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Asparagus, Pancetta and Quail Eggs paired with Grenache Gris.Skip to the Asparagus with Pancetta and Quail Eggs Recipe
Who doesn’t love a bit of romance? The story of Domaine Jones, of an English woman who went out to work in the South of France in the 1990s and, after running the local wine co-operative in Mont Tauch went on not only to buy a small vineyard in Maury of her own, but to fall in love and marry a local winemaker seems a perfect love story. The plot thickens though, Katie Jones decided to do things differently and instead of selling the grapes from her tiny plot to the co-operative, she started on a mission to create specialist wines based on old vines with a good smattering of local varietals. The 2.5 hectares vineyard she’d bought were on a steep slope, ancient vines that were not just the Grenache Noir she’d expected but a mix of three other grapes – Grenache Gris, Muscat and Carignan. And, because of the terrain, these vines were expensive to cultivate and it wouldn’t have been cost effective to sell them to the co-operative. Domaine Jones was conceived…if not born quite yet.
As Katie worked on developing a micro-winery, she fell in love with one of the directors of the local co-operative, Jean-Marc. And, together they now have around 12 hectares of vines with a range of grapes, Fitou, Grenache, Carignan and Syrah. Their wines are made in an old station in the village of Tuchan, originally used as overnight accommodation for the Tuchan Express, which at the start of the 20th century reached the leading edge speeds of up to 10mph. They vinify the vineyards separately so need a lot of space. Some of the vines are over 110 years old and Katie’s plots are, in her own words ‘too small, too remote and too much like hard work.’ She looks for low yields with high quality – and believes that ancient vines on poor sloping ground help to give her just that. Everything has to be tended by hand – everything nurtured carefully. It’s a true artisan product.
Local reaction was mixed, to say the least, and at one point Katie discovery that her entire vintage had been literally washed down the drain by some less than friendly local winemakers while she was away. Thanks to a rescue bid by Naked Wines, she’s carried on and her award-winning wines are proof of her passion. I’ve bought some of Katie’s wines through Naked Wines in the past, but the three I was recently sent to review are distributed by Gonzalez Byass. As always, we wanted to try these wines with food with a view to suggesting some pairings you might consider.
The first, Grenache Gris, was a grape I’ve never tried before and so something of a challenge for me. Grenache Gris is a grape that used to be used to make sweet wines. With pretty pink skin, it is a white wine which needs to be carefully vinified. Hand-picked into cases with a maximum of 10kg, these were pressed and the juice chilled and maintained at between 16-18c while fermentation took place over 10 days. 30% of the yield was transferred into oak barrels and the final blend was made in March 2018. The result is a relatively strong and savoury white wine where you can’t taste the oak but with an added robustness that makes it versatile.
It’s asparagus season here and I wanted to make a dish using something seasonal. My griddled asparagus and pancetta with quail eggs and Jersey Royals is an adaptation of a recipe from Olive magazine. I’ve altered the dressing and removed the shallot which I found overpowering – and I’ve substituted pancetta for the chorizo. I’ve added Jersey Royals to make a slightly more substantial dish. The end result is full of flavour yet delicate, if mildly frustrating. Peeling quail eggs is not my favourite task, though you really do need to cook them from scratch to get that lovely slightly runny yolk. The flavour of the asparagus is intensified by griddling rather than steaming the asparagus and the pancetta adds a nice crunchy texture and a little saltiness. Full of early summer flavours, we thought it paired very well with the Grenache Gris. The tasting notes for the wine suggest scallops, prawns, wild mushroom risotto and roast chicken. I’d be happy with any of those too.
Here’s the recipe for what is now a regular supper dish for me, albeit with a normal poached egg rather than the lovely Clarence Court quail eggs I used this time!;)
An easy early summer dish that brings out the intense flavour of spring Asparagus by adding egg and pancetta
- 1 bunch English Green Asparagus
- 6 Quail Eggs
- 2 slices Pancetta
- 6-8 Jersey Royal New Potatoes
- 2 tbsp Sherry Vinegar
- 3 tbsp Olive Oil Plus a little extra for the asparagus
- 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
Half the Jersey Royals and place in a pan of cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for 8-10 minutes until tender. Drain and put to one side
Bring a small pan of water to the boil and add the quail eggs.
Cook for 2 mins 30 secs (or to your own preference - I found this gave me a nearly completely soft yolk and perfectly set white)
Drain and put the quail eggs in an iced water bath. Gently roll the eggs on a hard surface to crack the shells and then peel carefully. Set to one side
Meanwhile, heat a griddle
Brush the asparagus with olive oil and place on the preheated griddle along with the pancetta
Cook the pancetta till crisp and turn the asparagus a few times cooking for around 5-6 minutes until it deepens in colour and is just slightly softening on the outside
Make up the dressing by mixing together the remainder of the olive oil, the mustard and sherry vinegar. Add salt and pepper and, if you find the dressing too bitter, a tiny pinch of sugar to taste.
Put together the salad by tossing the asparagus and potatoes in dressing, crumbling over the pancetta and then adding halves of quail eggs.
Our two red wines were a 2017 Grenache Noir, IGP Côtes Catalanes and 2016 Fitou AOP. For pairing, we had a mushroom duxelles filled crown of lamb with red wine and mushroom jus and a cheeseboard with a range of French and English cheeses and we tried both reds with the lamb and all three wines with the cheese. The crown of lamb was an earthy and substantial dish and all of us felt that the Grenache, with intense berry notes, worked better than the Fitou which was altogether subtler. It was almost as if with the very intense balsamic laced mushroom and red wine jus, the Fitou got lost. The Grenache tasting notes talk of a concentrated soft red with pure, fresh mulberry and red fruits, silky tannins and a good balance. It’s the kind of red that you could take along to a dinner party without any risk of bringing the wrong thing.
Trying with the cheese was something of a revelation as we enjoyed all three wines again, but this time the Fitou came out on top, especially with a Brie de Meaux. Domaine Jones Fitou is a dry red that is aged in small French oak barrels. A blend of three grapes, Carignan (40%), Grenache (30%) and Syrah (30%), all grapes are hand-picked and vinified separately before being aged and blended in the late spring. We also enjoyed pairing the Grenache Gris with cheese and I’d happily serve it again for those who prefer a white wine with a cheeseboard.
What do you think of this way of pairing wine? I particularly enjoy experimenting at home with friends and discovering for myself how each wine complements the food in a totally different way. I’m not sure how professional it is – but I do know that it’s fun and that I learn a lot about the wine itself in the process.
Looking to try the Domaine Jones wines yourself? They come highly recommended.
Prices and UK Suppliers are as follows:
- Domaine Jones Fitou 2016 retails for around £18 and is available from a number of wine merchants including The Wine Society, Loki Wines, The Fareham Wine Cellar and Flagship wines
- Domaine Jones Grenache Gris 2017 is available for around £18 from The Fareham Wine Cellar and Loki Wines
- Domaine Jones Grenache Noir retails at around £17. The 2017 vintage I tasted is not widely available yet but will be stocked by The Fareham Wine Cellar and The Wine Society.
For more about Katie Jones and the Domaine Jones range of wines do check her website.
Disclosure: we were sent samples of the three Domaine Jones wines for the purpose of this review. All content is editorially given.