Wine dinner, Braidwoods, March 2000

In co-operation with Braidwoods Restaurant in Ayrshire, Scotland, I present regular food and wine evenings. Braidwoods is, in my opinion, one of the finest restaurants in Britain. Proprietors Keith and Nicola Braidwood created a special menu for the evening, and I chose wines to accompany each course. Once again this was an extremely enjoyableand informal evening with plenty of discussion and debate. Before each course I introduced the wine and led a brief tasting. We then enjoyed a glass of the wine with the course. The food was terrific, as were the wines, and I was delighted with the wine/food match.

Lobster and Herb Ravioli on a spaghetti of vegetables and a shellfish jus
Materne Haegelin (Alsace) Tokay-Pinot Gris 1997
This is a magnificent dish. A large, plump ravioli of wafer-thin pasta stuffed with fresh lobster, sitting on a bed of courgette, carrot and petit-pois with a rich, reduced jus. I had chosen the Pinot Gris as I felt the dish needed a wine with some weight, a bit of aromatic complexity and a bone-dry finish. The wine has a pale straw colour and a sweetly perfumed, fragrant nose of flowers and peachy fruit. On the palate the wine has good weight and a pleasantly oilymouthfeel, with ripe apricot fruit and a zesty, lemony edge. There are very clean and pure mineral notes that are emphasised with the food, and the long finish has good citrus acidity without being at all tart or jarring. A very harmonious and delicious wine.

Roast Loin of Red Deer with sautéed nutty cabbage with smoked bacon in a thyme and morel essence
Leasingham (Australia) “Classic Clare” Shiraz 1995
Another extraordinarily good dish. The red deer (younger, less “gamey” and more succulent than venison) was absolutely melt-in-the-mouth tender. The morels had been soaked in Madeira and added a delicious depth to the smoky sauce. I thought of putting on a Burgundy – usually great with game and with wild mushrooms – but eventually chose this top-notch Australian Shiraz from Leasingham. I felt the pure, fruit-driven style of this wine would be a wonderful counter-point to the dish and it worked out perfectly. The wine has an incredibly dense, vibrant purple colour. The nose is just like a blast of freshlycrushed blackberries. Intensley pure and focused, there are higher notes of mint and eucalyptus and emerging mellow scents of sweet vanilla to add depth. On the palate this is a mouth-coating, chewy, fruit-packed wine with vivid blackberry and blueberry fruit, a dusty, damson and black-cherry depth and fine, sweet, ripe tannins bolstering the finish. There is good acidity which bites slightly, but should harmonise given a little time in bottle. Great length, with an impressive concentration of fruit and fine balance. An excellent wine – and up with the best I have tasted from Australia.

Three British Farmhouse cheeses from Iain Mellis
La Rioja Alta (Spain) Rioja 904 Gran Reserva 1989
Iain Mellis matures and retails an amazing selection of superb “artisan” cheeses from small, quality producers, mostly in the UK. The Rioja was an easy choice with the cheeses that had been chosen. The wine has a nice mature colour (after 4½ years in oak and 5 in bottle) of ochre red turning to amber on the rim. A sensational nose: gamey and complex with aromas of damp undergrowth and animal fur. There is also sweet cherry fruit and vanilla and a mellow, leathery quality. On the palate a very warm character, with medium weight and plenty of bright, red-berry fruit. Very savoury, with fine acidity and a tiny sherried note (which is pleasant). Chewy and intriguing, it is drinking beautifully nowbut would certainly gain weight and the integration of its many complex elements with cellaring. Excellent.

Dark Chocolate Soufflé Pudding with a melting centreAnd vanilla ice cream
Van Loveren (South Africa) Sweet Red Muscadelle 1993
This is one of my favourite puddings from Braidwood’s. Made with the finest, bitter, dark chocolate, it’s a sensational combination of intense flavour and feather-light texture. The Van Loveren is a magical wine that I know well. A lovely cherry-red colour, it has a beautifully fragrant nose of roses, violets and sweet red fruit. This is a fortified wine (17°) made from Muscat grapes, but there is no “grapy” character at all. It is sweet and very smooth on the palate, with light cherry and strawberry flavours and a creamy edge to the finish. No hint of harshness and a wonderful, pure, high, aromatic character. The finish is long and warming, though staying clean and well defined. Fantastic stuff, and inexpensive too.