Category: By type

Malbec Nights with WineChap

Voyager Estate tasting

Tom Harrow’s reputation as WineChap precedes him. Lovers of fine wine will already have his number on speed dial, of course, but those following trends couldn’t have missed him being named one of the 1,000 most influential people in London by the Evening Standard last year. His trademark linen suit, a shade somewhere between terracotta and muddy red, jaunts between elite crowds. His ChapMobile frequently spotted at mysterious locations in Marylebone. His considered musings found at tables of the best dinners.

At the 11th hour, well, more like the 14th actually, I received an invitation to dine with Mr Chap. The invitation came from Mr Chap’s dashing friend, and arrived via flashing red beacon to my BBM. Injected with mystery and flirtation, it contained the promise of an evening sampling some special Argentinian offerings with two charming gents – how could a girl resist?

A fine mist descended from above and puddles formed underfoot as I dashed across London, to Casa Malevo in Marylebone, for 7pm whereupon I discovered I was unfashionably early. Mr Chap greeted me with Christian Rothhardt, the man behind the Argentinian wine specialist Ruta 40, who was introducing a selection from Bodega Tempus Alba that evening.

Swiftly, I was offered a shot of ruby – the Rosado de Malbec 2008. Few are the Malbec not transformed into a bold red but this floral number held its fruit rather well, injecting a hint of vibrancy to the evening.

As I considered my rosé, I surveyed the setting. The lower floor of Casa Malevo plays host to the sizeable private room, styled as an old Estancias dining room, as well as their selection of, largely Malbec, wines. Malbec is much celebrated as the Argentinian varietal after all. The intimate space seats 12 who, as Mr Chap talks of international wine markets, began to filter in. A glass of the rosé magically appeared in the hand of each as everyone familiarised themselves with the evening and each other.

A three course dinner followed where two wines were paired with each of the first two courses. The first, a very lively Malbec 2008, overwhelmed the palate with its rich plummy fruits, which seemed a bit unfair on the gently vanilla Tempranillo 2007 that followed. But then again, perhaps the Tempranillo couldn’t have afforded the intensity desired to open the starter.

For the largely Marylebone-based set, the evening seemed to be as much a social occasion as a forum to explore new varietals. Christian explained the selection we tasted from the producer’s point of view, including the age of the vines from which the grapes were harvested, while Mr Chap discussed terroirs and the style of wine with eloquence.

The first wine which accompanied the main required and warranted such explanation, and it was afforded with grace. The Vero Malbec 2007 was the first vintage to come out of Tempus Alba’s 10 year in-house cloning programme, with a very limited production of 5,000 bottles. The idea was to produce a wine which was made from a very pure Malbec vine so that, as more producers adopt the varietal, any expressions of the final wine would be a true reflection of the terroir rather than differentiating varietals. It’s an interesting concept and the wine was similarly so, although it would have enjoyed being set down for a while longer before being cherished.

The wine which followed, and the final of the evening, was the Pleno 2006. A blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, it offered a good bouquet of cherry and was much more accessible than the Vero Malbec 2007.

In the interlude between coffee and desserts, guests had the opportunity to pick up wine tips if that was their intention and curiosity. The alternative seemed to be talk of golf and property – I know which I’d rather spend my money on.

There’s a good splash of wine loitering around at the end of the night for those who want to stay on for conversation or, with the help of Casa Malevo’s very potent double espresso, you can do as I did and entice the dashing gent to join me for a sharpish cocktail or two.

(First seen on BespokeRSVP)

Discovering Turning Leaf colours

Turning Leaf, Discover the taste of colourCalifornian winemakers Turning Leaf have recently launched their “Discover the Colour” campaign to present their portfolio of five wines as expressions of colour. To be precise, Turning Leaf’s oenologist Stephanie Edge has teamed up with Dutch chef Esther Röling to create a new series of colourful recipes designed to match the Turning Leaf wines throughout the seasons. I was invited to sample their selection of wines and some of the summery dishes to match.

The concept itself is quite interesting. When you start thinking about wines, there seems to be only red and white. But as you explore the different grapes and regions, you soon realise that there are a lot of different shades within the spectrum of red and white with subtle nuances of flavour and aroma.

The five Turning Leaf wines, a mixture of red and white, make great everyday wines but when matched with the vibrant dishes, they really do evoke colour. Esther was on hand to cook up three dishes for us and it was easy to see the colours on the plate.

The first dish we tried was a pan fried mackerel with lime oil, fennel and green apple salad. It was a really summery recipe, with lots of green ingredients, matched to their fruity Pinot Grigio. The next dish we had, red mullet with Moroccan couscous, was more golden. It signified a change in the season, moving towards the autumnal. The second wine was a fuller bodied Chardonnay which was almost richly caramel in taste. Despite both being white wines, the colours they have been portrayed are very different and it definitely echoes their different characteristics.

Then it was on to the portfolio of reds.

Turning Leaf, Discover the taste of colourThe Pinot Noir stepped up first and was matched with a pan-fried quail with purple beetroot, which we didn’t get to try. The wine is said to be filled with dark cherry and raspberry flavours and the purple beetroot certainly matches those colours well. The final dish that we sampled was a beef carpaccio with rye bread crumb, designed for the Cabernet Sauvignon. The beef lended plenty of support for the full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon and the two together created a ruby red illusion. The last wine in the portfolio was a Zinfandel, matched with a wintry slow-cooked veal with winter vegetable purée. Zinfandel is probably generally better known in rosés but in this case it was a red wine, which with the matched dish should give that orange glow of late autumn and early winter.

And that makes the complete portfolio of Turning Leaf wines – Pinot Grigio (green), Chardonnay (golden), Pinot Noir (purple), Cabernet Sauvignon (red) and Zinfandel (orange). All that’s left was to finish the last of the colourful food, enjoy the wine before heading home to try the recipe myself.

(First seen on Foodepedia)

Desserts and wines with Nancy Gilchrist MW

dessert and wine matching at Leiths School of Food and Wine

Leiths School of Food and Wine, famed for training professional and amateur chefs alike, has recently launched a new series of evening tasting classes. I went to its West London kitchen classroom to try some food and wine matches.

The class was fairly informal and led by Nancy Gilchrist MW – author, journalist and Master of Wine. For any worshipper of desserts, the evening promises to be enjoyable, entertaining and educational. Unfortunately the class took place when London was in the grips of icy wintry weather.

Having braved the snow and ice with a questionable choice of footwear, which got me cursing every two steps, I was very well rewarded. We were welcomed into the class with a glass of Zonin Brut Prosecco, which given the warm embrace of the classroom, was like an injection of summer. As guests slowly trailed in, the hubbub in the class grew.

Nancy Gilchrist at dessert and wine matching at Leiths School of Food and Wine

Nancy introduced the format of the evening – there were six dessert wines to try with six matched desserts. There was brioche to cleanse the palate, water for rinsing and we could request a personal spittoon, if we wanted to. We also had a course booklet with notes on all the wines and recipes for all the desserts. It was a case of “you can take it as seriously as you like”, or just enjoy.

First up was a delightfully summery Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d’Asti 2009. At only 5% alcohol, it was the least alcoholic of the wines and also my favourite. It was matched with pomegranate meringues, pomegranate and strawberry compote and sweetened whipped double cream. Nancy suggested tasting the wine in four stages – on its own, with just the meringue, with the meringue and the compote and finally with everything. It was interesting to find that the perceived flavour profile of the wine was changing according to what it was paired with.

Nivole Moscato d'Asti with brioche, dessert and wine matching at Leiths School of Food and Wine

The wine was very pleasant to drink to begin with and pairing with just the meringue seemed to make little difference. With the compote the contrast was a lot sharper and the wine, although not unpleasant, didn’t taste nearly as nice. When the cream was added though, the natural taste of the wine returned but with a new-found richness.

The second wine was Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes 2006 from Waitrose paired with crème brûlée and raspberry coulis. There was a hint of marzipan in the wine which worked particularly well with the caramelised sugar of the crème brûlée. This sweet wine is produced via a very labour intensive process as it’s made from grapes affected by noble rot. The grapes are infected by a special strain of Botrytis which causes them to dry out like raisins. They must be harvested at a particular stage of the infestation to produce the required characteristics in the wine, which means that each vine must be harvested several times by hand. Nancy tells us that this soft and mellow wine would also work well with foie gras or blue cheese.

Tarte tatin, dessert and wine matching at Leiths School of Food and Wine

Wine number three was the Royal Tokaji 5 puttonyos 2005, which was paired with tarte tatin and Calvados crème anglais. Made with hand picked Aszu berries, the production of this wine is also highly labour intensive. The 5 puttonyos indicates the amount of berries added to the wine and therefore the level of sweetness. As the scale is between 3 and 6, this wine is very sweet.

Next up was an intensely sweet Henriques & Henriques Single Harvest Malmsey Madeira 1998 matched with stollen. Sweetness is definitely a defining characteristic of dessert wines but this one was particularly so. It was very interesting to learn about how Madeira’s distinctive flavour was first discovered as a result of some wines being carried aboard merchant vessels making long journeys across the world. These days, instead of making that long journey, the wine is heated to around 50°C and maintained for some three months. Madeira is a fortified wine which continues to improve with age, is relatively insusceptible to oxidation and will therefore last for a long time.

Fig frangipane tart, dessert and wine matching at Leiths School of Food and Wine

After that large dose of sugar, it was on to a slightly less sweet wine – the Les Vignerons de Maury, NV Solera 1928 Maury. This is another fortified wine but produced using a Solera process, where new wines are blended with older wines in rotating barrels, which began in 1928. It is a non-vintage wine as, in order for a wine to be deemed a vintage, at least 85% of the bottle must be wine produced from that vintage year. (Port and champagne must be 100%.) The dessert paired to this non-vintage was fig and frangipane tart to match the hint of fig and tobacco in the wine.

Last but not least we had the Bacalhoa Moscatel de Setubal 1999 paired with a chocolate and mocha layered cheesecake to pick up on the hints of coffee.

The evening wound down in the same relaxed manner as it began – guests were able to explore the different combinations of desserts and wines with Nancy on hand to answer any additional questions. For me though, it was a matter of stomping through the snow in an attempt to get home. After all, I now had renewed energy from all the sugar consumed to make the best of my impaired balance.

(First seen on Foodepedia)

Rules for entertaining with Laurent Perrier

Mandarin Oriental barThe Christmas season is definitely upon us with snow descending across the country and the opening of advent calendars. To ease us into the party season, Laurent-Perrier held a little class on the art of entertaining. I was there to enjoy a little champagne and take notes.

The class took place in the Mandarin Bar of Mandarin Oriental, the home of Bar Boulud and the soon to open Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Leading the class were David Hesketh MW, MD of Laurent-Perrier UK, and Lucia van der Post, journalist and author of “Things I wish my mother had told me”. The focus was of course champagne and in particular, the selection from Laurent-Perrier.

Laurent-Perrier can trace its history to 1812 when Alphonse Pierlot was trading as A. Pierlot & Cie in Tours-sur-Marne, Champagne, France. He was a cooper and bottler before turning his hand to making champagnes. When he died in 1881, the company was bestowed to his cellar master Eugene Laurent who ran the Champagne House with his wife Mathilde-Emilie Perrier. It wasn’t until 1887, when Laurent passed away and Perrier took over the running of the company, that the brand Veuve Laurent-Perrier & Cie was established. The brand has since gone from strength to strength before being acquired by the Nonancourt family in 1939.

Laurent Perrier Grand SiecleToday, the House of Laurent-Perrier is the fourth largest champagne brand in the world and remains a family owned business with members of the Nonancourt family on its Management Board.

But back to the evening and learning about the art of entertaining. As the guests gathered at the bar, Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle was served in classic champagne flutes and matched to savoury canapés. There was quite a selection, from wild mushroom risotto to roulade of Foie Gras, but the pan-fried scallops with parsnip purée and Alsace bacon and the smoked salmon with caviar on toasted Brioche were particularly excellent.

After a short while of mingling, the party retired to an alcove of the bar to enjoy more champagne and to learn more about selecting champagnes for different occasions from David Hesketh before being entertained by Lucia van der Post with anecdotes and suggestions on the finer points of hosting etiquette. After yet more champagne, the evening winds down with a selection of sweet canapés including a very moreish praline and raisin feuillîte.

So here is what you need to know:

  • To open a bottle of champagne, you should first release the cork from the foil and its wire cage, minimising the agitation to the bottle. Then hold the bottle at a slight incline, with the cork in one hand and the base of the bottle in the other, gently twist the bottle to ease the cork out. Ideally the sound should be a hiss rather than a pop as it means more bubbles are retained in the champagne itself.
  • A champagne flute should always be used. The correct way to pour is to first fill to 1/3 of the glass before topping up to ¾ full. This allows the guests to appreciate the aroma from the champagne before enjoying the taste.
  • For a bigger party, it’s usually best to select a non vintage. It goes well with most canapés and will facilitate ease of conversation, adding a sense of occasion without imposition. Hesketh suggests the Laurent-Perrier Brut NV or the Ultra Brut for those calorie conscious.
  • For smaller parties of discerning guests, you want a vintage. There’s more depth of flavour and complexity of aroma – the sort of drink that you might enjoy and discuss. Hesketh suggests vintages from the 90s, in particular, 1996 and 2000 from Laurent-Perrier.
  • For special occasion or Christmas lunch, you want something with real complexity. Hesketh suggests the multi-vintage Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle – it even has its own special pewter holder.
  • For those romantic occasions, there’s always a rosé. Hesketh suggests the Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rose Brut.

(First seen on Foodepedia)

Dining with Bisol Prosecco at Le Café Anglais

Bisol Dinner

When Harrods officially opened the doors to the new Wine Shop on the 16th of November, Bisol threw a little celebratory dinner party. You see, Bisol now has a rather nice display amongst Veuve Clicquot, Moët & Chandon, Taittinger and Pommery in the new Wine Shop’s champagne section.

Readers familiar with Bisol will know that it is a very highly regarded Italian prosecco producer. First established in 1542, Bisol remains a family run business focusing on producing quality prosecco. As the largest vineyard owner in the Valdobbiadene region, Bisol produces the smallest yield of prosecco. Restricting the amount of grapes produced means that the characteristics of the grapes can be carefully controlled and therefore shaping the wines produced from the grapes.

And those familiar with wines will know that prosecco is not the same as champagne. Champagne must be sparkling wine produced within the Champagne region of France. Prosecco, while primarily Italian, is also produced elsewhere in the world using only glera (prosecco) grapes. The production method is different too. Champagnes go through secondary fermentation in the bottle while for proseccos, the secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks.

The placement of Bisol proseccos amongst champagne heavy-weights can only signify the quality of Bisol prosecco and the increasing popularity of proseccos in general among the British public.

The dinner took place in the private room at Le Café Anglais, the French inspired restaurant of FT columnist and chef Rowley Leigh.

To start there was a nice little introduction to Bisol at the bar with the Jeio Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G. Spumante as an aperitif, served with small bar snacks. It was light, refreshing and rather fruity, a perfect facilitator for meeting and mingling.

Once the entire party has arrived, a mix of Italian and British media, we moved into the Private Dining Room of Le Café Anglais. The President of Bisol Wines, Gianluca Bisol, was on hand to introduce the evening and also a little bit about each of the Bisol proseccos we were enjoying.

The first course was a wild duck pâté en croute served with a dandelion and orange salad, matched with Bisol Cartizze Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze D.O.C.G. 2009 Spumante Dry. It is usually served as a dessert wine or aperitif and it’s actually quite sweet in taste despite being labelled dry thanks to the natural sweetness of the grapes. You are probably also beginning to wonder whether all Bisol wines have such long names. In most cases they do and it’s all down to the careful classification of the wines in the region to define variety and quality. This one is produced from grapes harvested from the hills of Cartizze, a location so prime that a hectare is estimated to be worth over $1million. That is, if there were any willing sellers.

The second course was roast partridge with radicchio, cobnuts and fondant potatoes matched with Jeio Rosé Spumante Brut. This wine contrasts sharply with the last one – it is a lot drier and almost tastes a little bitter. As I prefer sweeter wines, it wasn’t for me although it did pair very well with the gamey partridge.

For the final course, we had the bitter chocolate tart with Bisol Duca di Dolle Prosecco Vino Passito. There was also a cheese course available for those more savoury minded. The bitter chocolate tart was truly delicious. It was a rich melting delight of dark chocolate on a very thin crust. I was pleased to find that the wine was back to sweet and this one was super sweet with a sugar content of 100g per litre. It’s also considered a rare wine, as production is limited to a few thousand a year. This was certainly one to be savoured as we wound down the evening. But not before Rowley Leigh enters to meet his happy diners and offer us teas and coffees.

(First seen on Foodepedia)

Cloudy Bay Chef’s Table at The Montagu, Hyatt Regency, Review

Hyatt Regency London, The Churchill, 30 Portman Square, London W1H 7BH

Cloudy Bay winesAhead of the London Restaurant Festival this week I was invited to The Montagu at Hyatt Regency, London, to sample a rather special meal. The meal was special in that the entire menu had been created to complement a small portfolio of six New Zealand wines rather than the usual method of matching wine to food. It was also special because these new world wines are almost exclusive to The Montagu restaurant since so few cases have been imported into the UK.

The wines in question were from Cloudy Bay, one of the oldest wine producers from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, where their vineyards have been established since 1985. The most notable wine from Cloudy Bay is perhaps their Sauvignon Blanc, known for its “vibrant aromatics, layers of pure fruit flavours, and fine structure” and often considered the benchmark for the variety. But Cloudy Bay also produces a number of other varieties including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and late harvest Riesling as well as limited release whites like Pinot gris.

Upon arrival at the restaurant we were given a glass of Cloudy Bay Pelorus NV, a sparkling white wine, to kick off the evening. There was a choice of two Amuse Bouche to match, one was a seared swordfish with Parmesan crisp and the other was tuna with salsa verde. These were enjoyed in the bar area so that all the guests in attendance had the opportunity to meet each other, the chef and the restaurant manager.

The man who created the menu we were sampling was Carlos Teixeira, a relatively young Portuguese chef currently holding fort as the Head Chef at The Montagu. Together with The Montagu’s sommelier and his team, Teixeira pulled together a further five courses to complement the other five beautiful wines we were about to sample.

Chefs at The Montagu, HyattAfter the Amuse Bouche, we were seated at the Chef’s Table – front row audience to the action inside the open kitchen of a five star hotel. As each of the dishes were plated in front of us, restaurant manager Adam Skrzypczak explained the tasting notes behind the wines and Teixeira explained how the dishes complemented the wines.

To begin the meal, we had Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 2007 matched with smoked duck breast with fig and roasted pepper salad. Course two was the infamous Sauvignon Blanc, the flagship wine of Cloudy Bay. We had a young vintage from 2009. Matched to this was a very fresh and fragrant fricassee of scallops, prawns and clams with lime and lemongrass. With the regular topping up of my glass, I was beginning to wonder how I was going to try and pace myself as well as remember everything that was said.

The third course was the Cloudy Bay Te Koko 2007, a wine named after the legend of the explorer Kupe. Whole roasted Foie Gras with Cox’s orange pippin and black truffle was selected to complement this wine. It was a match which was extremely difficult to do but done very well on this occasion. The flavours are so perfectly complementary that you could recall the tastes and smells for weeks afterwards.

The fourth course was the Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2008, the only red wine on the menu and in Cloudy Bay’s portfolio. Matched to this was braised breast of veal with curcuma polenta, blackcurrants and glazed root vegetables. The final course was the Cloudy Bay Gewurztraminer 2007. A very aromatic, light and fruity caramelised lychee parfait with cardamom foam and pistachios was chosen to match.

Five courses may sound like a lot but the dishes were light enough to allow the full sensory experience without filling up. By the end of the meal, it was obvious that everyone had decided on their favourite course and favourite wine which they happily reminisced as they staggered off into the night.

(First seen on Foodepedia)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...