Blogger Denise Medrano of The Wine Sleuth braces herself for a lunch featuring classic French dishes and Australian wine. Was she convinced? Read on . . .
Fine French cuisine made with only the best British seasonal ingredients matched with... vintage Australian wine? Would the Ozzie wines pummel the delicate French food into submission or be a harmonious match? My tastebuds were ready for the test which was hosted by McGuigan Wines at a recent lunch at Roussillon restaurant in Pimlico.
Hopelessly lost near Sloane Square I hailed a black cab only to be told the restaurant was one block behind me. Must buy A-Z, must buy A-Z...
Finally I arrived to find myself seated between the winemakers, Neil McGuigan and Peter Hall. I didn't realize who they were so when Neil asked me why I was there, I tactfully replied, "I'm not a big fan of Ozzie wine so I'm here to be proved wrong." Fortunately, he laughed uproariously and was determined to do just that.
The menu Chef Alexis Gauthier devised was then rolled out. First up, a light Lobster bisque infused with purple basil scallops and confit tomato tortellini matched with the 2004 Earth's Portrait Riesling. The bisque was intense, flavours of the sea, salty and minerally, the tortellini bursting with tomato-y goodness. The Riesling was a great match, the honeysuckle fruitness of the wine slashing through the salty seabreeze, a long, toasty, clean finish with lingering notes of citrus.
The bisque was followed by wild sea bass & razor clams paired with a 2003 Semillon, Bin 900. I was looking forward to the Semillon as I've heard so much about Hunter Valley Semillon, a very distinct style from Australia. French Semillon is usually used to make sweet wine and the dry wines are characterized by their honeyed, floral aromas and flavours. Bin 900 didn't have a very distinctive nose to me: whiffs of lime leaf but on the palate it was dry and very lively, looking and feeling quite frisky with a nice streak of wet rocks running through it. The sea bass was meaty and the Semillon's citrusy lime flavours worked in conjunction with the fish, not overpowering nor overshadowing it. So far, so good.
The fish courses were followed by milk fed lamb & thyme, cooked to a perfect rosy pink. Exquisite, tender, subtly flavoured lamb, it was matched with the 2008 Shortlist Cabernet Sauvignon. Initially, I thought this wine was a bit green, leafy and minty. However, with the lamb, it picked up, there was some sun-dried tomato lurking about and that really brought out a tomato leaf quality along with the black fruits. I enjoyed it but it was a bit young and the following wine would have been a better match.
The Handmade Shiraz 2008 is McGuigan's super-premium red and what a lovely wine. Supple, soft and velvety, a full viscous body, deep almost inky colour, a palate full of cassis and black forest gateau. Intensely fruity but not a one dimensional fruit bomb. Silky tannins, finishing off with coffee and mocha notes. The Shiraz was paired with a Feuilleté of Bleu d'Auvergne but I was disappointed with the pairing as I thought the pastry just didn't have enough blue cheese in it.
A light dessert of quince and yoghurt sorbet with a sesame honey parfait finished off the meal, paired with the McGuigan Personal Reserve Botrytis Semillon 2005. Toasty, fresh and earthy aromas combined with orange blossoms wafting from the glass. The sorbet worked wonderfully with the wine, reminding me of lemon drops, of all things.
Was I converted? Although there were some pairings that didn't quite work for me Neil McGuigan and his wines did a fairly good job of convincing me that Australian wines are much more than supermarket staples with the calibre and character to be matched with fine French food. All in all, I was happy to be proved wrong.
Denise attended the lunch as a guest of McGuigan wines.
Denise Medrano blogs as The Winesleuth. She attended the lunch as a guest of McGuigan Wines.