The 2010 Couronneau arrived just in the nick of time as our inventory of the 2009 had dwindled down to just bottles. I thought the 2009 Couronneau was the best wine from Chateau Couronneau I had ever tasted. It’s tricky to make such a statement about a wine because, well, there’s always a next vintage. Among the staff, I freely pronounced my admiration for the ’09, always noting it was the “best ever”. Peter never disputed my claim, but would only say, “wait till you try the 2010”. I trust and know that Peter knows Bordeaux, but my understanding of the vintages is that ’09s are more expressive and drinkable at this early stage, while ’10s are more structured and less outgoing in the fruit department. So why was Peter implying that the 2010 Couronneau was so special? I now know why…the 2010 has amplitude and a brash richness to it that defies its humble Bordeaux Superieur classification. The 2010 Couronneau is dense with plum and tangy cassis fruit, the tannins and acidity are heightened and bring forth a freshness on the palate for all that rich fruit. I don’t know what is happening but I am again smitten with a young Bordeaux.
The Piat family, the proprietors of Chateau Couronneau, have worked hard and meticulously in the vineyard to coax out the best possible fruit for their wine. This hard work includes a dedication to organic farming (they are certified with Ecocert), green harvesting in Spring, and limiting yields to an average well below what is allowed for the appellation (their average is around 35HL/HA when 65HL/HA is allowable). Christophe Piat’s foremost motivation is to make the best quality wine possible. His achievements in the vineyard, and subsequently in the cellar, have not gone unnoticed. He has been regaled with many medals for his wines in France and Chateau Couronneau has been noted for quality and value in multiple wine publications worldwide. Rightly so, Christophe is quite proud of his estates’ medal showings in wine competitions. You can debate the efficacy of organic farming and other such viticultural practices, but the proof is in the pudding so to speak, and I have witnessed, and tasted, the steep trajectory of rising quality from this estate over the past decade. With every vintage, Chateau Couronneau rolls out beautiful, complex, totally satisfying wine. Wait till YOU try it!
This past Thursday, The Wine House along with Chateau Coutet hosted a dinner at Picco in Larkspur, pairing Sauternes with each course. This is the third time our Peter and Aline Baly from Chateau Coutet have teamed up to prove that pairing Sauternes with savory courses is not just a gimmick but is in fact an exciting way to broaden your culinary experience. I missed out on the previous dinners, and I have to say, I was getting a little annoyed and rather tired of hearing how great this dish was with that vintage, and how this attendee brought an ancient vintage to share and yadda-yadda-yadda. It’s 2013, a new year, so I decided to use birthday money I had squirreled away to treat myself to this third Coutet dinner. (I also knew they were planning to unveil the inaugural vintage of Chateau Coutet’s first dry white, the 2010 Opalie de Coutet – boy, was that fantastic!). I expected to like the pairing of Coutet with savory dishes, I really did. What was surprising to me though was how effortlessly the wines paired with the savory. The pairings were not at all strange or a culinary stretch. And I didn’t miss having it paired with fois gras. The real stand-out pairings were not with the dessert courses, as is when one typically thinks to break out a bottle of Sauternes. A raw oyster with a chile-cilantro mignonette was paired with the youthful and exuberant 2008 Coutet for a crazy good match of heat, sweet and briny. Another memorable bite was the opulent 2010 Coutet served with crab linguine accented with Korean chili flake. The sweetness of the crab came through brilliantly and the pineapple notes of the young 2010 tempered the heat of the chile flake gloriously. It was a spectacular evening all around with great company, food, wine and atmosphere. I really do need to drink more Sauternes, preferably Chateau Coutet. —Anya Balistreri