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Wine snobs are a bore, don’t you think?

As a one-time food writer, I was often asked to suggest specific wines to go with this or that type of food.

The pretentiousness connected to that sort of business leaves me mostly confused. 

Predetermining the taste of an unopened bottle and matching it to a sauce yet to be savoured I leave to prophets and others who take delight in fooling none but themselves.

I expect such blatant heresy leaping from the chronicle of a food writer will send wine bores and budding oenophiles bolting to the nearest maison de vin for spiritual reaffirmation. The truth is, ever so few of us have the  well-tuned palate of a Master of Wine.

With the ridiculous price of wine being what it is today I'm trying to concoct sauces that go well with a chateau d ' eau ‘23. 

But, even water is now dearer than petrol. That's right, mineral water is now double the cost of petrol. Something's gone wrong.

Anyway, you have to pay about $30 or more to get a fine wine these days and about $12 or more for a bottle of drinkable plonk. A really good wine might be $60 or more, and, of course there’s always Grange. That's not the sort of stuff you liberally splash into a sauce and you don't eat pizza with it either.

I've seen it happen that supposedly good wines taste like hell. The fakers sit there and roll their eyes toward heaven while feigning a bacchanalian smirk and lying through their teeth about how marvellous it is. I suppose for $60 plus you have to kid others, if not yourself. That's why I'm reluctant to tell others what to drink.

Like most of us, I can tell a fine wine from vinegar but plonk is what I can best afford.

That old saying about not putting wine which you wouldn't drink into cooking has become economically defunct. Who can afford to boil up a chicken stew with a bottle of Montrachet, or a nuit St. George? 

Which brings me to todays dish. 

Coq au Vin is a classic French dish that translates to "rooster in wine." Its history dates back centuries and is rooted in French rural cuisine. The exact origins of Coq au Vin are somewhat uncertain, but it likely emerged as a peasant dish in rural France, where chicken or rooster was a common protein source. It was a practical way to cook tough, older birds that were no longer suitable for egg-laying or breeding.


In rural France, particularly in the countryside regions like Burgundy, where the dish is particularly associated, raising chickens was common. However, roosters were often tougher and required longer cooking times to become tender. Wine was also a staple in many French households, often being used both in cooking and as a beverage.

Over time, Coq au Vin evolved from a necessity-based dish into a culinary tradition. As techniques and ingredients became more refined, Coq au Vin transformed from a simple peasant stew into a sophisticated dish associated with French gastronomy.

 As a side dish to this, King Henri IV of France, also known as Henri Quatre, reigned from 1589 until his assassination in 1610. He was noted for several significant achievements during his reign, including bringing an end to the French Wars of Religion by issuing the Edict of Nantes in 1598, which granted religious toleration to Protestants and helped stabilise the kingdom.


The phrase "a chicken in every pot" or "a rooster in every pot" is attributed to Henri IV. The story goes that Henri, recognising the poverty and hunger faced by many of his subjects, expressed his desire for all of them to have the means to enjoy a simple meal. The saying is often paraphrased as "I want there to be no peasant in my realm so poor that he cannot have a chicken in his pot every Sunday."

Coq au Vin gained popularity beyond rural kitchens and became a staple of French cuisine, particularly after it was included in cookbooks and gained recognition in haute cuisine circles. While the traditional recipe calls for cooking the chicken in red wine, there are variations that use white wine (Coq au Vin Blanc) or even beer. The dish typically includes bacon, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and herbs, all contributing to its rich flavour.

Thus we arrive at our chicken stew, more particularly, a coq au vin using a red wine.

This recipe is not quite a conventional coq au vin because I made it with things hiding in the bottom of the fridge.

 Any reasonable wine will do nicely, providing you can drink it, and with Pavarotti lamenting the death of his beloved Mimi in the background the coq tasted just fine. For the chicken, you can use the whole bird cut into pieces, or just the parts you like best.

Coq au Vin  
Serves 4, more or less
1 chicken cut into serving pieces
1 med. onion, sliced thinly
1 orange and 1 apple, peeled and sliced
6 mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 bottle red wine
salt & pepper
Dredge chicken in flour and saute in a little butter until browned in a casserole, remove chicken. Cover the bottom with the bacon, then onions, garlic, mushrooms, orange, thyme and apple. Deglaze the casserole with the wine, then add the chicken. Add pepper and salt,  stir well, cover and place in a 180c oven for 1 hour. Add more wine if it appears a bit too dry.
Remove chicken, strain liquid, discarding vegetables. In a small pot  reduce liquid as a sauce, thicken with a little flour if  required. Return chicken to casserole,  pour sauce over, cover and return to oven 15 mins. 
Serve with your choice of vegetables and of  course, more wine.
Don't you think it is time to stop the wind farms, the solar panels and just get back to growing honest to goodness food?  
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