A Different Kettle of Fish: Dinner at Ducru-Beaucaillou

by Chuck Hayward

A Different Kettle of Fish: Dinner at Ducru-Beaucaillou

Post by Devon Magee | March 31st, 2012

Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou

When I think of popping open a bottle of Left Bank Bordeaux with dinner, I typically think of medium rare steak. But tonight, Bruno Borie, owner of Second Growth Ducru-Beaucaillou, dared us to think outside the box, pairing his lineup of Cab-based reds with seafood.It makes sense, really, with the bounties of the Atlantic – and especially the Bassin de Arcachon – only a stone’s throw away, eating local here is seafood. Except that drinking local here means structured, tannic Cabs.

And for a producer whose latest release – the ’09 – was just awarded 100 Points by Robert Parker,  the prize of the night was not necessarily the wine, but the fish! We caught a glimpse of the enormous, flat fish through the side door just as we arrived. We watched as the two women manning the kitchen, together hoisted the turbot off the ice and into the oven. I looked at my colleagues in wonderment. Could it be? Fish with Ducru?

Yes! We never saw the Bordeaux staples - duck breast, confit, or even foie gras. Instead, Bruno poured us a Magnum of 2000 Dom Perignon with a side-by-side comparison of Spanish “Pata Nega Bellota” jamón – 5-year aged, acorn-fed ham - and French “Pate Noire” jambon. As we chewed on the juicy question, Bruno hopped into the open kitchen in front of us to sauté clams and mussels.

Just as I concluded that – sorry Bruno! – the Spanish Pata Negra was a head and shoulder above the French, he dropped  a plate each of the clams and mussels onto the island countertop that bordered the kitchen. I refilled my glass, but the shellfish stole the show – both were from the Bassin de Arcachon, sautéed in their own juices, and the absolute freshest shellfish I have ever tasted.

Oven-roasted turbot

Finally, we sat down for dinner at a rectangular table that faced the open kitchen on one side, and the lovely spring night in St. Julien on the other.

So far so good – Champagne with shellfish, and now, surely, Bruno would serve us something meaty with his reds. Not so. The seafood theme continued with a “consommé de poisson” – fish soup –procured, as Bruno explained, from his local connection in Cap Ferrer -  at the tip of the peninsula that encloses the Bassin. Bruno’s Fourcas-Borie - his "third wine", a term he hates because it comes from a completely separate inland parcel planted in a sandy and white stone vineyard – paired beautifully. As he said, “Seafood goes well with younger wine.” And it did - Fresh and high-toned, and not your typical blockbuster Medoc Cab, the texture of this young-vine ’09 was perfect with the coriander seafood broth.

Next, Renée, Bruno’s cellar master, and a walking encyclopedia of Medoc lore (Can you tell me the meaning of Beychevelle?), served us ’95, ’00, ’01, ’03, and ’05 Ducru, as Bruno, wearing hot mitts, arrived tableside with the 7-kilo turbot fresh out of the oven in a roasting pan. I wondered if his reaction to his 100-point ’09 matched his enthusiasm tonight for this 15+ pound white fish, as he stood before us. He explained that the turbot, which he estimated to be over 20 years old, came from another one of his passionate mariner buddies, who also works the Bassin de Arcachon and sells his salt water treasures at the “Lucide” fish shop in Cap Ferret. This particular fish, the one we saw as we entered, was driven over from the Cap earlier today.

I followed Bruno’s advice and drizzled Spanish olive oil and “piment d’espelette” – the dried red chili flakes from the Basque country - on my fish, with no regrets. And I conducted my own experiment on the red wine with fish conundrum: 2 servings of turbot with each vintage. The result? I turned to Bruno to ask his opinion, and he, looking for support for his unorthodox pairings, turned to his neighbor, Master of Wine Jeannie Cho Lee with this question: Which vintage pairs best with the turbot?! Looking back, it’s funny how he danced around the real question, and assuming that his wines did compliment the turbot, inquired as to which worked best. (Captured on video, see below!)

Yet I, too, had already jumped to the same conclusion. All I had to do was look at the glasses in front of me. My glass of ’00 was empty. For me, this vintage was at the perfect midpoint between developing and young. Bruno, apt to compare his wines to women – the ’09 is Beyoncé, the ’10 Charlise Theron, and the ’11 Nicole Kidman – might say the ’00 is a current day Sharon Stone, or maybe the Franco-English actress Kristin Scott Thomas. And I would agree.

Les Vins de Ducru

Jeannie liked the ’03 with her turbot. She returned to the textural theme, comparing velvet to velvet (coincidentally, she wore a velvet jacket), and since my glass of ’00 was empty, I reached for the ’03, and couldn’t agree more.

Bruno sent us off with Tesseron XO Cognac from 1929, and, in orchestrating such a perfect, effortless dinner with so much apparent spontaneity, showed me the heart of his Second Growth, a wine linked to the land and the region, best served with the freshest local fare available gracing your dinner table, and especially fish!

On location at Ducru-Beaucaillou: Q&A with Bruno Borie (and that matter of the fish!)