Even better than food/wine pairing is the food/wine/friends pairing! A good time is guaranteed whenever Nicolas Donati, owner of the Bistrot Gourmand (Remerschen) and the winemakers from Le Vignoble Estate (Schwebsange), Jean-Paul Risch and Gérard Knepper, get together!
It’s public knowledge that the Bistrot Gourmand in the centre of Remerschen is the place to go. Always full, it’s quite a feat to find a table there if you haven’t booked, which is always a very good sign. It was fouteen years ago that its owner, Nicolas Donati, left the Golf Club Grand-Ducal to come to the Moselle. Since then he has opened a second restaurant, the Bistrot Italien, in what used to be the La Rotonde Hotel in Schwebsange.
The boss is always out front. He welcomes everyone, shaking hands and handing out dishes, and always has a word for his many regular customers. His waiters keep pace, looking after everyone efficiently and attentively. The key to Donati’s success? “Work, passion and patience.” Obviously this recipe works as he is never idle!
The menu changes regularly and places great emphasis on local, seasonal products – all sourced from Luxembourg companies. Except for the bread – it comes from Peter, the famous bakery in Sierck-Les-Bains, an institution in the region.
The wine list has been carefully thought out and prices remain moderate, which is something people appreciate. “We have about 140 wines of which 80 are from Luxembourg,” the restaurant owner explains. There are a good fifteen or so producers: “All from the south of the Moselle, between Schengen and Remich. There are so many wine producers that I had to make a choice and so I chose local ones. But I serve just as many wines from big companies such as Vinsmoselle as from small ones like Le Vignoble.” It should also be noted that the Bistrot Gourmand always has twenty-two wines available by the glass, all Luxembourg grape varieties, “except for the St Laurent,” Nicolas Donati says almost apologetically.
For this meal, the Bistrot’s boss wanted to serve the crémant made by his two friends, Jean-Paul Risch and Gérard Knepper (Knepper even lives next door to the restaurant). Because this wine, L’Envie, has quite a story attached to it and it was in fact here where it all started.
This 2016 is the first time we’ve used Pinot Gris
Jean-Paul Risch and Gérard Knepper have been friends for ages. They have wine in common but other things too. For example, they’re both passionate about vintage cars. Jean-Paul, who’ll soon turn 50, is a cellar master while Gérard is a retired winegrower who used to take his wines to Vinsmoselle.
And then one evening in 2014, when it’s a shrewd guess that more than one bottle hit the dust, they gave each other a challenge: to set up their own estate. “We were in the bar at the Bistrot Gourmand with a friend of ours, the artist Martine Philippi,” Jean-Paul Risch recalls. “She was showing us photos of her paintings and Gérard and I said to each other that one of them would make a fantastic label for a crémant that should be called ‘L’Envie’. That’s how it all started!” And the picture in question? Two naked bodies, seen from behind, traced with a red wax pencil. A label that has no trouble getting itself noticed!
The result was a crémant made with 40% Pinot, 40% Auxerrois and 20% Pinot Gris. “This 2016 is the first time we’ve used Pinot Gris,” Jean-Paul Risch explains. “I like it because crémants that are too hard don’t appeal to me. The Pinot Gris softens it, making it more unctuous.” The bubbles are indeed rich and complex: and with its structure this is a wine that can be easily served with food.
And as for the food, Nicolas Donati has chosen “a simple dish on our summer menu”. Served in the terracotta dish in which they’re baked, these sea bass fillets are topped with fennel, black olives and cherry tomatoes, with olive oil to bring out the flavours. Accompanied by herby mashed potato, the emphasis is on using good raw products, nothing pretentious: but then when they’re good why mask them? These fillets may well be simple, but what counts is that they’re absolutely delicious.
The Bistrot’s owner finds that this Le Vignoble crémant pairs beautifully with his summertime dish: “On a lovely summer’s day, the crémant’s freshness and complexity go really well with these sea bass fillets. For me, L’Envie is a crémant you really can serve with food.” Even the two winemakers seem surprised by just how successful and suitable this lovely picture has turned out to be!