Daube de Boeuf and a Surprising Rhone

Daube de boeuf is one of those simple comforting winter dishes that we ought to eat more of. All it requires is getting the right ingredients, and as always that is not the same as ‘almost the same’ or ‘this will surely do’. For example better cuts of meat make this worse not better. Given the right ingredients you just cut or peel and put it in the pot with the right amount of red wine (ours came from Aude in France in a cubi at £0.90 per bottle) and cook as it says in the recipe. (It’s helpful to cook for at least six people to get the right result. Even if you only eat two portions you can freeze the rest and heat up after work – just as quick and infinitely better than any ready meal.) Serve with tagliatelle or flat noodles. We accompanied it with carrots from the garden which are plentiful, and it’s beef after all.
The dish is most typical of the South of France though you will get it all over. It is an unpretentious dish that doesn’t cry out for fine wine, but it had better be something robust.
As it happened I had earlier been installing some wine racks in the cellar and disgorging some boxes of en primeur wine onto the new racks. This activity brought home how much of the 2005, and especially 2007, Rhones I had so I picked out one of the most robust 2005 village Cotes du Rhones, a Beaume de Venise, le Paradou, from Jaboulet Aine. The Wine Society said it was ‘a big mouthful’ and ‘a bit like a Gigondas’ and it was certainly alcoholic enough at 14.5%.
This proved a really fine combination. The meal is robust, the wine is powerful, herby with perhaps a hint of chocolate (D disagrees on the chocolate and perhaps I’d already had two glasses). It is largely Grenache with perhaps some Syrah, and is beautifully round and balanced despite its power. What is really satisfying is that this bottle, though on a scale approaching that of Chateauneuf du Pape, cost me just £7.30 three or four years ago. It is now absolutely ready to drink.
We sat back sated and very happy. This is what eating out in rural France used to be like. Sadly the market for simple but typical meals seems to be declining there and has never taken off here. Tragedy.

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