My renditions of two French classics, both with wine as an essential ingredient bien sûr, Vin Chaud and Fondue, will cap-off any ski day to perfection. Give these simple recipes a go after a day of snow.
The first time I had vin chaud I was sitting in ski boots and bibs, pigtails thawing, in a little bistro at the foot of Chamrousse in the French Alps with a friend from university. There we were, exhausted and shivering after a day of pushing each other’s skiing ability to the limits, looking over a menu offering crêpes and the sort of hot, spiked beverages one finds necessary after the last run of day. Listed there I saw Vin Chaud. I inquisitively translated out loud to my friend, “Hot Wine?”
“Yes,” she said.“Heated wine with mulling spices, it’s very good.”
Upon her recommendation, I ordered my first Vin Chaud. The hot wine spiced with cinnamon, cloves and garnished with lemon was a true revelation in that moment.
1 bottle of dry red wine
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise pods
1 tablespoon blood orange zest
½ teaspoon freshly grated dried ginger root
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 blood orange, sliced for garnish
Pour the bottle of wine into a large sauce pan. Add sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, blood orange zest, ginger and nutmeg to the wine. Heat on the stove over medium heat just until the sugar is melted. Do not let the wine come to a boil or the alcohol in the wine will boil off, and we don’t want to lose that! Once the sugar is melted and the wine is nice and hot, turn the heat to low to keep the wine warm while serving and until it is all consumed. This drink can also be made in a crock pot and be offered to guests for self-service straight from the crockpot into their glass. Serve each cup with a slice of blood orange to garnish. Drink and relish the soul warming effects of this superb après ski libation.
I like a spicy, full bodied red with plenty of fruit for the purpose of a vin chaud. Think of a wine with berry and baking spice notes to compliment the added spices and orange zest, with still enough acid to weather the added sugar. Most ready to drink, value priced reds will do quite well for this. I don’t like to spend much on the wine when I’ll be loading it up with sugar and spices anyway. Although as the base of the beverage, it is best to make sure that you would still enjoy drinking the wine, just as wine, too.
I selected a Vin de France from the Rhône Valley, St. Cosme Little James’ Basket Press Red Multivintage. This particular wine is quite interesting in the way that it is produced, and also to note, very tasty. This is a non-vintage wine and is actually a Solara style blend, which means many vintages of this wine are blended into one another year after year. It makes for a more structurally and flavorfully complex wine that’s quite affordable at about $13 on the shelf.
1 clove of garlic
1 cup dry white wine
6 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
6 ounces Emmentaler cheese, grated
2 tablespoons water
1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets and lightly steamed or blanched
1 loaf of whole French country bread, cut into 1 x 1” cubes
Place a fondue pot on the stove. Cut the clove of garlic in half. Rub one of the cut sides of the clove all over the interior of the fondue pot while the pot heats over medium heat. Once the pot gets hot, stop rubbing the garlic and add the white wine into the pot. Once the wine starts to simmer, add in the grated cheese a handful at a time, stirring in between handfuls until all the cheese is melted. In a jar, or small container with a lid, shake the flour and the water together until the flour is incorporated into the water and a runny paste has formed. Add the flour and water mixture to the cheese and wine. Let the fondue bubble up to a boil to cook the flour and then reduce the heat to low. Grate and stir the nutmeg into the fondue . Transfer the pot to a fondue pot base with heating mechanism (flame or electric) and you are ready to dip!
What to Dip?
There are many vegetables that can be used to deliver a wonderfully melted fondue to your taste buds. You can certainly pick your own favorites, but I love the structure and flavor that cauliflower provides under a coat of melted cheese. In a classic fashion, I also like to serve pieces of rustic French country style bread. There is a bakery in Denver, Babettes, which makes the perfect loaf for dipping into a hot, gooey fondue. Almost charred on the outside, and pillow softness on the inside, it cuts the fondue’s richness and contrasts textures so nicely.
Plan to dink the same wine with the fondue that you use for the cup of white wine in the recipe. This will ensure a marriage and the best pairing. Many might choose a classic pairing to complement the cheeses with a nice dry white from a close by region to where the cheeses are produced, such as a Vin de Savoie, Jura, or Chasselas from Switzerland.
You can’t go wrong with one of the aforementioned wines, and they can be quite refreshing to drink after an athletic day in the snow. However, when the cheeses melt, the texture becomes richer on the palette, and I find that a medium bodied dry white with more pronounced fruit does quite well, such as a Viognier from Southern France. Although it is absolutely necessary, if you go this route, to ensure you choose a Viognier with enough acidity to still cleanse the palate with each sip and cut through some of the richness of the fondue. If you want to really splurge, consider a Condrieu from the Northern Rhône. But when a whole cup is going into the fondue, I like to consider a wine more for the masses.
My selection for this recipe was Tortoise Creek Wines Pays d’Oc Viognier “ Le Verger” 2012. Retaining a zippy acidity with pear, hints of honeysuckle and offering a note of nutmeg to compliment the nutmeg in the fondue, this wine creates a pairing that heightens the experience of both the wine and the fondue on the palate. And at only around $12 a bottle, it’s really hard to beat.
I hope that you try and enjoy these simple, tasty recipes as much as I do. Happy après-skiing!