Friday, February 26, 2010


It was my friend Deetrane's birthday the other night. He celebrated by making several pots of fondue and inviting family and a few friends. Deetrane's parents have a condo in Chamonix, France, right near the border of Switzerland. He's been going there since he was a kid, and so he's quite familiar with the ritual of a fondue dinner.

We began with an excellent plate of charcuterie.

Then came the fondue. Deetrane uses white wine, slivovitz, or plum brandy, and nutmeg, in addition to Gruyère cheese. The slivovitz acts as an anti-coagulant. Bowls of dried, but not stale bread are passed around.

You skewer a piece with the fondue fork and swish it through the pot. But be careful - anyone who loses their bread in the pot must pay a dollar to get it back. In the end, the dinner cost me about $4, which is clearly a bargain.

Before the dinner, I poked around the interweb looking for fondue wine pairing suggestions. I kept reading about "neutral dry white wines," which I guess made sense, but also seemed kind of boring. In the end I decided on two wines that are from the part of France that borders Switzerland, Savoie and the Jura. The 2008 Eugene Carrel Savoie Jongieux, $11, Martin Scott Imports, was perfectly fine and I think most people preferred it to the other wine I brought, the fantastic 2005 Puffeney Arbois Melon-Queue-Rouge, $25, Neal Rosenthal Selections.

Melon-Queue-Rouge is a grape that is uncommon even in the wine-geeky Jura world. I've had only a few, and this one, Puffeney's, was far and away my favorite. Deep golden yellow, with rich oxidative nutty notes on the nose and palate, and vibrant acidity, I thought this wine was a great partner to the fondue.

Deetrane very generously opened some big-shot bottles of red Burgundy too, including 1997 Simon Bize Latricières-Chambertin, 1996 Dominique Laurent Nuits St. George 1er Cru Les Chaignots, 1999 Michel Lafarge Volnay, and a Corton whose identity I have forgotten. It's weird - the reds didn't show as well as we had hoped. As Deetrane said afterwards, "maybe they just didn't get along with the fondue." Maybe the brawny Melon-Queue-Rouge ruined our palates for the delicacy of mature Burgundy. They do drink reds before these oxidative wines in the Jura.

In any case, it was a great night and we were so glad to be a part of it - happy birthday Deetrane!


Sam said...

Eugene Carrel Savoie is a Martin Scott wine.

Brooklynguy said...

Thanks Sam - I'll make the correction.

River-Rose said...

Dear Brooklyn Guy, Thank You for your blog! Mmmmm...Fondue and (White?) Wine, sounds very yummy and would like to take a dip into both!

Anonymous said...

The real trick is to keep a glass of slivovitz (which is Slovenian, as many hangovers induced from my wife's family's firewater can attest to) or kirshwasser on hand. Dip the bread into the liquor and then into the cheese as many swiss people do.

Looks fantastic by the way. the MQR is a great choice.

TWG said...

Red Burgundy with fondue? Sounds like grounds for a B-day do over.

Mark Anisman said...

We enjoy the jaquerre from Masson (Apremont) with cheese fondue.and we splash it into the fondue as well!

Michael Powers said...

Saignee, I think the Slivovitz is a generally slavic liquor, since my wife's croatian family also has this traditional liquor.

BG, I personally don't like to serve burgundy with heavy cheese-based items because I think that the coating fat is too much and generally overwhelm. I like whites with better acid, though an oxidative white might be interesting too. The charcuterie looks great at the top btw.

Anonymous said...

You're right. It appears to be a pan-slavic liquor. I was always assured it was Slovenian, but on second thought that is probably just national pride talking.

Brooklynguy said...

I hear you Michael, I prefer white wines with cheese, but old Burgundy made by good producers is something that I will simply never pass up.

River-Rose - funny that you used that term, a "dip." I found myself thinking, while eating of the fondue, that I would love to take a bath in it!

And Cory - so into the liquor first, eh? Using dry bread? Sounds good. Do they still put the liquor into the fondue?

Anonymous said...

Yes they do. It still has its place so the cheese doesn't get disgusting. it's a strong flavor sensation, and takes a few times to get used to.

Michael Powers said...

Oh no, I didn't say pass up old burgundy, you'd never hear me say that!