Wine matching: Apricot and almond tart

The recipe

Serves: 8

Use a rectangular tart tin or a 23 cm round tart tin.

280 g packet sweet shortcrust pastry (or even better, make your own).
100 g unsalted butter
100 g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100 g ground almonds
12 fresh apricots, halved and stoned

fresh cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200c/180c (fan oven) and place a baking sheet on the middle shelf to get hot (this will help crisp up the base of the tart). Unroll the pastry and fold in half and then in quarters. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to form a rectangle a little larger than a 12x32cm fluted flan tin. Press well into the base and sides allowing a little pastry to overhang the edges. Prick the base with a fork and chill for a further 20 minutes.

Line the tin with baking paper and baking beans and bake for 15 minutes until the edges are golden. Remove paper and beans and leave the pastry shell to cool. Once cooled, use a small sharp knife to trim off the overhanging pastry so it is flush with the edges of the tin.

Place the butter and sugar in a food processor and blend until smooth, add the eggs, vanilla and almonds and blend until evenly combined. Spoon the almond cream into the pastry shell and press the apricot halves well down into the cream. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 40 minutes until firm and golden (cover with tin foil if the pastry starts to get too dark).

Remove from the oven and allow the tart to cool for 30 minutes or so and serve at room temperature with a little fresh cream.

Matching wines

Château Raymond Lafon 2008 (£15.75 for 37.5cl, Haynes, Hanson & Clark)

This dessert is so versatile when it comes to matching with wine that it opens up a dizzying range of possibilities. Most major French wine regions offer something sweet that would work; Chenin Blanc from the Loire, Muscat from the Languedoc-Roussillon, Pinot Gris from Alsace, even sweet Champagne. But for me there is no better match than Sauternes, the most regal of all French sweet whites.

The Sauternes region is found 30km southeast of Bordeaux on the Garonne River. Château Raymond Lafon is a small but quality-minded estate situated near Chateau d’Yquem, unquestionably the greatest Sauternes estate of all. Full and rich but balanced with a crackle of acidity, this is a vibrant example with aromas of apricot and beeswax.

Château Suduiraut ‘Castelnau de Suduiraut’ 2008 (£16.00 for 37.5cl, Oddbins)

Most Sauternes is a blend of aromatic Sauvignon Blanc and rich Sémillon grapes, sometimes with a splash of musky Muscadelle. The misty vineyards are prone to developing a benevolent fungus called Noble Rot which concentrates the natural flavours and sugars of the grapes and adds notes of marmalade. The wines are usually aged in new oak barrels, which adds further complex layers of honeycomb and toasted nuts: all flavours that marry perfectly with this dessert.

Although this is the ‘second wine’ of Château Suduiraut rather than the top wine in their range, the quality is still high, as you’d expect from one of the best estates in Sauternes. It’s full, lush and luxurious with long-lasting flavours of honey, stone fruit and barley sugar.

Château Laville 2009 (£17.00 for 37.5cl, winetrust100)

Vintages can make a big difference in Bordeaux, and 2009 was particularly good for Sauternes. It was a hot, dry year with an abundance of Noble Rot that resulted in particularly rich, concentrated wines. Château Laville is a small property, and although it rarely receives the attention of some of the bigger names, the wines can be exceptionally good. The current owner Jean-Christophe Barbe certainly knows how to get the best from the magical fungus; it’s his area of expertise as Professor of Oenology at the University of Bordeaux.

His 2009 vintage is intense and viscous, with powerful yet defined flavours of Seville orange marmalade, apricot jam and vanilla pod. It’s extravagantly enjoyable, with a long toasty finish. Serve this alongside a home-made tarte aux abricots and you’ll have some very happy guests indeed.

First published in Living France magazine. Recipe by Louise Pickford.