Fine wines are not for everybody, but rather for the fortunate few. For many years, the finest wines of Ribera del Duero, Bordeaux and Burgundy have graced the dining tables of kings and queens, presidents and other politicians, and the rich and famous. The premium wines of these top regions are called “fine” for a reason: They come from the purest grapes in the world’s best vineyard sites, they’re made in small quantities by highly-skilled artisanal winemakers and, most importantly, they taste great.
Not every wine lover will have the opportunity to taste one of these legendary wines, sure. These wines are expensive, sometimes costing hundreds or even thousands of euros for a single bottle. For the privileged few that do so on a regular basis, however, we have laid on a list of some truly special gourmet food pairings to accompany these outstanding wines.
Ribera del Duero
The Spanish region of Ribera del Duero is home to a number of super-premium, “icon” wineries. Dominio de Pingus and Bodegas Vega Sicilia are the region’s top estates, though there are many wine wineries operating in their midst too.
- Pingus 2011 is a 100% Tempranillo wine, elegant and complex and with a serious 15% alcohol content. Pair this with a rich foie gras or paté dish to really accentuate the depth of both wine and food.
- Vega Sicilia Único 1995 is Vega Sicilia’s Gran Reserva wine, heralded for its deep and complex aromatic character more than its body and structure. A beautiful, aged wine that you can pair with a wild game bird such as gently roasted quail or pheasant.
Bordeaux is a big wine region that has a huge number of producers all vying for the attention of fine wine connoisseurs. Between the many different appellations and classification systems, it can be difficult to identify the very best of the best. Luckily, we don’t have to make such a definitive statement. Instead, we have picked out two very top estates, one each from the left and right bank of Bordeaux.
- Château Lafite Rothschild 2005 comes from perhaps Bordeaux’s best known wine estate and from the phenomenal 2005 vintage. Lafite is located in the Pauillac subregion, known for its full-bodied and powerful Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines. Nonetheless, there is a delicacy and balance here that makes it truly outstanding. Pair with a regional specialty such as Entrecôte steak with fries in red wine sauce.
- Château Pétrus 2003 comes from the legendary, tiny Pétrus estate in the tiny right bank subregion of Pomerol. With a majority of Merlot, this is a different beast to Lafite but no less stunning. Pair with a simply prepared filet mignon to really appreciate the unique complexity of the wine.
If there is one other region in the world that can give Bordeaux a run for its fine wine money, it’s Burgundy. Where Bordeaux makes big and powerful wines from its large estates and ominous, brooding châteaux, Burgundy is more about delicacy and nuance, and its estates tend to be microscopic by comparison. Indeed, the Burgundy vineyard is broken down into often tiny parcels known locally as “climats”, and any given vineyard may be divided into a great many individual climats each with its own proprietor. It’s a complicated, fascinating region, but if you remember just one producer, make it the world’s single most prestigious: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
- Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grands Échézeaux 2001 is, relatively speaking, one of the estate’s more affordable bottlings. Burgundy makes the world’s finest Pinot Noir and the Grands Échézeaux vineyard site produces some of Burgundy’s very best. This aged example has beautiful mature aromas of earth and game meats. The delicate, earthy structure means the wine will pair beautifully with roasted lamb, or alternatively alongside a plate of mature French cheeses.