21 April 2011

sancerre & sweetbread: christophe, 75005

Until just recently I'd had the erroneous impression that when one ordered sweetbreads, it was generally a plural thing. Several little ones, like chicken nuggets, as several chefs have affectionately described them to me over the years. Turns out I'd been thinking only of the thymus or "throat" sweetbread, not of the similarly named but rather larger pancreas or "heart" sweetbread.

Odd that one almost never sees the distinction made on menus. Perhaps the unconcious logic of this is that sweetbreads are more appealing the less diners know about their origins.

Anyway, as pictured above, it is the pancreas they serve at 5ème vegetarian-unfriendly restaurant Christophe. A particularly large one at that. When it hit the table the other night I actually gasped, thinking I'd been served some kind of primordial Pangea sweetbread sourced from the neck of Babe the Blue Ox, or something.

Around this time my friends and I were on the second wine of the evening, a 2006 François Cotat Sancerre cru called "Culs de Beaujeu."*

Cotat needs little introduction; he's an acclaimed natural Sancerre producer, frequently mentioned in the same breath as the legendary Edmond Vatan, although the former is a much larger producer whose wines run much less dear. Both producers are based in the town of Chavignol, west of the town of Sancerre.

Both are also perennial favorites of Robert Parker. Ordinarily I decline to even reference this critic, as it constitutes an appeal to a very questionable authority - but in this case it seems notable because it's an instance where Parker's prediliction to rich, low-acid, pastry-like wines for once places him against public tastes and industry trends, which typically call for Sancerre to be simply an anti-Chardonnay: brisk, ammoniacal, and sharp. Cotat and Vatan both make Sancerre "à l'ancien," using essentially natural methods to produce a significantly richer, glowier, more profound take on the appellation.

My visiting friend K kindly brought me a copy of my friend L's new book.
It seemed a nice way to illustrate profundity. 

The 2006 "Culs de Beaujeu" we shared at Christophe recently was typical of this style. I wasn't familar with this particular clay / limestone cru at the time, and its price (merely 28€, if memory serves) led me to expect something much less complex. But in fact the wine captured a brilliant nougatty minerality that strikes me as typical of medium-term old-school Sancerre; a sort of wintergreeny herbal lozenge effect was also discernible. The wine's slight sweetness - by no means overpowering, particularly for Cotat, whose wines are at times denied the Sancerre appellation due to excess residual sugar - cleaved to that of the enormous hulking melt-in-your-mouth sweetbread, with a result that was indefinably oriental, despite being 100% French:

* The name of this cru could conceivably be translated as "Bums of the Handsome Game." But I'm pretty sure it refers rather to particular slopes of a local hill.

8 Rue Descartes
75005 PARIS
Metro: Cardinal Lemoine
Tel: 01 43 26 72 49

Related Links:

Falling in love with Restaurant Christophe, 75005, despite their font use

Drinking Vatan Sancerre, and running into Antoine Arena, at Quedubon, 75019

A great review of the 2004 Cotat "Culs de Beaujeu," including an appellation map, at @ TheWineDoctor
An overview of natural Sancerre producers that mentions Cotat @ ExpressStyles
An informative 2008 tasting chez François Cotat @ Jim'sLoire
A profile of Cotat @ MichaelSkurnikWines

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