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Column: Châteauneuf-du-Pape and more at Hawksworth, part two

An exuberant celebration for the senses

Hawksworth Restaurant in Vancouver was the setting for a fabulous French Wine Pairing and Vertical Tasting last month. Thanks to David Hawksworth and Grace Li of World Wine Synergy and their teams, guests were treated to a delicious five-course dinner par excellence with premium French wines to match.

But the star of the evening was the vertical tasting of three Châteauneuf-du-Papes.

“A vertical tasting is when you’re tasting the same wine from different vintages,” guest speaker and Master of Wine Barbara Philip explained.

“By controlling one variable we learn something about the vintage of this small sample of wines. That’s what we love by being in wine education; we talk about the theory and then we get to sample the wine.”

Châteauneuf-du-Pape (CdP) is one of the more famous red wines from the southern Rhone Valley. The name translates as the new castle of the Pope, built when the papacy moved from Rome to Avignon in the 14th Century. The Popes unearthed a magical terroir of sand, clay, and limestone rolling stones when they took up residence in the southern Rhone Valley and planted vineyards.

One of the families that arrived in CdP to build the château was the Barrot family whose wines were featured in the Hawksworth Vertical Tasting: the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Domaine La Barroche CdP ‘Julien Barrot’. Julien is the young winemaker and together with his sister, Laetitia, they are totally committed to their terroir and exemplify the family values handed to them by previous generations.

CdP is renowned for its aromatic complexity, thanks to the multitude of different grape varieties. With the “Julien Barrot”, Grenache from 100-year-old vines is the soloist in the orchestra. The orchestra is Mourvèdre, Syrah, and Cinsault. It’s a unique, elegant, silky and opulent wine that expresses its distinctive qualities.

“2016 is one of the best vintages in the region, ever!” Philip announced. She explained that the hallmark of a great vintage is when you have freshness and purity in the wine. “There is a beautiful aromatic quality, some floral, some sweet herbs along with ripe fruit, a mixture of dark red berry and blackberry.”

She remarked, “2016 is a complete wine. It will probably last and gain complexity in the next 15 to 20 years. It’ll probably last 50 years but it’s beautiful to drink now.”

But 2017 was quite different which is actually a good thing. Philip explained, “In fact, one of the definitions of a great wine-growing region is where there is vintage variation.” Spring 2017 was very cold there was a lot of rain; As a result, they lost half their crop. But the summer was hot and dry.

Philip described 2017 as a wine where “You don’t have as much floral and herbs on the nose. You do have dark fruit right away on the palate. The tannins are still smooth but there’s chewiness to the tannin.”

He added that the third course with the Beef Duo (tenderloin, pomme purée, truffle jus along with braised short rib, pine mushroom, and black pepper jam) needed chewier tannins because they will cut through the protein and the richness of the beef.

“An exuberant little puppy is how Philip characterized the 2018. It’s all over the place. It’s gorgeous and very concentrated. The wine will be more together and bold two to four years from now.”

Meanwhile, Jeb Dunnuch of the Wine Advocate wrote, “The [2018] cuvée has a great nose of red and black raspberries, framboise, spring flowers, and peppery garrigue. Medium to full-bodied, it displays a notable sense of elegance and purity, light yet present tannins, and a great finish.” The 2018 Domaine la Barrroche CdP ($69.99) is the only vintage of Domaine la Barroche CdP available here in 22 BC Liquor Stores.

For the finishing touch to this amazing wine and food extravaganza, we were treated to a 2018 Château Filhot Sauternes (sold out in BC) and the final two Hawksworth courses. First, a Sautéed Apple with a brown butter financier, cinnamon tuile, with brown butter ice cream along with a Cheese Board of bleu ermite, fomme de gross-ile, poached pear, and candied walnut.

And to extend the gourmet evening, even more, a Mignardise raspberry dark chocolate bar, caramel pecan bon-bon, and a passion fruit pâte de fruit. Sauternes with a complex personality is one of the world’s finest dessert wines and pairs perfectly with both dessert and blue cheese.

All that was missing from this banquet of wine and food were fireworks. But on our taste buds and in our memories, we were experiencing this exuberant celebration for the senses.