Four wines from Edmond Rothschild's vineyards were paired with Italian food to make for a fine dining experience

Pairing food and wine is a practical application of the theory of Yin-Yang, when complementary opposites come together to form a greater whole. A principle put into effect at a recent Chennai wine dinner when Italian food was paired with top French wines at Taj Coromandel's fine dining restaurant, Prego.

On the evening, Florent J. Mougin, Asia-Pacific export manager, Compagnie Vinicole Baron Edmond Rothschild introduced his company's wines. These were from the third branch of the Rothschild wine family, started by Baron Edmond (1926-1997), and not to be confused with the other two Rothschilds of Bordeaux, Chateaux Lafite and Mouton Rothschild.

Talking about the four wines on offer, two each from the Chateau Malmaison and Chateau Clarke labels, Mougin explained: “Though the two chateaux are side by side on the left bank, slight differences in terroir result in distinct styles of wine.” At Chateau Malmaison, for example, some sandy stretches of soil are better suited to Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, reflected in the wine.

A 2004 Chateau Malmaison Baronne Nadine de Rothschild, Moulis, Bordeaux paired with delicious roast beef carpaccio rolls opened the four-course menu designed by Chef Giovanna Marson. The medium to full-bodied 2004 vintage displayed dark fruit notes, and could be termed a “feminine” wine. By contrast, the following Chateau Malmaison Baronne Nadine de Rothschild, Moulis, Bordeaux 2002 — accompanying the bucatini pasta — was more “masculine”, not as lush, and more austere.

Main course — choice of asparagus terrine, stuffed capon or sea bass — was accompanied by two Chateau Clarkes. The 1999 vintage was smooth, with crème de cassis notes and hints of smoky charcoal and dark fruit: the result, an elegant, well-integrated wine with a long finish. The 2003 vintage with notes of blackcurrant, cherry and plum, and hints of mocha and spice, observed Mougin, was a slightly unusual wine. Because of a heat wave in the summer of 2003 the wine is low on acidity; it drinks well now but may not keep for very long.

Chateau Clarke is the company's flagship label; the powerful vintages and complex flavours make for excellent food wines that can be paired with a range of meats and sauces.

The allure of wine also derives from personal stories. In 1973, when the Baron bought Châteaux Clarke and Malmaison, they were in a dilapidated condition. It is a tale of passion for the vine, how extensive replanting and rebuilding work was undertaken to produce two wineries with individual wine styles — and famous landscaped gardens to match.

The label also benefits from association with the parent company's diverse lifestyle associations from producing top quality Brie cheese, to running one of Europe's most expensive ski resorts in Megève in the French Alps, to professional yacht-racing.

Today, some 300 cases of Chateaux Clarke and Malmaison together are exported to India annually. “You cannot ignore a potentially huge, upcoming market for wine such as India,” says Mougin. “For a brand to live, it must be present internationally.”

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