We all collect something. Aside from wine, I collect cookbooks. The older, more obscure, more specialized, more bizarre, the better. My oldest dates back to 1896 that I found in a small book shop in Bruxelles, Belgium. It’s in French, and recipes read as if an acquaintance were telling you how to cook in a casual conversation - no precise measurements, just an overall sense of what to do and when. I love this book. Each time I crack the cover and ever-so-gently turn the pages, I feel like I’m being transported through history, reading recipes that have been long since forgotten or have fallen out of fashion. When the recipes are complete, I sit down at the table, and experience the taste of a time past.
On page 263 is a recipe for Lapin Sauté Chasseur, or Rabbit Hunter-style. Cut into leg and saddle pieces, the rabbit is first browned along with lardons, shallots, and mushrooms, before being deglazed with ¼ bottle of dry white wine. Stock is added, and salt and pepper are used to season, before the rabbit is stewed “vivement,” which I’m taking as an aggressive simmer. Just before serving, you reduce the heat, and a spoonful of butter is incorporated into the sauce, careful not to let it boil. Finally, freshly chopped parsley is sprinkled to garnish. The book then notes that tomato purée may, or may not, be added to the recipe, depending on preference. Since we are in the middle of summer and tomatoes are abundant, I’m going tomato style.
For a wine I selected a producer whose family has been vignerons since long before my cookbook was written. Domaine Binner has a history in Alsace dating back to 1770. Most of the vineyard is planted on the sloping hills surrounding the town of Ammerschwihr, now boasting several grand crus. As time passed, the quality of the wines spread, creating a loyal clientele, which would eventually allow the domaine to get back on its feet after WWII. In the early 2000s Christian Binner, following in his family’s footsteps, would begin to produce wines under the guidance of his family members before him. Steps were taken to become certified organic and begin biodynamic practices in the vineyard. A variety of sparkling, red, white, rosé, late harvest, and selection de grains nobles wines are made each year, always with a focus on quality, terroir, and natural practices.
The 2018 Domaine Christian Binner Pinot Noir is medium-garnet in the glass and perfumes ripe, red cherries, raspberry pâte de fruit, cherry blossom, and a nuance of black tea. On the palate, bright, puckering acidity, medium minus body, and juicy, fresh fruit notes dominate, tannins are fine and pleasant, and a long finish persists. Paired with the Rabbit, the wine compliments the gentle gameiness of the meat and the marked acidity cuts through the fat provided by the lardons and butter. Together, the meal is pure history on the plate and in the glass, a representation of a time and place, and lineage of a family - not to mention, it’s utterly delicious. Cheers.