A Cautious “Yes” for Burgundy and Mussels

Today on our tour, we’re at the northern end of the Coté de Beaune, in the town of Chorey Lès Beaune.  On hearing of our virtual Burgundy tour, a friend suggested we try pairing the wine with clams or mussels.  What an interesting suggestion!  We have always chosen a white wine with shellfish.  I have no idea whether we would actually be able to get mussels in Chorey Lès Beaune, someday I hope to find out.

Even though we have been committed to Burgundy for the last few weeks, I decided to open an Oregon Pinot Noir as a second wine with this meal.  The idea was to compare it to the French wine in the presence of the mussels.  The two wines reacted to the strong flavor of the mussels quite differently, so I’m glad we had the chance to try them both.

As an experiment, we tried both the Burgundy and an Oregon Pinot Noir.

As an experiment, we tried both the Burgundy and an Oregon Pinot Noir.

As a group, the French wines have been a little less obvious in their expression of fruit.  Red fruits such a cherries are present, but they typically don’t dominate.  Also, they are a bit more earthy, having more of an herbal or forest element.  This Oregon Pinot was more obvious with its’ red fruit.  A nice wine, just a bit different from the Burgundy.

The real story was trying the two wines with the mussels.  Mussels have a stronger flavor than clams and they were more of a challenge.  I was really surprised to find the Burgundy paired very nicely with the mussels while the Oregon Pinot was something of a flop.  Why?  I’m not 100% sure.

Mussels can be a challenge

Mussels can be a challenge – Burgundy “yes”, Oregon “no”

In the presence of the mussels, the Chorey Lès Beaune matched the earthiness, and the cherry flavors that were previously subdued came to the front.  It was a nice combination, and you wanted to reach for another mussel and another sip of wine.  The Oregon wine was just fine by itself, but the mussels took on a very fishy, almost metallic edge to their flavor.  I went back and forth several times to ensure that I hadn’t just gotten a bad mussel.  Julie felt the same way, so I don’t think it was just me.  In the end, I’d give Burgundy and mussels a cautious “yes” in the pairing category.  With an Oregon Pinot, I’ll be a bit more cautious.

Domaine Arnoux Pere & Fils Chorey Lès Beaune “Les Beaumonts” 2009 ($28)
This is a village level wine, but it is from a single vineyard (Les Beaumonts).

Tasting Notes
Eye: Pretty translucent medium garnet red in color.  Barely warm toned.
Nose: Earthy for the 1st half hour.  Accessible nose of cherries, herbs.
Mouth: Lively, red fruit.  Some tannins, not tartly acidic.  Nice and smooth.
Very nice, drinkable by itself.
Compared to Pillot Pommard, lighter in color, much less tart, somewhat less tannic.
Day 3: Acidity is a little more obvious and tart.  Fascinating!

Cooper Mountain Vineyards “Life” Pinot Noir ($35 at the winery)
Tasting Notes
Cooper Mountain Vineyards manage the majority of their vineyards according to biodynamic principles.  This wine carries that approach one step further in that sulfur is not used during the winemaking or even at bottling.
Eye: Translucent purplish red.
Nose: Very fresh, dark red fruits.  Not earthy.
Mouth: Nice and lively, seems to come mostly from tannins.  Not rich, nice and trim.

When I have time, I prefer to get mussels and clams from our local seafood specialty shop.  However, on a weeknight, a special trip to the seafood shop just isn’t in the cards.  I have been disappointed too many times with the “fresh” mussels at the grocery store, and I’ve learned that the frozen ones are OK, and I can have them waiting at home in the freezer.  I minced up some fresh shallots and sautéed them in a bit of butter before dumping the mussels into the same pot.  We serve them with a hot, crusty loaf of french bread and a simple salad.  On a winter night in Minnesota, we don’t exactly imagine we are in a café in France, but we can picture it, perhaps.

Even from the freezer, these mussels were pretty good.

Even from the freezer, these mussels were pretty good.

The Chorey Lès Beaune had an earthy side that held up to the mussels

Burgundy and Mussels – a cautious thumbs up!

We like all kinds of shellfish and have them pretty often.  Have you had any wonderful wine pairings with shellfish?  Or disasters?  I’d be interested to try some new combinations!

2 Responses to “A Cautious “Yes” for Burgundy and Mussels”
  1. Fred Petters says:

    Nice little story Jeff. Do you mind telling me where you picked up the Chorey-Lès-Beaune?

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