Sweet and savory pairings to try

Chef Georges Gotran and Wendy Narby
Chef Georges Gotran and Wendy Narby

The last two times I visited Sauternes, the sweet wine appellation in Bordeaux, I was treated to wine pairings with savory foods.  The conventional pairing with Sauternes and/or neighboring Barsac, or its lighter-versioned cousins across the Garonne river Cadillac, Loupiac and St. Croix du Mont, are strong cheeses or desserts.  At Chateau Guiraud, and last week at Chateau Sigalas Rabaud, we tried Sauternes with savory dishes that work.  As we approach the holiday season, you might want to include variations of the following dishes to impress your friends.  At Chateau Sigalas Rabaud, the dishes were prepared in front of us outdoors, which made the foods taste that much better.  The chef was Georges Gotran, a frequent face at chateaux functions, who interacts comfortably with guests, sharing recipes and showing a great range of creative pairings.  His basic pairing philosophy is to contrast sweet wines with salty, briny and acid, often bridging with sweet components.  He was also a believer in Sauternes with Chinese food, which one of our professional colleagues from Shanghai validated as being popular in restaurants.


  • Ossau Iraty (sheep’s milk cheese) topped with dried apricot stewed in a syrup of green peppercorns and drizzled with Argan oil.  Argan is an exotic nut from Morocco whose oil has a unique earthy flavor.  High in vitamin E and anti-oxidants, it is available from specialty shops.  Argon oil is typically used as a finishing oil such as in this dish. 
  • Aged gruyere
  • Brie with dried fruit
  • Pear and baby arugula topped with roquefort and extra-virgin olive oil


  • Toast spread with sweet pepper jam (pimento d’espelete) and topped with quick pan-fried St. Jacques sea scallop from Brittany and serrano ham.  I think scallop wrapped in serrano and secured with a toothpick might work just as well 
  • Scottish salmon in a sweet citrus vinaigrette
  • Pan-fried shrimp


  • Tart of cured duck and foie gras topped with a fig chutney
  • Ballontine (roll) of free-range guinea fowl filled with dried fruit and shallot confit
  • Rabbit rillette (minced or shredded into a spread) with plums carmelized with Sauternes
  • Terrine of foie gras and asparagus with a carmelized white balsamic syrup
  • Grilled asian chicken wings prepared with soy, oyster sauce, ginger, a little honey and drizzled with sesame oil and seeds.  The crowd favorite.


  • Mango in any shape or form.  This time, served with a syrup of white balsamic vinegar, ginger, star anise, vanilla bean and cardomom.