Provençal Pairings: Wine with Food

Spice is Nice

By David Scott Allen

Winery: Arnoux et Fils
Cuvée: Vieux Clocher
Appellation: Vacqueyras
Type: Red
Vintage: 2016
Grape Varieties: Grenache 70%, Syrah 25%, Mourvèdre 5%
Alcohol: 14.5
Average Retail Price: U.S. $18-20

When faced with a recipe that is very spice-forward, I am sometimes at a loss for the wine selection. Spice, in this case, is all spice and no heat. The hottest spice within the recipe is the dried mustard powder. Ancho chile (sweet, not hot), cumin, coriander, and mustard are the other ingredients in the rub. Without the chile, one would take this for Moroccan or Middle Eastern. Does the addition of the chile make it a Mexican or South American? Or is it just a fusion of complementary flavors? Whatever the case, there is a lot of flavor going on here and the wine needed to be just right.

I called in the pros for a little advice. Susan said that she definitely thought a GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) blend would be good, and I knew she was right. In addition to the spices, it is a good blend to accompany duck, which was the vehicle for all the above mentioned spice. And the sauce was dark and fruity. For the Spiced Duck with Blackberry-Balsamic Reduction, head over to Cocoa & Lavender.

Although I had several possibilities from which to choose for the pairing, I (with counsel from Susan) chose the 2016 Vieux Clocher Vacqueyras.

The intense purple color of the wine aligns perfectly with its robust fruity nose layered with holiday spices — cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg — and a touch of leather. While soft on the palate, it is a powerhouse of flavors — ripe dark berries, plum, and spice, finishing long with black pepper.

The spice in the wine paired perfectly with the spice rib for the duck, and especially with the blackberry-balsamic sauce. I get nervous around vinegar pairing with wine but this was flawless.

The wine alone is stellar — especially for the price point — but with the duck it was out of this world.


  1. This recipe looks fantastic. Have you tried this spice and sauce combination with beef? I really enjoy a good Vacqueyras. I find they are often a better value
    than Châteauneuf-du-Papes that are just two villages over! I can’t wait to try this recipe!

    • Hello, Peter,
      Yes – I think this spice rub and sauce would work beautifully with beef. I could also imagine it on venison, too. Let me know what you think. It was really lovely with the Vacqueyras!

  2. The duck looks mouth-watering. I’ve made duck with a cherry port reduction but never with a spice rub. Your duck along with the mash look like great recipes to try. I seem to be picking up one of your recipes a week lately and I always love to get Susan’s thoughts on wine pairing. It is also quite interesting how a spice can dramatically change the experience of a wine.

    • Spice really does make for interesting wine pairings – bringing out flavors in both the food and wine! I am so happy you are making and enjoying some of the Cocoa & Lavender recipes. It does a heart good to hear that!

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