Molecular Sommellerie: Recipes and Pairing Ideas from Francois Chartier

by Emily Bell and Jeff Harding
November 2011

Recipe: Armagnac Jelly-filled Walnut Candies with Goat’s Milk Ice Cream and Salted Walnuts from Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz – Errenteria, Guipúzcoa, Spain

Dominant Compound: Sotolon

Pairing Ideas: Sauternes, Tokaji Aszu, Aged Dark Rum, Oloroso Sherry, Madeira, Dark Beer, Sake

Comments from Francois Chartier: While I was at Gastronomikà in San Sebastian last year to present my work to chefs and sommeliers, I had the wonderful opportunity to taste this amazing signature dish created by Chef Aduriz. This dish is brimming with the taste of sotolon! What I mean is that the main ingredients in this creation share the same aromatic compound known as sotolon (an entire chapter is dedicated to this molecule in my book Taste Buds and Molecules).

Sotolon is a volatile compound found in “vin jaune” from Jura in eastern France. This wine is aged in oak barrels for more than six years, without being topped up, developing an oxidation profile of aromas expressing themselves with perfumes of nuts and curry. These notes stem from the sotolon molecule.

The great thing is that sotolon is also found in others beverages and foods—especially in aged Sauternes and Tokaji Aszu, but also, in aged dark rum, oloroso Sherry, Bual and Malmsey Madeira, dark beer, and Nigori sake. Therefore, the comfort zone in which wines and other beverages can achieve a great match with this dish is quite large. Moreover, sotolon is also an aromatic signature in soy sauce, maple syrup, brown sugar, dried figs, coffee, cotton candy, and roasted fenugreek seeds. All these ingredients will create a powerful aromatic attraction if you cook them with the ingredients found in Chef Aduriz’s recipe.

Recipe: Tobacco Cream, Scotch Gel, Maple Budino, Candied Pecans, and Huckleberry Coulis from Chef Philip Speer of Uchi – Austin, TX

Dominant Compounds: Lactone and Guaiacol

Pairing Ideas: Rivesaltes, Aged Bourbon, Aged Dark Rum, Lapsang Souchong Tea

Comments from Francois Chartier: This recipe’s dominant aromatic signature comes from the twin aromatic families of lactones and guaiacol. These volatile compounds are found in the oak barrels in which wines and spirits are aged. Lactones are a family of sweet perfumes found in oak, but also in peach, apricot, pecan, pork, coconut, maple, Scotch, Bourbon, and dark rum. Guaiacol, with its smoky tone, is found in wines aged in new oak barrels, specifically in barrels made of American oak. Surprisingly, it is also found in the Chinese smoked black tea Lapsang Souchong, Scotch, maple syrup, tobacco, and cigars.

So, as you can see, this dish is entirely on the lactones and guaiacol path. Hence, to be in the harmonic comfort zone, your choices should be a Rivesaltes long-aged in wood barrels, such as an Aimé Cazes 1978 from Domaine Cazes in the south of France, or your favorite aged Bourbon or dark rum, such as an El Dorado 21-Year from Guyana, which is full of lactones. Perhaps you will prefer a cup of tea! In that case, choose the smoky black Chinese Lapsang Souchong tea, served warm rather than hot, in your favorite wine glass.