The morning had been spent stomping through some of Bordeaux’s most storied vineyards in a cold Atlantic wind, and now lunch was being served at Chateau Palmer.
The cozy first course was a deceptively simple one: eggs baked in a ramekin with red wine, bacon and onions. We all dug in, using tablespoons and sturdy strips of toast, as the last of the springtime chill seemed to melt away.
And, of course, there was a wine to help warm us, 1994 Chateau Palmer.
Drinking a $120 bottle of red wine with eggs was an epiphany. It seemed odd and excitingly un-American. The French preference for eggs at lunch and dinner and served with wine seemed so opposite from the American tradition of eggs at breakfast or brunch with, at most, a Bloody Mary on the side.
But experimenting with eggs at other times of the day, perhaps cooked and served with wine, makes lots of sense now. First, Easter is approaching and 62 percent of U.S. moms are poised to buy at least two dozen eggs to mark the occasion, according to the American Egg Board. Do something besides just hard-cooking them. Second, hard times mean people are looking for more affordable sources of protein such as eggs.
But there’s a catch: “Eggs are notoriously tough on wines,” said Evan Goldstein, president of Full Circle Wine Solutions, a spirits and wine education company based in San Francisco.
Goldstein, a master sommelier and author of “Perfect Pairings,” a food and wine matching book, said dishes in which eggs have a starring role can dampen the profile of many dry wines.
“The egg cuts down on the acidity, it cuts down the impact of the wine dramatically,” he said. “You get something that’s a mere shadow of itself.”
His solution? Pour a very acidic, crisp wine. Experiment with sparkling wine, gewurztraminer and riesling.
The eggs worked with the Chateau Palmer, he said, because the red wine and bacon sauce in which the eggs were cooked had enough acidity to switch the flavor focus from the egg itself.
Bacon, mushrooms and ham are “bridging ingredients” that help “smooth” red wines, such as pinot noir and syrah, to work with eggs, said Natalie MacLean, a Canadian wine writer who runs an online food and wine matcher at her Web site, nataliemaclean.com. For whites, she wants unoaked wines.
“I love unoaked chardonnay or sauvignon blanc with eggs because they don’t have those heavy tannins and oak flavors that battle with the sulfur compounds in eggs,” MacLean said.
The lack of oak is important, said Joshua Wesson, senior director of wine, beer and spirits for The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., better known as A&P.
“If you want to make someone suffer, serve them a barrel-aged chardonnay with an egg salad sandwich,” Wesson once declared.
“You also need to consider the texture of the eggs,” he said. “Look at scrambled eggs. If they are soft and runny they present a different challenge to a sommelier than if the eggs were firm. Wine, as a liquid, has trouble relating to another liquid-y food.”
A light, even ethereal wine that matches the lightness and delicacy of the scrambled eggs would work, Wesson said. A dry manzanilla or fino sherry, or a very dry sparkling wine, are some of the better options.
The message is clear: Experiment with your favorite egg dishes and your favorite wines. You may be pleasantly surprised.