinner, and I must say that they all did magnificently well, though I did have my favourites!
Jina Chae and Sainy Chun of Maison Française
First up was the Les Laurelles Cote du Rhone Blanc 2010 RM 128.00 /bt which was paired with a lovely starter of Petuna Trout Rillettes, White Wine and Herb Jelly and Toasted Brioche. This white wine, made from 60% Viognier, 20% Marsanne and 20% Grenache was bright, fresh and easy to drink. This wine goes superbly well in KL’s humid weather, and drunk chilled it had lovely flavours of starfruit, melon and chamomile notes racing along, followed by a very fresh finish. These subtle fruity notes paired well with, and enhanced the oceanic flavours of the rich and creamy Petuna Trout rillettes. Lovely.. the night was off to a great start.
the Les Laurelles Cote du Rhone Blanc 2010
starter of Petuna Trout rillettes, white wine and herb jelly and toasted brioche
Then we moved on to the reds – a Crozes Hermitage Rouge Argent 2010 RM160.00/bt was paired with a classic french dish of Cured Foie Gras, with Poached Pears and Aged Balsamic. What is it about aged balsamic that really gets under my skin. When I see it on the menu, I get sweaty palms, in nervous anticipation of it’s sweet, intoxicating almost cloying aroma. I try to contain my excitement, tasting this dish. What can I tell you about this wine? I liked the interesting nose of this wine with its tarry aroma. This was a rather artisanal wine with bags of personality. The tannins had an unusual, almost sandy texture but it was all good. Definitely for drinking with meaty or richer courses, and well, they did well to pair it with the super decadent and creamy Foie. Well done!
Cured foie gras, with poached pears and aged balsamic
Crozes Hermitage Rouge Argent 2010
Next was the Les Pimpignoles Gigondas 2010 RM195.00/bt which was paired with a succulent Braised Wagyu Beef Cheek, and served with Summer Truffle Mashed Potatoes. Full bodied, smooth and rich, the Gigondas was my favourite wine of the night. This wine was a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvèdre sourced from selected vineyards by Les Vins de Vienne. Like the other wines from Vienne vineyards, this was a very well-crafted Gigondas. It had a rich, intense colour matched by a complex nose with cassis and floral notes. The full bodied, palate paired excellently well, and complemented the rich, and gamy wagyu cheek. Like I said, the best wine that night!
Braised wagyu beef cheek
Finally, we concluded the night with the Les Otelies Chateaneuf du Pape 2009 RM300.00/bt and a rather delectable cheese platter, and what a fine way to end the night too, I might add. I feared that the Gigondas might have already stolen the show that night, but this final wine, I am happy to say, held its own. Paired with the cheese, the Les Otelies Chateaneuf du Pape had inviting flavors of currant and blackberry fruits mixed with traces of bittersweet cocoa, and hits of licorice even. Its long finish was packed with dark, gutsy fruit, and went well with even the stronger tasting types of cheese on the platter.
As the final sweet of the night, we had a silken smooth Nougat Glace and coffee. Well, all good things must come to an end, and with that and a strong cup of coffee to sober up, it was time to say good night to our hosts.
This would rank as one of those great nights out you won’t soon forget. La Vie en Rose has a remarkable chef. You need to check out the place asap, if you have not done so already.
The wines in this post are not sold in supermarkets , only in Hotels and Restaurants. If you wish to obtain them you may choose to get in touch with Gough of the Malaysian Fine Wine distributor Geovinum, details enclosed.
For the Wines: Gough Chong, Director of Geovinum Sdn Bhd, A-G-07, Merchant Square, No.1 Jalan Tropicana Selatan 1, PJU3, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor D.E. Email: gough [at] geovinum [dot] com Tel: +6012 2191 197; +603 7883 0688 For some great French Cuisine: La Vie En Rose @ Raja Chulan, 39, Jalan Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-2078-3883