We had some inventive takes on what an unusual pairing might be, but then I’ve come to expect the unexpected from this rabble!
The wine is the Mas Laval Cinsault 2019 IGP Pay de L’Hérault, France. He has been really impressed with the Cinsault’s he has tried, so thought he would widen his net. Short, simple and inoffensive it is perfectly nice but unlikely to get another call up, especially after the quality and the value of some of the others (Dirt Track and Koyle to name a few). And the pairing? Well, it has has been 1 year since lockdown drove us to set up Thursday Night Club, and the first anniversary is paper, so he paired his wine with a book on origami! Having not been particularly successful at the art of paper folding, perhaps a bottle of Cinsault under his belt will help the creative process! The Wine Society £10.50
Cantina San Marzano ‘Timo’ Vermentino 2019, IGP Salento took centre stage next and despite the warmth of Southern Italy it is a surprisingly delicate, floral, light and fresh wine with a delightful lemon freshness and notes of thyme and oregano. It would be great paired with hot weather, which at the moment is a pretty unusual proposition, and grilled sea bass wouldn't go amiss either. They would definitely drink more of this. Roll on the summer sun! The Wine Library £12.99
Chateau Coutet Opalie 2013, Barsac, Bordeaux is unusually a dry white Bordeaux made by a famed sweet wine producer. A really attractive, if uncomplicated wine with a fresh, zesty character and lovely texture with just the gentlest kiss of oak. 57% Sauvignon and 43% Semillon it was a tough vintage that has produced a delightful wine. Approx £35 Lymited
The Opalie was unusually paired with another wine, actually a rice wine, and to be more precise a French Sake called Le Guishu L’Umami by Olivier Sublett made from red and black rice from the Camargue and it is absolutely fabulous! Great acidity, amazing aromatics, it has the depth of a sweet wine without any sense of being cloying. Semi sweet but with excellent acidity. £9 Lymited
Next up was a wine and celebrity pairing, the Porte Noire 2019 Rosé Selectionné par Idris Elba, Provence, France. Yes, the great man himself has released a premium Provence Rosé and the verdict is pretty good. Unlike so many celebs who seem to think their name will make up for the inadequacies of the wine quality (sorry is that a little harsh?!), Idris, by all accounts has started with a genuine love for the wine, it is made by Chateau St Marguerite and was served at his wedding, and collaborated with the winery, putting his name to it. A blend of Cinsault and Grenache it has a lovely peach fruit profile with a hint of spice and a salty tang, it drinks more like a white wine than a rosé. A step up from many Provence Rosé’s Connaught Cellars £28.50
German’s cook a lot with alcohol so this German x Irish couple (an unusual pairing in itself?) decided to take on a challenge and see if they could pair German red wine cake (yes it is a thing!) with an actual wine. Into the cake went the Lidl Negroamaro 2019 from IGP Salento. On its own a perfectly nice, easy going cherry rich wine, but it didn’t quite have the guts to stand up to the sweetness of the cake. (Lidl £4.99) so out came the Domini Veneti Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2017, Veneto and this bolder, opulent style of wine stood up much better to the cake. Plums, blackberry, vanilla, chocolate and oak spice, it is a more viscous wine with great length. Majestic £16.99, £14.99 as a mixed 6
Our next couple took the challenge seriously. The made a punchy Mexican starter of goats cheese, pine nuts, chilli and tomato salsa and set 3 different Sauvignon Blanc’s to the task. An Austrian Sauvignon from Steiermark, a Sancerre and a Marlborough Sauvignon. The Neumeister Straden 2018, Steiermark, Austria was a pleasant surprise, used to overly tropical and cloying examples from that region, this was light and refined with notes of almond. A bit to subtle to go with the punchy starter (bought in Zurich £17). The Jean-Max Roger 2018 Sancerre, Loire, France was a beautifully classic example with minerality, fruit and freshness. Not hugely aromatic on the nose but perfect with the food (Tanners £18.70). The Matua Sauvignon Blanc 2019, Marlborough, New Zealand is a more mass market example and ‘overly overt’, however the big fruit matched the dish, particularly the chilli, very well. (Simply Wines Direct £10.99 reduced to £6.99) The winner in the end was the Sancerre. Sauvignon is more than a great aperitif, it is a classic pairing with goats cheese, and it loves the acidity of tomatoes so it was always going to be an exciting experiment.
The Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 2020, Pessac Leognan, Bordeaux is paired with work! The Bordeaux En Primeurs are about to start and those of us in the trade are usually out in Bordeaux tasting from the barrel. Covid restrictions has meant that the samples are being sent to us, and this is an outstanding example of white Bordeaux. Versatile, beautifully oaked, rich, textured and yet fresh, it is a thrilling wine that will age beautifully. The 2019 was approximately £80, 2020 prices have yet to be released.
For me, the ultimate unusual pairing has to be finding a wine to go with one of my favourite comfort foods: Heinz Baked Beans, eaten cold, straight from the tin. But with an alarming 20g of sugar per tin combined with the high acidity and salt content, it is a tough act for many a wine to follow. I had been toying with a light, fresh, fruity wine, but at the last minute opted for something much richer. The Las Piletas Corte Especial 2018, Valle de Uco, Argentina. This is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec and 15% Cabernet Franc. Intense cassis and damson with notes of tobacco, leather and woodsmoke. It is a really impressive wine, much classier than the price tag suggests. And the all important beans? It stood up to them admirably, and I certainly made the right choice, a lighter wine would have been bulldozed by them! The Wine Society £14.50