Fascinating food and wine matching event

I had been invited by the University of Strathclyde Staff Association to present a wine tasting evening. The theme we came up with for something a little different was wine and food matching. Three small ‘courses’ were prepared to represent three courses of a typical meal, and with each I chose and presented three wines. Wine one was a ‘classic’ match: the match recommended by most text books. Wine two was a twist on that classic match: a wine that followed the same principles, but used a little lateral thinking to come up with an alternative. Wine three was something from out of left field: a rather more radical pairing that I had a hunch would work, but which was out of the ordinary.

This was a really interesting experiment with the group of knowledgable wine lovers in the audience. After each flight I asked for opinions on favourite wine, and favourite wine with the food. It was surprising how often the two were not the same, and how much general agreement there was, with a few notable exceptions.

The tasting was not blind. Prices are in Pounds sterling and all wines were sourced from Oddbins or Oddbins Fine Wine UK. £5=$8US approximately

Flight One – with a smooth duck liver paté

Schoffit (Alsace) Tokay Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive 1997 – £19.99
Medium straw/gold. Luscious aromas of peach, oil, quince and powerful minerality. The palate is sweet too, but balanced. There is lovely fruit, lots of mandarin orange with more juicy peach and apricot. Very long, with a fine, gentle but persistent apple acidity balancing the finish. Very good indeed.

Château La Rame (Bordeaux) Ste-Croix-du-Mont Reserve 1995 – £12.99
Medium gold colour. Light botrytis notes of honey and fig, lemon and butter too. On the palate very lemony, but a nice honeyed weight with hints of darker fruit against clean melon and crisp citrus acidity, the overall impression quite clean and light. Light to medium body, not particularly long, but a nicely balanced wine.

Valdespino (Spain) Amontillado Sherry – £4.79
Really I’d have liked an aged Amontillado, but had rather blown the budget on the first two wines! This had a light, delicate brown colour and aromas of caramel, nuts and sweet raisins. The palate is a little angular, with a disappointing lack of roundness on the mid-palate and only hints of the dark, toffeed flavours of the nose. Very dry style.

The group favourite wine was the Tokay-Pinot Gris, but at least half the tasters preferred the Semillon/Sauvignon of Château La Rame when it came to matching with the food. The sherry didn’t work terribly well, but I still feel an older, more mellow, nutty wine would have been a good choice.

Flight Two – with a selection of antipasti

Masi (Italy) Soave Classico 1998 – £5.49
Pale yellow. Fine lemon and almond notes on the nose, hints of melon and crisp asian pear. Palate is quite oily and rich, big lemony flavours. Powerful fruit and good citrus acidity into the finish. A very nice Soave.

Icardi (Italy) Tre Uve Ultima NV – £5.99
Dense ruby/purple. Bordeaux-like nose with warm berry fruit and a background of cedar, vanilla and spice. The palate has lovely medium-bodied finesse with good blackcurrant fruit, edged with a bitter cherry flavour and acidity. There’s more of that tobacoo and spice character into the finish and some tannins keep it fresh. Very good indeed.

Fabre Montmayou (Argentina) Malbec 1996 – £6.99
Inky purple/black. Bitter chocolate is the overwhelming flavour along with dusty black fruit. Tannins are grippy and this has wonderful concentration and length. Second tasting of this, and a fine, serious wine.

Group favourite wine was the Tre Uve Ultima by a long way. Most voted for this with the food too, though I, and several others, really liked the Soave with a nice piquant salami and some herb and lemon stuffed olives. The Malbec was too tannic for most, though I quite liked that concentration against some Manchego cheese and the meat.

Flight Three – with dark chocolate pots

Seppelt (Australia) Sparkling Shiraz 1995 – £8.99
Inky colour. Deep purple/black. Lovely nose of bitter dark chocolate and ripe damson, plum and blackcurrant fruit. Softly foaming and nicely weighty mousse that persists through those chocolaty flavours, sweet fruit and kick of tannins. Good acidity. Very nice stuff that I’ve never really seen the point of in past tastings, but really nice with the chocolate.

Deakin Estate (Australia) Shiraz 1999 – £5.49
Medium crimson, quite pale really. Pepper and spice nose. Fruit is not as powerful as recently tasted 1997. This does have good, ripe fruit on the palate and firm tannins, but I suspect it is maybe a little travel shocked? Don’t know how long it has been in stores, but it seems just a little disjointed at present. Must try again.

Château de la Genaiserie (Loire) Coteaux du Layon Chaume “Les Tetuères” SdGN 1996 – £14.49
People who come to lots of my tastings and events must be getting to know this wine rather well by now! A standby for me when in need of a super-sweet, super-concentrated Loire sticky. Melting, liquid honey, lime and lemon with sensational purity, power and length. Gorgeous, and a keeper.

The Coteaux du Layon was a hands-down winner of favourite wine in this flight, but a few people preferred the sparkling Shiraz with the chocolate and loved the shock value of pairing it with a pudding. The Deakin estate didn’t win any friends on either count, though I’m pretty confident this will show better in time. The combination of the bubbles in the dark, chocolaty Seppelt shiraz and chocolate dessert was a brilliant combination.

All in all a fascinating evening and one the audience seemed to really enjoy. The Tre Uve Ultima (a former Wine of the Week in June last year) was probably the crowd’s favourite on the night, especially in terms of value for money.