Published 1 May 2017, ABWM Magazine, “Take A Sip” Column
Rather than following the theme of suggesting my perfect dinner partners I thought I’d list my dream team of wines.
Champagne for starters. The choice of quality champagnes is vast, but more and more quality sparkling wines are being produced in England. Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs Brut 2007 won a gold at the 2015 Decanter World Wine Awards, a worthy aperitif I suspect.
Sherry should not be reserved for Grandma’s aperitif – although who could blame her. A Master Sommelier once told me that he always suggests sherry as an accompaniment to seafood starters or soup. Manzanilla is a dry sherry produced and matured around Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Spain, close to the sea. It has mouth-watering acidity and a salty tang which is a perfect foil for seafood. La Gitana Manzanilla is an iconic example from Bodegas Hidalgo.
White for the next course and I feel we need to pick an icon from the new world. New Zealand is famous for Sauvignon Blanc but it produces some fine quality Chardonnays too. The climate there suits the grape variety allowing it to ripen fully and retain acidity just as it does in its Burgundy homeland. Kumeu River winemaker Michael Brajkovich is a Master of Wine who produces Burgundian style wines (subtle, toasty, with an appealing struck match character). In a recent Kiwi v Burgundy blind tasting organised by Farr Vintners Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay 2010 received the highest scores in a category littered with village-level and very fine Pugligny Montrachets. That’ll do for me.
On to the Red. I have promised myself that once I become a Master of Wine I will celebrate with a Super Tuscan; just to clarify, this is a wine. It is a category of innovative red wines created in the 1970s that rebelled against using purely indigenous Italian grapes. Made from Cabernet and/or Melot and sometimes the local Sangiovese grape, they are remarkably interesting top quality wines created largely in the image of red Bordeaux ripened in the Tuscan sun. Sassicaia, San Guido, 2010, starts around £200 in the UK. I’ve tasted it only once, in a mock exam, and thought it so sublime that it didn’t make the spittoon.
My dream team would not be complete without a Fortified wine. Madeira, whether sweet or dry can display such complexity of flavour that they seem like a meal on their own. Blandy’s, Verdelho Colheita Madeira 1998 is dry but offers an intensity of flavours such as walnuts, figs, sweet spice, orange peel that rounds off a meal better than any dessert. Sweet Dreams…..