Cooking to the Wine: Stéphane Aviron Cru Beaujolais with Pork Tenderloin While Jumping Life Hurdles


Life happens.

For better or worse.

I always think of food and wine as being embedded in the fabric of life. No matter what is going on, you have to eat, and if dinner is happening there is probably a bottle at our table. Bacchus-loving, epicurean, bon vivant that I am, I try to create as many of the “for better” situations as possible. Even if it’s just a quiet evening at home with Greg, I want dinner to be GOOD. It only goes up from there–dinners with friends, celebrations, holidays. So many of the good times in life revolve around the table.

Lately, however, I’ve been reminded (a little too often for comfort, actually) that there’s another half to that equation. Nonetheless, when those “or worse” moments roll around, the table is still there. You still gotta eat. If I gotta eat, well . . .  there’s still probably something in the glass, and yeah maybe it’s doing double-duty as a nerve-elixir. At these times, the table is probably even more important. It’s where we go to take comfort with family and friends, to nurture ourselves, to stay sane.

This isn’t the post I intended to write. I love Cru Beaujolais. I was really excited when the French Winophiles picked this topic for the month–it is Beaujolais Nouveau week after all! Beaujolais wines are go-to’s for us both at home and when we’re dining out because their really food friendly and tend to be affordable. (I covered a few others here.) I love their mix of fruit, herbs, and earth. They pair easily with a million things.

As luck would have it, I was sent some samples of three different Crus by Stéphane Aviron, a producer whose wines I’ve often purchased. Moreover, they were all from 2015, which was a really great one in Beaujo. I’d planned to taste two of the Crus–Fleurie and Chénas–and then write a recipe pairing for one of them, as per usual. Since I’m more familiar with the third Cru–Morgon–I intended to put it away for a bit to see how it developed.

It all started out as usual. Greg and I sat down to taste and take notes on the wines on a Thursday. I stored the wines in the fridge for the next day. I went shopping and bought everything we’d need for dinner the next night.

The thing about emergency situations, though, is that they really don’t give a shit about what you have planned. Just as I was getting things started for dinner on Friday, my brother called. My dad had had a really serious heart attack. We had to get a flight right away. Greg got on the phone to find us a flight, while I stared blankly at the wall paralyzed for ten minutes, and then struggled to think clearly enough to figure out what normally goes in suitcases.

These wines got caught in the middle, like friends pulled into an awkward situation. In a strange way, each ended up being there for me at various points of a difficult time:

•    The Fleurie was the wine I sipped (ok, gulped) to calm my nerves while waiting for it to be time to go to the airport to catch a flight I didn’t know I was taking an hour earlier. It was still cold from the fridge and not half bad with a chill, even if I wasn’t thinking clearly.

•    The Chénas was the wine I drank the night I first got back, nerves frayed but relieved that my dad was doing much better. I was on my own as Greg had to head directly out on a work trip. The wine was still waiting for me in the fridge (I let this one come up to temp), albeit a little oxidized after a week–but hey, it was there to keep me company.

•    We drank the Morgon our first night both back home together. The wine I had not intended to open just yet, became the wine we drank with the dinner we’d planned to have over a week before. Plans change! (Somehow, most of the produce was fine and I’d thrown the pork in the freezer.) My dad was now doing MUCH, much, much better. This dinner was a thankful celebration of a return to blissful normalcy.

There were several other wines that played a role at gatherings at our family dinners while away as well. Each time we sat down together he was doing a little bit better, so we all could connect and let a little more tension go. Each dinner since that first scary night has been part of an early Thanksgiving, and these wines have all played a part in that for me.


THE WINES AND THE GEEKY DETAILS

Beaujolais Nouveau gets the big party every year (the third Thursday in November), but as far as I’m concerned, the Crus are where it’s at. The Nouveau wines are wines made shortly after the harvest. They’re easy drinking and fruity and made to be consumed young. They rely on a technique called carbonic maceration that extracts a lot of flavor and color without taking out much tannin. They tend to have a candied, bubble gum, tutti-frutti vibe going on. The only problem is that these wines don’t really age well and you lose complexity in the process.

If you look for Beaujolais (sans the Nouveau) and Beaujolais Villages, you move a couple rungs up the quality ladder. Next step up are Crus. These wine come from ten different communes whose wines are so distinctive that they’ve earned their own appellations. You probably won’t even see Beaujolais on the label, so they’re worth knowing. They are: Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and Saint-Amour.

All the red wines of Beaujolais are made from Gamay, but the difference in flavor between Nouveau wines and the Crus can be a world apart. As you move up the ladder, you’re likely to find less use of carbonic (or semi-carbonic) maceration. The winemaking style will look more like Burgundy with barrel-maturation and bottle aging. (Beaujo is often lumped in with Burgundy for administrative purposes, but it’s really different in terms of terrain, not to mention the grape.) That tends to mean more earthy and terroir-driven flavors. Nonetheless, Gamay will usually have lots of tart red fruits, herbs and flowers, bright acidity, moderate alcohol, and only moderate tannins even at the Cru levels. All of this makes them extremely versatile food wines. They’re particularly perfect when you need a wine to go with many different dishes  . . . hint, hint Thanksgiving!

Today’s wines are from Stéphane Aviron, a small négociant that really focuses on highlighting the Crus. Aviron grew up in Beaujolais and relies on his relationship with growers of the best sites to create expressive wines that can age. All the wines are sourced from sustainably farmed sites, and quite a few of the plots are farmed through organic or biodynamic practices. All of today’s wines are labeled “Vieilles Vignes,” as all vines are at least 40 years old.

Fleurie Domaine de la Madrière Vieilles Vignes 2015

Like the name implies, Fleurie is known for having a pretty floral fragrance and this one definitely had that going on. However, it was otherwise being really shy, which I found a little surprising given that 2015 was such a good vintage. In my limited experience, wines from that vintage are usually more generous.

Despite the fact that it was playing hard to get, I got notes of red fruits, black cherries, a little blackberry, and a little Welch’s grape juice on the nose. Notes of white peppers and stones joined in on the palate. The fruit was more decidedly in the red camp on the palate as well; it reminded Greg of Red Vines. It was clean and fresh with bright acidity. It was on the lighter end of the spectrum, with very light (medium -) tannins and did well with a chill.



Terroir: The grapes for this wine are sourced from a family owned hillside vineyard on the western side of the appellation. Exposure faces south and southeast. Farming: Biodynamic
Soil: Clay, limestone
Alcohol: 13.5%
Vinification: Grapes are handpicked and sorted upon arrival to the winery. Must is macerated in stainless steel vats for 12-15 days.
Maturation: Wine is aged in a combination of new and old barriques for 12-15 months.
Average Price on Wine Searcher: $21

Chénas Vieille Vignes 2015

I wasn’t that familiar with Chénas, but apparently that’s not surprising as it turns out that it’s pretty rare. In 2011, the vineyard area was down to 243 ha/600 acres and not a lot of examples are exported to the U.S.

We really enjoyed this wine. It had notes of black cherries, bruised raspberries, and a little grape on the nose. It was deeper on the palate than the Fleurie, with red plums and more red fruits joining the mix, along with a little pepper and mixed herbs. There was also a lot more minerality on this wine. It registered as notes of clay and iron. Apparently, that mineral intensity is typical of this Cru. This was still lithe and medium bodied on palate with plenty of freshness.




Terroir: Produced from pre-phylloxera vines that average over 100 years old from a 13.6 acre parcel that Stéphan Aviron has been producing from since 1993.
The soil is light and made up mostly of sand and small pebbles over a layer of clay and quartz. The old vines and pour soils combine for incredibly low yields and highly concentrated grapes.
Farming: Biodynamic
Soil: Sand, clay, quartz pebbles
Alcohol: 13.5%
Vinification: Vinified using traditional methods, with absolutely no carbonic maceration. The must is macerated for 12-14 days prior in temperature controlled stainless steel vats.
Maturation: Aged for 12 months in a combination of 1 to 4 year old oak barrels.
Average Price on Wine Searcher: $18. I think this is a solid House Wine, if you can find it.

Morgon Côte du Py Vielles Vignes 2015

Morgon is famed for being one of the boldest and most structured Crus, along with Moulin-à-Vent, and the wines have the ability to age well. According to Jancis, “the appellation has even been used as a verb, as in describing the process by which a young Beaujolais becomes more like a Pinot Noir-dominated red burgundy with time in bottle: il morgonne.” https://www.jancisrobinson.com/ocw/detail/morgon The good news for U.S. drinkers is that this Cru is fairly easy to find here, and there are quite a few good producers working in the area. There are six named vineyards in Morgon and Côte du Py, an ex-volcano, is the most famous.

True to type, this was definitely the most structured and layered of the three wines. We picked up a host of red fruits, as well as some darker notes: black cherries, pomegranates, raspberries, and persimmons. There were hints of star anise and thyme on the palate, as well as pepper, lavender, violets, and a pleasant bitter note on the finish. It was bright with lots of minerality–stones and pencil lead–and light, dusty tannins.




Terroir: The grapes are sourced from the slopes of an 1150-foot inactive volcano that is regarded as one of the top terroirs in all of Beaujolais. Vines face due south on a well pitched hillside of pour sandy soil. Can be aged as much as 10 years.
Farming: Biodynamic
Soil: Sand
Alcohol: 13.5%
Vinification: Grapes are vinified separately until time for the final blending and bottling. The must is macerated in temperature controlled stainless steel vats for 12-15 days.
Maturation: Info says it’s aged for 1 “months” in combo of new and used oak casks. I think that’s a typo give the structure of the wine.
Average Price on Wine Searcher: $21. This one's a really Solid Value.

Note: As I previously mentioned, these three wines were provided as samples, but all opinions are my own. All of the technical details here are taken from Frederick Wildman’s website, and you can find more details there.


THE PAIRING

We originally decided to plan this dish around the Chénas. We thought it would be perfect with the lighter end of the fall flavor spectrum–cranberries, pomegranate seeds, lightly sweetened nuts, and herbs. Seeing as Thanksgiving is so close, I originally wanted to create a turkey dish to pair with this wine. However, by the same token, turkey cuts other than the whole bird seem to be hard to find at the moment. Therefore, we decided on a pork tenderloin.

I really love my sous vide circulator and I find it particularly useful for cuts that are easy to overcook like pork tenderloin. Cuts like these become pretty foolproof in the circulator and always come out sooo tender and juicy! You can also hit medium-rare on pork without any safety concerns.

Alongside the pork, I planned a farro salad incorporating a lot of those light fall flavors. Since I thought the wine could handle a little bitterness, I finished things off with simple braised endives–you can find the recipe at The Spruce.

As I shared with you above, some pretty big hurdles got in the way, so we ended up having the dish with the Morgon Côte du Py. It worked really well with the pork and the pan sauce I made to go with it, showing the white pepper and herbal notes. It also made a solid pairing for the rest of the food, and it was able to handle the bitterness of the endive decently well. That said I do think that the Morgon could stand up to some bigger and meatier flavors.

I still think the comparatively lighter Chénas would have made an even more seamless match. After all, it was the wine I was creating this dish for. (I did actually try a little bit of the Chénas that was leftover with the food. Even though it was oxidized by that point, it seemed like it would have been great.) But hey, we were definitely rolling with some major punches here.

Photo Credit on all pics in this post goes to Greg Hudson

 

Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin with Red Wine Sauce, Goat Cheese & Cranberry Farro, and Braised Belgian Endive

All in, this took about 70-80 minutes, but a good chunk was inactive–that’s the beauty of cooking things sous vide. While the pork cooks, get the endive cooking. Then start the sauce and the farro during the last 30 minutes of the pork’s cooking time.

 

Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin with Red Wine Sauce

Serves 4


INGREDIENTS

Pork Tenderloin (about 1 ¼ pound)
White pepper, generous pinch
Allspice, light pinch
3 tbsp cooking oil, butter, or bacon fat, or a combo (divided)
4 to 5 sprigs of thyme
3 to 4 sprigs of sage
1 cup red wine
1 Tbsp flour
2 cups chicken stock
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Serve with Braised Belgian Endive
And
Goat Cheese & Cranberry Farro (recipe follows)


INSTRUCTIONS

1. Set up sous vide immersion circulator and preheat water to desired final cooking temperature–I like 135°F for pork tenderloin to hit just mid-way between medium-rare and medium.

2.  Place the pork tenderloin in a heavy-duty, food-grade zipper bag. Season with a generous pinch of white pepper, a light pinch of allspice, and salt. Drizzle with a little olive oil or put the butter or bacon fat in the bag with the pork. Add in 3 or 4 sprigs of thyme, the sage, and about ¼ cup of the red wine. Seal the bag using a vacuum sealer or via the water displacement method. Cook for 1 hour.

Note: To use the water displacement method, zip up the majority of the bag leaving just an inch or open at the end. Lower the bag into the water–as you do so, the water on the outside of the bag will push out the remaining air in the bag. Once the bag is lowered the majority of the way into the water, zip up the remainder of the bag.

3. Make the sauce while the pork is cooking. Melt 1 Tbsp of butter (or other fat) in a saucepan. When the butter begins to bubble, stir in the flour. Cook the roux for about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and the remaining red wine. Add the remaining thyme to sauce and season with salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Allow the sauce to cook and reduce until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust seasoning. Keep sauce warm until ready to serve.

4. When the pork is ready, remove the pork from the bag and add the remaining cooking liquid to the wine sauce mixture. Allow it to reduce again if needed.

5. To finish, heat a small amount of oil (or other fat) in a large pan. When the pan is really hot, add the pork to the pan. Sear on all sides. Remove the pork from the pan and slice into portions. Serve with the wine sauce and sides.


Goat Cheese & Cranberry Farro

I deliberately made a large quantity of this so I could take it to a pre-Thanksgiving dinner the next night. I sliced up all the remaining Braised Belgian Endive and tossed it in with the farro as well. The combo of bitterness from the endive and the sweetness of the cranberries was really wonderful. You could also toss in arugula or kale for a similar balance of flavors.

This keeps really well and it’s good at any temperature, so it’s perfect as a take along dish, or just to keep in the fridge for lunch during the week. I highly recommend making extra.  If you really don’t feel like you need the extras, just halve the quantities.

Makes about 8-10 side servings.

 

 INGREDIENTS

1 shallot, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
16 oz farro (I used a 10-minute version from Trader Joe’s. Be sure to check your package’s instructions and adjust accordingly.)
32 oz chicken stock or water (or a combo)
1-2 sprigs of thyme
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup candied pecans pieces (the version I bought were pretty moderate in terms of sweetness)
6 oz goat cheese, crumbled (Or go crazy–add as much as you want!)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Olive oil


INSTRUCTIONS

1. Sweat the diced shallots and the garlic cloves in a little bit of oil in a sauce pot.

2. Once softened, add in the farro and the stock or water and season with a little salt and pepper. Drop in the sprigs of thyme. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 min or until the liquid is absorbed and the farro is toothsome but cooked through. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes. Drain any excess liquid, fluff with a fork, then taste and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

3. Once the farro has cooled down just a bit, add in the cranberries, candied pecan pieces, and the crumbled goat cheese. Toss to combine and serve!



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As usual, there's a tons of great stuff from the rest of the Winophiles as well. Please check them out:



Additional resources used for this post:
VinePair: A Personality Guide to the 10 Crus of Beaujolas–With Map!
Oxford Companion to Wine via JancisRobinson.com
Wine-Searcher.com
GuildSomm.com 


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10 comments

  1. So glad your dad is doing so well. I hope life calms down for you and your next bottle can be relaxed and comforting. Hugs to you and prayers continued for your Dad.

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  2. Glad your dad pulled through OK. You're right that the hard times that draw us together are the ties that bind us through all times: good and bad. Thanks for sharing more than just the wine and food.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Jeff. Really appreciate the kind thoughts.

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  3. Delicious pairing despite the challenges! Hope your Dad continues to improve.

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  4. Great story of adapting to an unexpected turn of events. We can all relate to plans gone awry. So glad to hear your dad is doing well and that you're feeling better, too. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! (Your dish looks yummy and the wines sound great, BTW.)

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    1. Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving to you as well!

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  5. I'm glad to hear your father is doing better Nicole! And it's great to see bottle shots of empty bottles. A delightful read

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