Wine dinner, Braidwoods, July 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 create a special menu for the evening, and I choose wines to accompany each course and lead a brief tutored tasting. Once again this was a really good evening; informal and lively, with plenty of discussion and debate. The food was wonderful, the wines went down a storm, and I was delighted with the wine/food match.

Italian Herb Risotto crowned with Seared Scallops
Pewsey Vale (Australia) Eden Valley Riesling 1997
With risotto I would often choose a red wine – something fruity, soft and easy-to-drink like a Beaujolais, Barbera or maybe a lighter Pinotage. If choosing white, a full-bodied, lightly-oaked Chardonnay is often a choice – something big enough to cope with the nutty flavours and creaminess of the rice. Because this dish was topped with delicately-flavoured seared scallops, I opted for one of my favourite Australian Rieslings for its clean, dry, yet aromatic and fruity character. This worked really well. The Riesling is pure and zesty on the nose, with little nuances of honey and tropical fruit. It has considerable weight on the palate, with beautifully poised, crystal-clear flavours of pear, lime and pineapple. There’s a streak of grapefruit and lemon acidity through the wine that keeps it pin-sharp. It had enough weight and lusciousness to stand up to the deliciously pungent herb risotto, enough acidity to cut through its creaminess, yet was fine and balanced enough not to mask the flavours of the scallops. It was a great hit with the guests.

A Warm Salad of Grilled Crottin, Bacon, Avacado and Pine-nuts with a Roasted Red Pepper Dressing
Henri Bourgeois (Loire) Le Monts “D” Sancerre 1997
Crottin is a French goat’s cheese, and a Sauvignon Blanc is a “safe”, classic wine-matching choice. Because there were also such strong flavours as smoky bacon and roasted peppers in the dressing, I considered a New Zealand Sauvignon, which typically has more up-front pungency and riper fruit than Loire examples, but in the end chose this top quality Sancerre. Bourgeois is one of Sancerre’s top wine-makers and this one of his best cuvées. It comes from the slopes of Chavignol, and one of the best sites in the region. It has a very pale straw/green colour. The nose is leafy and fresh, with aromas of gooseberry, blackcurrant and pear. There are developing hints of flint and minerals. The palate is dry and savoury, but the wine itself is quite round and creamy in the mouth. Fine flavours of lime and lemon and steely, minerally notes dominate, with some forceful grapefruit acidity. Very tight, long and quite complex. Should improve over a few years. This was another great success. The Crottin was just melting onto a succulent bed of leaves, sweet pepper and smoky-bacon. The Sancerre matched beautifully in terms of weight and vivid flavours, and nothing jarred.

Honey-glazed Breast of Gressingham Duck with a Confit of Leg and Rosemary Essence
Domaine de l’Arlot (Burgundy) Nuits St-Georges 1er Cru Clos des Forêt 1992
Red Burgundy is often my choice for duck or game-birds. I really like the wines of Domaine d’Arlot, which have a reputation for being softer, more delicate and more forward than some Nuits St-George. This has a glowing, mid-weight ruby colour. There is a gloriously sweet nose of woodsmoke, new-sawn oak, earth, game and rustic berry fruit. It is very rich and almost like a sherry-cask. The palate is subdued in comparison, with a chewy, creamy texture, warm berry and cherry fruit and some drying tannins in the finish. It has really good length though, and whilst soft and approachable, the structure to cellar for 5 more years easily. A very warm and ripe style with a core of sweet fruit. Some guests didn’t like the gamy quality of this wine on the nose, but there was more agreement on the success with the duck. I thought the dry, earthy qualities were great with the honeyed sauce and the sweet fruit worked well with Oriental spices in the confit of leg.

Apple Pastry with a Caramel Sauce and Cinammon Ice Cream
Mount Horrocks (Australia) Cordon Cut Riesling 1997
Another old-favourite of mine that was quite an easy choice with this dessert. I thought the caramel sauce and apples called out for a dessert riesling, which has complementary fruit yet enough acidity for the sweet sauce. The wine is very appealing on the nose, with lime fruit and a wonderfully honeyed character (that has developed considerably since last tasting 6 months ago). There are sweet, dark, marmalade notes too. Luscious on the palate, viscous mouth-feel and loaded with citrus fruit, and sweet, buttery, tropical notes. There is really terrific balance, with a rapier-like channel of fresh acidity that runs through the wine and keeps the long, lingering, deliciously sweet finish balanced on a knife-edge. Really very good and will keep. This wine was probably the hit of the night and was a gorgeous partner to the dessert. Lots of converts to quality sweet wines!