I present regular fine wine and food dinners with Braidwoods Restaurant in Ayrshire, Scotland. I regard Braidwoods (Michelin 1 star, AA Guide “Best Restaurant in Scotland 2000”) as one of the finest restaurants in Britain, so these evenings are very special occasions. The Braidwoods devise a 4 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 are always sell-out events, attracting 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.
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. I source many of the wines from brokers and they are difficult to find in the open market. I have to say that this was one of the most successful sets of wine and food matches to date, each dish and its accompanying wine working beautifully together.
The food and wine
Letourneau Méthode Traditionnele Blanc de Blancs with canapés
A lovely wine. Pale in colour with good, tiny bubbles rising steadily, it is crisp, lemony and fresh without any sign of tartness. Medium-bodied, with a nice cushiony mousse and good length. A mousseux wine from Burgundy, 100% Chardonnay.
A Lobster and Herb Broth
Marqués de Murrieta (Spain) Rioja Reserva Especial “Capellania” 1995
I thought a white Rioja might just be perfect with this dish, both share a profile of herbal, rich flavours. The broth contained chunks of lobster in a deeply coloured beef-stock, fragrant with choped herbs. The nose on the wine is very distinctive: sweet and creamy, quite high with volatile plasticene and rubber aromas as well as wild herbs and spice. The palate is full and juicy, with a weight of dense fruit and waxy chewiness. The wine itself is lovely, but with the broth was magical.
A Tart of Plum Tomato and Basil
Willi Opitz (Austria) Welschriesling Spätlese Trocken 1994
Tomato and Basil are potential problem ingredients for wine matching; tomato is often a very acidic fruit and Basil has such pungency. This dish overcame these problems with its execution. A circle of very buttery home-made puff pastry was layered with thin slices of sweet plum tomato, topped with shredded basil, doused with olive oil and baked. The result was a very buttery, rich little tart just sweetened and enlivened by the tomato, and very aromatic due to the baked basil. The wine has a lovely deep gold colour, and a nose that is slightly sherried, with mineral and white fruits and again a herbal nuance. On the palate it is very intense and ripe (13% alcohol) with plenty of citrus fruit and acidity, full body and good length. It really seemed to emphasise the sweetness of the tart.
Roast Breast of Corn-fed Guinea Fowl on a Wild Mushroom Risotto and Madeira Jus
Domaine Matrot (Burgundy) Volnay-Santenots 1er Cru 1989
Wild mushrooms and mature red Burgundy are normally a match made in heaven, and add in roasted fowl or game-birds and you are in a no-lose situation if choosing a good pinot noir! And so it proved. The wine is gorgeous. A wonderfully smoky, earthy, forest berry nose with nuances of undergrowth and dank woodland. No obvious oak, just a little cedary undercurrent. On the palate it is very harmonious with plenty of sweet, ripe fruit and a silky texture. There are notes of soft, dense, earthiness and a long, long finish. The succulent guinea-fowl sat on a bed of creamy risotto, studded with fresh peas. It was served with a rich, sweet Madeira jus, liberally doused with smoky wild mushrooms. The wine and food combination really was magical.
A Gratin of Strawberries with homemade Vanilla Ice-cream
Domaine Cady (Loire) Coteaux du Layon St Aubin Cuvée Anatole Pierre 1990
1990 was a glorious wine vintage in much of Europe, especially for these Loire botrytis wines. I’d been searching for a really good example since tasting Baumard’s gorgeous Quarts de Chaume 1990, and found it with this wine. Again a glowing, limpid gold colour and a very pure, elegant nose of honeyed fruit, but not tropical and candied, more subtle clean melon and pear, citrus and fresh, clean aromas. On the palate it is quite luscious and only moderately sweet, with fine purity of flavours which very much follow the nose. Lovely acidity too that is very integrated and unobtrusive, yet really freshens the palate. Great length. The simple sounding dessert was actually a little masterpiece: a circle of sponge soaked in some sort of strawberry jus, layered up with cream and fresh strawberries, topped with meringue and fired to sear the top, served with wafer-thin sliced, dried strawberry and mint. Another magical combination with the wine, which had perfect sweetness to bring out the flavour of the strawberries, yet was fresh and elegant so’s not to overpower.