Food & Wine Pros | 'Rad' food matching at the London Wine Sessions

Food & Wine Pros

'Rad' food matching at the London Wine Sessions

The second London Wine Sessions took place last Saturday - rather appropriately in über cool Hackney. It was a day of wine tastings and discussions featuring some prominent, established names such as Fiona, Jamie Goode of Wine Anorak, the Telegraph's Victoria Moore and the Independent's Anthony Rose as well as current trail-blazers.

It was fun with a a young crowd, a relaxed spontaneity and deliberately free of the kind of formal reverence you can find at wine events. Joint organiser Emily O’Hare of The River Café hosted the sessions in a warm and inclusive manner – adjectives not often used by consumers to describe the wine world.

The day culminated with some ‘rad’ (ie radical) food and wine matching. According to the organisers we were promised six amazing wines and six very good things to eat from Jack Lewens (ex River Café and Quo Vadis, now working with Skye Gyngell on her forthcoming restaurant, Spring) and Matthew Young of Mayfields. I wasn’t sure about the rather self-conscious title ‘Rad Food Matching’ – we were in E2 after all – but it sounded interesting nevertheless.

We began with a glass of Fleury Blanc de Noirs Champagne Brut and carrot and fennel crudités with anchovy dip – a fresh, crunchy pick-me-up at the end of a long day’s tasting (and listening). So far so good, but not that rad.

Things started picking up though. The first course of lightly cured grey mullet with cherries, peas and tomatoes in a tomato broth was delicate and springlike (although it could have done without so many raw peas – rather too worthy!) Roero Arneis from Valfaccenda was served with this to tasty effect. Aromatic, yet mouthfilling, it was a good choice.

Another pretty dish followed: pea purée, apricot mousse, apricot pieces, samphire and ricotta. Quite a challenge for wine – sweet, salty, aromatic and creamy - however the accompanying glass of Rolly-Gassmann’s Riesling 2009 cut an elegant refreshing swathe through it. Personally, I might have gone for something a little more neutral as the Riesling added another flavour dimension when there was already a lot going on.

What came next was a big surprise: steak tartare served in a beef and smoked eel broth. The meat was unctuously fatty with the added complexity and savouriness of the smoked eel. An inspired (and yes radical) choice for this memorable dish was an orange wine, Macération Blanc Lio from Le Soula in the Languedoc. Burnished, autumnal, ripe, yet fresh and saline, it balanced the richness of the dish and married beautifully with the smoky flavours. Everyone seemed to be blown away by this.

More beef followed, this time tender braised ox cheek that had been brined for a week, served with cotechino sausage, peppery salad leaves and beans. This was paired with something a little more conventional – sleek, polished Navaherreros Viños de Madrid 2011 from Bernabeleva, a high altitude, deceptively alcoholic Garnacha (15.5%). The wine’s fresh acidity and supple tannins deftly partnered the meat and drew out the earthy beans.

We finished with another, more left field combination – sorrel ice cream and honeycomb with Macvin du Jura (Domaine de la Tournelle). Like Pineau des Charentes, this isn’t a wine, but a mistelle – grape juice fortified with grape spirit, although the Macvin has a more oxidative, sherried style from being aged in large oak barrels.

Complex and mellow with its wildflower honey character chiming aromatically with the sorrel and honeycomb. It was an extraordinary choice. The overall effect was confident, thought provoking with an authentic, natural beauty - and very cool. Much like the whole day, in fact . . .

For other orange wine pairings see this post by Donald Edwards.

Lucy Bridgers is a regular contributor to She also has her own blog Wine, Food and other Pleasures

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