Crème brûlée is one of the most quintessential French classics. Chef Raphael Francois, executive chef and partner of Le DeSales in Washington, D.C, remembers learning how to make the foundational dish while working under his first mentor, chef Claude Lavalle at Le Giverny in Tournai, Belgium. "I think it's one of the first dishes that we teach you to make at school and in a restaurant," Francois says.
Francois oversees the kitchen at Le DeSales, including the pastry program, which focuses on tried and true recipes—and you can’t get more classic than crème brûlée.
William Kelley, reviewer of Burgundy, Chablis, Beaujolais, California Central Coast and Washington State, suggests pairing the classic French dessert with a 2006 Domaine de Bongran (Jean Thevenet) Viré-Clessé Cuvée Botrytise. “[It’s] an unusual example of a sweet, botrytized Chardonnay,” he says. “Exotic and unctuous, it's also racier and less cloying than many dessert wines from the Loire and Bordeaux, making it a good match for the creamy richness of crème brûlée, a dish that can sometimes be a bit fatiguing at the end of a long dinner—especially if it's paired with a heavy sweet wine.”
“My gut reaction would be to reach for a Sauternes,” says managing editor Joe Czerwinski. “The orange-apricot notes of botrytis-affected Sémillon and the vanilla aromas and creamy texture from oak-aging make it a natural with crème brûlée. But since I don't review those wines, I'd reach for an Australian relative. De Bortoli's Noble One Botrytis Sémillon uses the same grape variety and methods. Of the four vintages in our database, the lowest it has ever scored is 93+, so it's pretty much a can't-miss proposition.”
Mark Squires declares the perfect choice to be the rich Vinsantos from Santorini: “They are aged in wood, show fine concentration and acidity as well.” Pick up the recently reviewed—and in a relatively young style—2010 Estate Argyros Vinsanto 4 Years Barrel Aged.