Archives for category: Dinner Parties

The W1ng group met at the ICC on Thursday 18th April to explore the theme of ‘Dinner Party Wines’. Here are my rather belated notes on the evening and the wines.

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Caves S. João 2016 Reserva Brut. 12.5%. Brigitte Bordeaux £14.45
A really great aperitif wine from Barraida in Portugal. Made using the traditional method, this wine is a blend of Bical, Chardonnay, Maria Gomes and Arinto. Aromas of citrus, pineapple and peach. On the palate, as well as the fruit, it has some lovely biscuit and brioche notes.  A fresh and creamy attack and a beautiful acidity that gives it structure and persistence. On its own, this was the favourite wine of 4 group members on the night. Paired with a smoked salmon canape on Irish soda bread with crème fraiche and chives, it was the favourite pairing of 6 people.
Quality: 16/20                    Value: 17/20

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Lustau NV Manzanilla Papirusa. 15%. Brigitte Bordeaux £20.50
A light and dry Manzanilla which paired very well with gazpacho and anchovy stuffed olives. Almond, apple and a slight salinity. Some tanginess and herbal notes too. The sherry was the favourite wine of two of the group, whilst the gazpacho pairing was favoured by 3 people.
Quality: 15/20                    Value: 15/20

Trimbach 2016 Pinot Blanc. 13%. Brigitte Bordeaux £14.95
A lovely medium bodied wine with citrus, stone fruit and a hint of apple on the palate. Well balanced with good acidity. Paired very well with a cheddar and caramelised onion quiche. The wine had 3 votes for wine of the night; the food and wine got 5 votes for best pairing.
Quality: 16/20                    Value: 17/20

Domaine Du Vissoux, Chermette, 2017 Brouilly. 13.5%. Brigitte Bordeaux £19.50
Pronounced cherry and redcurrant with some herbal notes. Very smooth and well rounded. Paired perfectly with charcuterie. The wine was the most popular of the evening with 11 votes and its pairing with Milano salami, coppa and beef chorizo was the most popular pairing with 8 votes.
Quality: 17/20          Value: 16/20

Chateau La Sabatiere 2015 Monbazillac. 13%. Brigitte Bordeaux £14.50
Rich honey and marmarlade with dried fruit and caramel. Very well balanced: like drinking nectar! A very good, less expensive alternative to Sauternes. Paired with a crème caramel. The wine was popular with 5 votes for favourite of the night; the pairing had no votes.
Quality: 16/20                    Value: 17/20

Barao De Vilar 10 Year Old White Port. 19.5% Brigitte Bordeaux £18.70 for 50cl.
Lively acidity and great freshness with pronounced flavours of nuts, dried fruit, orange peel and caramel. On its own it didn’t get any votes for wine of the night, but its pairing with hard goat’s cheese was favourite with 3 members of the group.
Quality: 16/20                    Value: 16/20

A really interesting evening with some great wines and pairings. Interestingly, only 2 people in the group voted for the same wine as that of their favourite pairing.
See you next time,
Brigitte. x

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We all love a good dinner party: convivial company, several delicious food courses and of course, the wine. But when thinking about what food to serve up and what wine to go with it, are there really rules that must be obeyed? Is it a social faux pas to serve oysters with anything other than blanc de blancs champagne or premier cru Chablis? Must the roast lamb be paired with a good Pauillac or St-Julien? And is serving the stilton with anything other than Vintage Port likely to cause quiet outrage amongst your guests?

Well, not according to Tim Hanni MW, who has recently dismissed the concept of food and wine pairing as ‘bullshit’. Speaking at the International Sauvignon Blanc celebration in Marlborough at the end of January, Hanni said “A perfect wine pairing doesn’t exist. We’re doing a lot of damage the way we’re matching wine and categorising it. We need to start a campaign to stop wine and food pairing as we’ve created a lot of bullshit around the idea… We need to celebrate the diversity of consumers, not make them feel stupid. You can serve Sauvignon Blanc with steak – why not?”

When Hanni’s comments were reported in an article in The Drinks Business, they unsurprisingly provoked many responses and much debate on the subject. Another Master of Wine, David Bird, agreed with Hanni’s comments, stating ‘it’s all about personal taste. I am doing some lectures for a sommeliers’ association and they spend hours on this subject, as if there is only one possible right combination. They were shocked when I told them I drink Sancerre with roast lamb! It’s perfect!’

Some of those responding to Hanni’s comments disagreed, whilst others agreed to a certain extent, but to me, the sensible standpoint seems to be that whilst tastes are, of course, subjective, and there may be some people who like nothing better than to wash down their fish and chips with a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, there do exist some food and wine combinations that are generally found to complement one another well and make the experience of both the food and the wine more enjoyable. There are undoubtedly also combinations that are less successful. Whilst I wouldn’t object at all to quaffing a Sancerre with my roast lamb, I’d personally try to finish my glass (or two) before making a start on my sticky toffee pudding dessert.

So whilst I don’t believe there are any hard and fast rules that always need to be adhered to or that there is only one possible perfect wine match for any dish, there is certainly some advice that can be followed to help you find wines and foods that have a good chance of complementing each other on the palates of the majority of your dinner party guests.

As a starting point, the website ‘Wine Folly’ provides these 9 handy tips:

  1. The wine should be more acidic than the food.
  2. The wine should be sweeter than the food.
  3. The wine should have the same flavour intensity as the food.
  4. Red wines pair best with bold flavoured meats (e.g. red meat).
  5. White wines pair best with light-intensity meats (e.g. fish or chicken).
  6. Bitter wines (e.g. red wines) are best balanced with fat.
  7. It is better to match the wine with the sauce than with the meat.
  8. More often than not, White, Sparkling and Rosé wines create contrasting pairings.
  9. More often than not, Red wines will create congruent pairings.

There’s clearly a lot to think about in terms of trying to create successful pairings but I do agree with Tim Hanni that we shouldn’t be too prescriptive or get too bogged down in searching for the perfect match. A lot of fun can be had in creating interesting food and wine combinations which hopefully enhance the experience of consuming both, but one person’s ‘match made in heaven’ isn’t necessarily another’s.

Puligny-Montrachet and Beef and Tomato Pot Noodle, anyone?

See you tomorrow,

Brigitte. x

The full title of this month’s tasting is “Unusual Dinner Party Wines”. It isn’t clear from the nomination or voting sheets whether this means Unusual Wines for a Dinner Party or the more challenging: Wines for an Unusual Dinner Party.

In fact it’s hard to guess what an Unusual Dinner Party might be [André Breton, Trotsky, Marilyn Monroe, Denis Bergkamp, Elizabeth I….]? Or just weird food and wine served to an ideal group [Shere Hite, Germaine Greer, Simone de Beauvoir, Juliette Binoche, Julie Delpy, Irène Jacob….you can see where I’m going with this……].

Anyway, all that aside – I suppose the intention of those proposing the theme is just Unusual Wines that might be served at any old dinner party! Makes sense even though it’d be fun to decide what wine to serve to – say – André Breton???  Henri Marie’s Vin Fou, perhaps!

First things first – what is usual wine for dinner parties? At this time of year every Wine Merchant and Supermarket is publishing Gift Catalogues and web pages with cases of 6 wines for a dinner party. Ranging from Bargain, through Classic to Fine and Connoisseur – these cases often have a common format: Sparkler, two whites, two reds and a dessert wine or Port.

A good example is the Wine Society’s Ultimate Xmas Day Case (£239 if you want to organise a whip round for your favourite wine guru).

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These cases often have the same format:

A Welcome / Canapé Wine

A structured red to go with the main dish

A Wine that goes with a delicate starter

A softer red that also goes but can carry on

A Wine that copes with stronger flavours

A wine to go with cheese and/or dessert

Although one can vary the evening by allowing wines to flow from one course to the next, especially if people are having different choices. For example a sharp white welcome wine might carry on for those having fish next, whereas those having soup or paté would need a different choice.

Let’s think about these wines one by one:

The Welcome Wine
The classic is – of course – sparkling wine. Champagne for big occasions, but good Cremant, Prosecco or New World examples work fine – according to your taste, guests and budget. The other classic is dry Sherry, a Fino or Manzanilla is lovely especially with olives, and Oloroso has the benefit of being able to go with soup too. Another way to go is with some sweetness. A great aperitif is traditional German Riesling which has mouth-watering acidity and sweetness. There is also a French custom of serving Vin Doux – like Pineau de Charente – on ice before a meal. But another dry(ish) fortified wine like Marsala or Madeira is an unusual and interesting offering.

A dry White.
Sancerre or Chablis are classic choices here – clean and with enough acid to frame the first dish. They go with delicate dishes but can extend to support something richer. Most wines from other European countries, Gavi for example, are better with bigger dishes, and Alsace wines support dishes with strong aromatics and some spice too. Alboriño is a possibility. From the New World, you’ll find copies of these styles but my top tip – especially in the context of finding unusual wines – is to go for a New World wine that is a signature of that country. Think Zinfandel or Malbec rather than Cabernet or Merlot.

A Wine for stronger Entrée dishes
Chardonnay or Chenin are good candidates here (provided the Chardonnay has good acidity, Chenin invariably will – even if not bone dry). But for those feeling they are getting too much white – or as a twist – try a chill-able red. Beaujolais or Cabernet Franc (a softer Chinon or Saumur-Champigny rather than a structured Bourgeuil) are examples.

A Structured Wine for the main dish
Burgundy and Claret are the classics here, but Chianti or Borolo, Bourgeuil or Syrah, or Douro reds or Rioja can all be perfect, depending on the dish. Again a New World top tip twist would be to choose that old Bordeaux grape that now has its home in Chile: Carménère.

A Bigger Red to drink with the main dish and carry on.
Chateauneuf is the classic here (completing the old “4 Cs” idea: Champagne, Chablis, Claret, Chateauneuf), and many Grenache based examples work too.  But other big wines with a bit of softness and aroma, Salice Salentino or Zinfandel; Amarone, older Rioja Gran Reserva or Malbec can do the job.

A Wine to go with cheese and/or Dessert.
This depends a bit on what the dessert is, but Port is the classic. Push out the boat and get a vintage (something from the 1980s would be good). If the dessert has chocolate in it go for a Tawny Port and leave LBV and other versions aside – Tawny Port keeps too so you don’t have to drink it all (that’s not usually an issue to be fair…). Another option to Tawny Port is again the sweet version of Marsala or Madeira.

These are all safer options – but if cheese isn’t that important after a big meal and going straight to a dessert, a traditional dessert wine might be a better option. I rather like Loire Chenin-based dessert wines, they often have a passion fruit note that goes well with crème brulee and lighter desserts. A heavy dessert like Xmas Pud needs something very light – a sweet sparkler, even maybe Muscato d’Asti. Sweet wines based on Riesling (Germany), Semillon (Sauternes and nearby), Petit Manseng (Jurancon) and Furmint (Hungary) offer lots of choice – and there’s always white and red Vin Doux….

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