I present regular food and wine evenings with Braidwoods Restaurant in Ayrshire, Scotland. Braidwoods has one Michelin star and is one of the finest restaurants in Britain. These evenings are very special occasions. Keith and Nicola Braidwood devise a special four-course menu, and I choose wines to accompany each course. Sometimes these are “classic” matches, sometimes quite experimental, but always designed to be interesting and to offer a hopefully exciting match. The food and wine evenings attract a wide mix of people who share our passion for fine food and wine without snobbery – the evenings are educational with plenty of lively debate, but are informal and inevitably good fun. I have been remiss, and have not posted notes from the last six or seven dinners, though there are notes from between August 1998 and July 2000 in the tastings section of the site. Before each course I lead a brief tutored tasting of the wine to be drunk before we settle back to enjoy the wine with the food. Many of the regulars there agreed this was one of the most successful evenings we have had, with lovely food/wine combinations.
Deutz Brut Champagne NV with canapés
Delightful stuff with plenty of citrus zip and a real biscuity, rich mid-palate developing. Very fine NV Champagne.
Warm pigeon and smoked bacon sausage on nutty savoy cabbage
Knoll (Austria) Riesling Ried Loibenberg Smaragd 1997
Emmerich Knoll makes some of the best, most rich and fruity, yet elegant wines in Austria. From the Wachau, where wines are grouped in three quality levels: Steinfeder, Federspeil and the top wines, Smaragd, whch has most alcohol and ripeness. At first the diners were rather unsure as this wine – still a baby – was quite closed, but with the sausage it hit its stride magnificently, with beautifully sweet-edged peach fruit and a waxy, nectarine skin element emerging. Shimmering acidity and classy mineral-rich length and purity. An oustanding wine and wonderful combination with the firm-textured, meaty but delicately-flavoured sausage.
Goat’s cheese and pesto tortellini on a warm red pepper coulis
Lagar de Cervera (Spain) Rias Baixas Albariño 2000
An old favourite made by the excellent firm of La Rioja Alta in Galicia, in northwest Spain. Some similarity to the Riesling in character at first, but a more floral, zestily-aromatic profile, with plenty of citrus and apple. The palate is lighter than the Riesling, and that zest really cuts through the powerful pesto and goats cheese combination. A lovely marriage again, the wine staying crisp and fresh.
Baked fillet of turbot on boulangere potatoes, roast chicken juices and pea purée
Waipara West (New Zealand) Pinot Noir 2000
Nothing really daring about matching a red wine with this fish dish, though it raised a few eyebrows – before we sat down to put the theory into practice! Turbot is such a meaty fish, and the roast chicken juices added a lot of earthiness. Waipara is in the Canterbury region, on east coast of NZ’s South island. Waipara West is a small winery, half-owned by a London wine merchant called Paul Tutton, who established it to make wines specifically in a Burgundian style. At a modest price (around £15) it is a sensational Pinot, with a beautifully sweet, spicy and seductively smoky nose, softly filled with stawberry fruit and gentle earthiness. A really dreamy nose on this wine. The palate is silky and mellow, with decent freshening acidity and ripe background tannins, but loads of cherry, raspberry and more of that tobacco and spicy oak. Soft enough not to jar with the fish, this was another terrific success.
An iced apricot parfait
Ferrando (Italy) Erbaluce di Caluso Passito 1990
A real treat and quite a rare wine indeed. It comes from around the village of Caluso, in the north of Piedmont in northwest of Italy. Ferrando is renowned as one of the best makers. Erbaluce is the grape, and though dry whites are made, it is the sweet Passito wines made from grapes which have been dried on mats to raisin them that take all the glory. At 12-years-old, this has a wonderfully deep burnished gold colour. The honeyed nose has a slightly Cognacy vanilla and sweet spirit nose, then the palate is beautifully sweet, with herbal nuances to apple-skin fruit and lovely acidity. A refined and delicate sweet wine, this again matched the dish, having a hint of apricot about it as it does. The pudding had a chocolate base, which only served to enrich the whole sensation. A delightful way to finish the meal.