August 2012 Fla

Burgers & Beaujolais

Joel Blum
Chopped duck tops the Beaujolais-Villages–matched burger at Et Voilà in San Luis Obispo, CA.


Long before the discovery of the New World and the invention of the gas barbecue grill, two French dukes issued unusual decrees that forbade the growing of Gamay grapes in Burgundy. No one could have predicted then that these edicts would one day alter the way 21st-century Americans wash down their hamburgers.

Folks not prone to conspiracy theories (or who think the French are the quintessential arbiters of good taste) might actually believe Duke Philippe the Bold’s claim in 1395 that Gamay had to go simply because it lacked a requisite elegance. The bold duke, and again years later his grandson Duke Philippe the Good, insisted that Pinot Noir was much more representative of Burgundian chic and banished the frumpy Gamay for the fashionable good of their region.

From our modern American perspective this seems a questionable rationale, seeing as Gamay was considerably easier to grow and vinify than Pinot and therefore (one would think) earn a sou from. Yet whatever the dukes’ true motives, their move turned out rather well for the banished grape and for the people of Beaujolais, where Gamay gained dominance and has thrived for centur
Yann Bourigault, the North American Export Director for Les Vins Georges Duboeuf.
ies, and where the varied soils help produce an array of outstanding wines that many Americans are just now discovering lo these centuries later. Among them, Beaujolais-Villages provides the complexities and drinkability that delight the serious wine drinker as well as the casual quaffer. And, as creative chefs are now discovering, it provides an exceptional complement to their inventive new versions of America’s national sandwich, the hamburger.

According to Yann Bourigault, the North American Export Director for Les Vins Georges Duboeuf, France’s largest producer of Beaujolais wines, this marriage of burgers and Beaujolais-Villages makes perfect sense: Light and fruity, Beaujolais-Villages’ brightness and acidity cuts through fatty foods such as the beef in the tastiest burgers; it’s one of a handful of reds that is delicious served chilled; and it’s a highly accessible wine, even for those who aren’t necessarily red wine enthusiasts. While a substantial enough red to pull equal weight in a pairing with red meat, Yann also recommends Beaujolais-Villages as the perfect “transitional” wine for those who generally prefer whites, thanks to its soft tannins and clean, fresh fruit.


Lisa Hemmat at Lido di Manhattan is an ambassador for burgers and Beaujolais pairing. She invites her diners to discover what she calls “possibly the best pairing you will ever taste!”

Creating a Change of Perception at Lido di Manhattan

Just as Beaujolais-Villages and burgers are a natural pairing, restaurateur Lisa Hemmat of Lido di Manhattan in Manhattan Beach, CA, is a natural to champion that pairing. Lisa offers an extensive wine list that includes 30 wines by the glass, and she hosts weekly themed tastings to share her enthusiasm for her favorite new wine discoveries. She’s recently started offering specially priced and promoted food/wine pairings on her menu to encourage her clientele not only to try new wines but to appreciate how a whole wine-plus-food experience exceeds the sum of its parts.

And the first pairing she’s offering? Burgers and Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages. Lisa’s trying to change the perception many hold that hamburgers just go with beer, a misconception she feels leads diners to miss out on something special. The pairing of Lido’s Angus burger and Beaujolais-Villages may be just the tool with which she’ll achieve that convincing; Lido’s generous burgers are topped with a melted slice of earthy Manchego cheese and a slather of caramelized onions, which after tasting make the Beaujolais’s fruity flavors sing. The burger is nicely salted, too, another fine complement to the Beaujolais’s lively acidity.  —Joel Blum

There’s No Mistake in this Pairing at Faux Pas!

Diego Bernal, Faux Pas Bistro, Los Angeles, with his Beaujolais-inspired gourmet sliders.

Chef Diego Bernal of L.A.’s Faux Pas Bistro found his inspiration before he reached the bottom of his first bottle of Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages. Seeking a complement to the bright, sweet fruits of the wine, Diego reinvented his burger from the bun on up with the wine’s unique qualities driving his recipe choices: His three-beef blend of sirloin, skirt steak and short ribs sits on a slider-sized sweet Hawaiian bun, with a dollop of fig jam and a topping of crispy shallots to add sweetness and crunch and provide the French twist that defines much of Faux Pas’s menu style.

But the burger isn’t alone on the plate; with it comes a taste of Maytag Blue cheese and fresh raspberries that Diego chose to round out the experience with the perfect flavor accompaniments to the robust fruits of the Beaujolais. This burger is incredible on its own (indeed, after one taste you may never eat a burger again without fig jam on it) but tailored so specifically for its Beaujolais pairing one can hardly imagine another wine making sense with it.

A summer promo may make permanent conversions of a whole new generation of burger lovers to burger/Beaujolais junkies: Having launched the burger on Bastille Day, July 14, Faux Pas offers a “7/14” special through August ($7 for two sliders alone, or $14 with a glass of the Beaujolais-Villages)—a bargain that many will find hard to believe, let alone resist. ─J. B.

A French Native Develops an American Classic at Et Voilà

Chef José Dahan of Et Voilà in San Luis Obispo, CA.

With four decades of classical training and experience both here and abroad, you might think that creating a burger might evoke a little ennui for Chef José Dahan (Et Voilà, San Luis Obispo, CA). However, the enthusiastic French native fully embraced the challenge of pairing his version of the American classic with the 2010 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages.

“A burger is one of those foods where once you have the foundation, you can go wherever you want. It becomes a product of your imagination—but it needs to start with quality meat,” he said. At his restaurant, Dahan already serves an “Unburger,” a bunless half-pound of organic top sirloin topped with a classic Bordelaise sauce and caramelized onions, and served with organic greens and housemade potato chips. For our concept, he upped the ante with a freshly baked bun and a heaping dollop of crispy, chopped duck on top.

“The Bordelaise sauce obviously goes very well with red meats,” Dahan explains, and from there, you’ve got the crispy duck balanced with the soft sweetness of the onions. He admits that a knee-jerk wine match might be a bolder wine such as a Syrah, but the lighter-style Beaujolais presents nice red/black fruit notes to play off of the duck, bright acid to deal with the beef and just enough sweetness to showcase the onions. Also, if you take Dahan’s tip and serve the wine just slightly chilled, it’s a perfect go-to burger wine for summertime dining. —Katy Budge 

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