In August 1998 I began a new venture in co-operation with Braidwoods Restaurant in Ayrshire, Scotland, to present special food and wine dinners. These are my notes from the inaugural dinner. The event was a sell-out and everyone seemed to have a very enjoyable evening. Before each course I introduced the wine I had chosen to accompany the dish, and led a brief tasting. We then enjoyed a glass of the wine with the course. The evenings was informal, the food was spectacular, there was plenty of conversation and, overall, I was very pleased with the wine/food match.
Baked Seabream on a bed of New Potatoes, Herbs, Olives and Tomato
Rothbury Estate (Hunter Valley, Australia) Verdelho 1997
This was a delicious dish. The fish was seared and served on a little cake of warm potato, olives and tomato that was very richly flavoured and savoury. The Verdelho was one of the smash hits of the evening. With a really aromatic, flowery, almost musky nose, ripe but delicate citrus fruit flavours on the palate and a nice, dry and long finish. With the food the wine seemed slightly sweeter in the mouth – which was lovely – and the acidity in the finish was perfect with the olive and tomato. An impressive wine and something a bit different.
Warm Parmesan Tart with Rocket, Basil and Red Pepper
Aldo Vajra (Piedmont, Italy) Dolcetto d’Alba 1996
Deep, vibrant purple colour. The nose is fairly subdued, but blackberry and raspberry notes emerge. On the palate the wine is both very soft, lush and mouthfilling, and it has significant acidity leading to a very dry finish. It is a wine that’s best on the mid-palate, where it is fleshy, softly smoky and darkly fruited, but curiously it is lacking a little at both ends: it’s not quite punchy enough as it strikes the palate, and it finishes a little short. More restrained than other Dolcetti I’ve tasted, I found it atypically lean, but thankfully it worked very well with the earthy flavour of the parmesan and the lemon based dressing on the salad.
Roast Loin of Lamb with Pommes Anna and a Thyme and Chantrelle sauce
Château Cantemerle (5th growth, Mèdoc, France) 1992
Wonderful lamb, cooked to perfection to be soft and succulent in the mouth. Served with caramelised shallots, the jus was made with Madeira and was rich without being over-powering. The Cantemerle was decanted for 1 hour prior to serving. It is a little less luscious than when last tasted (18 months ago) and came across as a little leaner. It still has good blackcurrant fruit on the nose, and cedar and spicy components. Because ’92 was a relatively poor year in the Mèdoc I’m assuming this wine is just starting to fade a little, with less richness in the mouth. However, iIt was always one of the best ’92s so it’s possible it might just be in an awkward patch from which it will re-emerge. Certainly it still has a long, well-balanced finish that shows its class. A little peppery note shows-up too. Another wine that worked particularly well with the food, proving that lamb and Claret is a bit of a banker in wine/food matching.
Raspberry Mille Fueille and Honey Wafers with Vanilla Ice Cream
Domaine Guirouilh (France) Jurançon Moelleux Vendange Tardive 1995
This wine is stunning. Possibly the wine that made most impression on the group, several of whom professed to never having liked sweet wines in the past. With a beautifully rich, honeyed, melon and honeysuckle nose, there is good weight on the palate and loads of sweet, white fruit. More opulent, melon, pear and peach flavours. Tremendously well balanced and clean through nicely integrated, yet persistant acidity. Wonderful match with the dessert, where the honeyed fruit of the wine intensified the honey in the dish, the ripeness, weight and sweetness of fruit worked well with the vanilla cream and the fine acidity coped admirably with the sharpness of the raspberries. A magical combination.