September marks the transition from summer to autumn, that most beautiful and abundant of seasons, marked by rich colours and ripe fruits. In vineyards across France, winemakers are readying themselves for La Vendange, or grape harvest. Traditionally beginning 100 days after the vines first comes into flower, La Vendange is an intense and gruelling race against time to harvest the grapes whilst they are at their peak, allowing them to make the best wine possible.

In celebration of this important event in the French calendar, we are focusing this month on all things wine, enjoying the fruits of their labour, and using food and wine matching to enhance our experiences of both.

The goal of a wine pairing is for the wine to enhance the enjoyment of the food, and vice versa. Good wine and food pairing can make for an enjoyable meal, a great pairing can make for an unforgettable one.

Our taste buds are receptive to four basic flavours: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Finding what works together is a good start. Amazing pairings can be created by matching similar flavours to amplify each other, or by matching contrasting flavours that compliment.

For example, pair the Sole Meunière, sautéed in butter, capers, lemon juice and parsley, with a glass of crisp Picpoul De Pinet. The sharp citrus flavours in the wine will enhance the refreshing lemon flavours in the dish. Or, for a contrasting match, try the seasonal Charentais melon and air-dried mountain ham with a glass of Muscadet. The contrast of the minerally, fresh citrus notes in the wine will complement the salty ham and sweet melon.

For rich dishes such as the chargrilled Ribeye steak, match the intensity of the beef with a full-bodied, tannic red such as the Château Treviac, Corbières. The protein in the meat will help to soften the tannins, enabling the wine to act as a palate cleanser and bring balance to the richness of the dish.

The phrase ‘what grows together goes together’ is generally a safe way to ensure a steadfast match. It makes sense that regional food will pair well with wine of the same origin. Try the pan-roasted breaded chicken breast served with Provençale sauce, from our September Set Menu, paired with a vibrant glass of Comte de Provence rosé. The Mediterranean flavours of sweet tomato, black olives and herbs marry perfectly with the wine’s wild strawberry and pepper notes whilst whisking you off to a hot summer in the south of France.

For indulgently sweet desserts, try to avoid dry wines as they will make them taste bitter. Instead, match the intensity of the sugar with a lusciously sweet wine. Try our Crumble Aux Pommes with vanilla ice-cream on the Prestige Menu with a well-chilled glass of sweet Château La Sabatière Monbazillac. The result is a heavenly blend of ripe pear, rich honey and complex notes of dried fruits, nuts, orange and caramel.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that wine pairings are subjective and there really is no right or wrong answer; so whether you choose to drink a full-bodied red wine with juicy steak or a delicate fillet of fish, what really matters is your enjoyment.

À votre santé et bon appétit!