Fundraising season is in full swing, and among the numerous events that take place during its tenure, one stands out as the most coveted of all: Montréal Passion Vin. An incredible two-day fairyland for wine aficionados, the event brings renowned international artisans of the vine to Montreal to raise funds for the Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont new Cancer Center.
While I never say no to a glass of vino, my weekly intake is far from a good indicator of my knowledge on the topic. Let me therefore share a few things I learned while sipping on a few grands crus from la Maison M. Chapoutier – served during a lunch prepared by the masterminds behind no other than Le Club Chasse et Pêche, Le Filet, and Le Serpent.
A few words on minerality, food pairing, and a bit about tech should be enough to let you drink confidently on your next outing. To paraphrase Michel Chapoutier himself, “just like one doesn’t have to be a gynecologist to get in bed, one doesn’t need to be a connoisseur to appreciate wine”.
To begin, the bow-tied staff brought to the table beautifully plated scallop ceviche topped with sea buckthorn berries and flower petals. Lightly marinated with a pinch of citrus, the dreamy, buttery mollusk was followed by a gentle lobster stew. Mixed with bites of zucchini, pine nuts, pumpkin and a creamy coconut curry sauce, the sea creature was covered by a fine butternut squash chip.
An Hermitage “Chante-Alouette” Blanc 2012 accompanied the stew, while the ceviche was paired with a Condrieu Blanc Invitare 2013. The latter was by far the most accessible wine I tried that weekend. If you’re a white wine type of person, this fresh and fruity one is a sure bet. All seemed to agree that “minerally” was its best qualifier. Now, what does that mean? Some online forums will tell you it’s like sucking on a rock. While I’m not convinced that image is useful (how often do you suck on rocks…?), it does point to the subjective impression of complexity that the word minerality aims to describe, in contrast to more objective and measurable characters like acidity. A wine is mineral when it has a finish that makes you feel like there is more than just acidity and sweetness to the drink. Remember that airy, yet buzzy Muscadet you had last Easter break? That’s minerality for you. With the third course came the red wines. More of a Gewürztraminer/Riesling type of girl, I admittedly often struggle to understand their darker cousins. Too bitter, too dry – tannins are textural elements I have yet to tame. Thankfully, the beauty in wine pairing lays in the mutual influence the food and the wine have on one another. Taste a Syrah once, it will present you with a certain persona. Take a bite and taste it again, it’ll be completely new. Take red meat and wine for instance. The reason why they go so well together is because the rough sensations found in red wines, and the meat’s “fatty” and “slippery” characteristics, are at complete opposite ends of the taste spectrum. When combined together, the two contrasting qualities complement each other out, with their extremes meeting at a sweet midpoint. That’s why Les Greffieux Ermitage, paired with the juicy roast duck, were such delights.
So far so good? So far so good, but I wanted to know more. Colour? Nose? Mouth? Let me let you in on my little secret: an app called ”Delectable.” Using the same technology once put in place by the American Government to track the bad guys, this app recognizes every single wine label in the world and lets you know what other normal fellow humans and experts thought about it.
Let’s try it out, shall we? I scanned the bottle of Ermitage “Les Greffieux” 2001 and within seconds Delectable gave me a common user rating of 8/10, and a rating of 9.5/10 by the pros. Not bad. Next time you meet Steve Bachmann, know that he’s a fan ;).
Finally, a few mignardises came by to kindly announce the end of this incredible session. We indulged in half-cooked chocolate cake, pistachio pastry and the most decadently airy lavender and white chocolate mousse on a cracker.
All in all, Montréal Vin Passion is an incredible tour de force by the HMR Foundation. Not necessarily inexpensive, I’d highly recommend you lobby your boss (or yourself, if you’re your own boss) to snatch a few of next years’ tickets. While s/he seals a deal over a Château Palmer, you’ll be discovering vinos you’d never dreamed of and all of this, in the spirit of contributing to a great cause.