Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The tea and wine pairing with Bordeaux' 1er grands crus

A very special event happened last night at the Landis Hotel in Taipei. Teaparker, the tea genius (note: I know you're tired that I simply call him a tea master!) had a fantastic idea. Instead of pairing wine or tea with food, we would pair tea with wine! And not just any wine, but the 5 most prestigious wines from Bordeaux, the 5 premiers grands crus classés: 2004 château Haut-Brion, 2008 Margaux, 1985 Mouton-Rothschild, 2014 Lafite-Rothschild and 2008 Latour.
So, 14 curious tea lovers gathered and 5 came with a teapot to brew the teas. There was a Qing dynasty water polished zisha YangTong Hu for export to Thailand, 2 Yixing zhuni, my Duanni Tiliang and a silver teapot. This antique silver teapot was used to brew the tea with the lightest aromas: a 2018 Bai Ji Guan.
The 5 teas that Teaparker chose to pair to these 5 wines are also exceptional. They are 5 Wuyi Yan Cha from Teaparker's personal collection: BaiJiGuan, Yan Lu, TieLuoHan, 100 years trees Shui Xian and Rougui from Niulankeng. The zhuni teapots brewed the Yan Lu and the Rougui, the zisha YangTong brewed the Tie Luo Han and my Duanni the Shui Xian.
So, before pairing the meal with these 10 drinks, we started by searching for similarities between the teas and the wines. The Haut-Brion and the Lafite had the most finesse and light aromas and that's why most of us paired them with either the Bai Ji Guan or the Shui Xian. Here I have to add an explanation about that Shui Xian, because this Yan Cha cultivar is traditionally quite heavy. But this one comes from a place called WuSanDi (near WuYi) which is over 1000 meters high. So, it's a kind of high mountain Shui Xian! That's why it has such light scents at and a very refined, long aftertaste.
Clockwise from left to right: Bai Ji Guan, Yan Lu, TieLuoHan, ShuiXian, Rougui
For the château Margaux, I also had the same tea as Teaparker: TieLuoHan, because of the heavy roast that gives the tea a woody flavor. However, for the fruity Latour, I had Rougui for the scents where Teaparker had Yan Lu for its aftertaste. And for the 1985 Mouton-Rothschild, I had the Yan Lu (which means milk from the stone), because old Bordeaux remind me of milk and cheese, while Teaparker paired it with the Rougui. 
Before we continued with the dinner, we also reflected on the wines. Several tasters were disappointed with the 2014 Lafite. It felt closed and astringent compared to the other wines, even after 2 hours in the glass. I think that its young age could explain this problem. After all, it's 6 years old while the others were at least 12 years old. These top wines need time to mellow their tannins. We also experience this with aged Taiwan Oolongs. It can take several years for the roasting aromas to recede.
The dinner then went on with beautiful and delicious dishes by Hideki Takayama of the Paris 1930 restaurant of the Landis Taipei. This Japanese chef loves tea and almost every dish he created contained tea! This was another good reason to try this menu and I was quite impressed, especially considering the reasonable price tag. My main course, below, was pigeon:
This sheet of paper in front of me was very helpful to remember which glass contained which wine:
This tea and wine pairing was so inspiring that I'm now starting to wonder which Taiwanese Oolongs would be good matches with these wines. Roasted Oolongs, fresh or aged, have probably the best potential to pair a red Bordeaux, but for Haut-Brion or Lafite, I think I could even try a Da Yu Ling or a TianChi! These high mountain Oolongs harvested on plantations above 2000 meters high have the elegance, finesse and power of these two 1er crus classés! Cheers!

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