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  • Tasting with Trimbach

    Great Western Wine recently hosted a sell-out evening with Julien Trimbach at the Allium restaurant. Angela Mount went along to report...

     

    A tasting of Trimbach wines is not a bad way to spend an evening at the best of times, but teemed with not only some rare gems from old vintages, but also the exquisite cuisine of new Allium Restaurant chef, Rupert Taylor, it became a must do event in Bath’s social calendar.

    Trimbach is one of the most revered wine producers in Alsace.  Established in 1626, and with the young and urbane Julien Trimbach, the 13th generation of the family, hosting this spectacular evening, guests, many of whom have followed and enjoyed Trimbach wines for years, were in for a treat.

    Alsace, nestled in the foothills of the Vosges mountains, forms a long, narrow strip between northern France and Germany, and has a chequered history, having changed nationality several times between the two countries over the centuries and wars.  Trimbach are based in Ribeauville, a chocolate-box pretty town, with characteristic timber-fronted houses and steep flat clay tile roofs, in the heart of the vineyard region.  Using mainly Germanic grape varieties, Alsace has created a worldwide reputation for extraordinary wines with Riesling at its heart, but in a totally unique way.

    It’s always fun to break the rules; instead of a customary glass of fizz on arrival, we were greeted with a chilled Trimbach Pinot Noir Reserve 2015, which surprised some and delighted many.  Pale ruby red in colour, fresh, bright and lively, this gentle, light red was packed with crunchy pomegranate and raspberry fruit, with a wild herb edge.  With its northern location, Alsace doesn’t produce much red wine, but the cool climate-loving Pinot Noir does perform well here, albeit producing far lighter styles than neighbouring and more southernly Burgundy.  Spot on with Chef Taylor’s irresistible canapes of tomato and smoked aubergine, sumptuous foie gras mousse spiced up with saffron and pink peppercorns, together with a tangy citrus cured morsel of salmon with ponzu jelly.

    Onto dinner; first up was a beautifully presented plate of plump, caramelised and pan-fried scallops, meltingly tender, with their luxurious, sweet texture; these were nestled on an intense creamy puree of cauliflower, and served alongside perfectly roasted and singed cauliflower florets, and a bright, tangy verjus to balance. Tom King, Great Western Wine’s Fine Wine Manager had worked closely with Chef Taylor to showcase the very best of Trimbach’s wines, and cleverly picked a grape variety, whose ripeness and more voluptuous style, would marry the indulgence and sweetness of the starter. Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve 2014 combined aromas of tuberoses and nutmeg, with a deliciously fresh, dry palate, with vibrant citrus to the fore, tinged with a hint of acacia honey.  This was served alongside Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve Personelle 2013, a masterpiece in the balance of richness and acidity, opulent and intense.

    The main event was inevitably going to be Riesling, accounting for over 50% of Trimbach’s production.  As Julien told us “Riesling is in our blood, it’s our heritage”. We were treated to a hedonistic quartet of Rieslings, with over 30 years between the youngest and oldest. Trimbach Riesling Reserve 2014 is but a baby, grown on the chalky, quartz and sandstone Gres des Vosges stone.  2014 was a fabulous vintage in Alsace and this little gem showed its promise, all nervy and fresh with candied lemon peel aromas and zippy acidity. If you have of this vintage, snuggle it up, and don’t touch till it’s at least a toddler, as it will blossom into a beautiful teenager and beyond.

    Riesling Cuvee Frederic Emile 2008 is Trimbach’s signature wine, produced from two grand crus vineyards, with vines averaging 45 years in age. This is an extraordinary wine from a vintage which produced wines of purity and precision.  This wine, despite its 9 years, is still in its youthful, nervy thoroughbred stage.  Intense, rich, creamy and incredibly complex, it has a gorgeous richness of fruit, interwoven with grapefruit peel, Manuka honey and a smattering of citrusy sumac.

    Matching a main course that isn’t fish, to white wines isn’t always easy, but Rupert Taylor and his brigade stepped up to the mark with a fillet of Rose Veal, glisteningly pink, tender and delicate, served with a creamy sweet langoustine puree, earthily pungent girolles mushrooms and tangy choucroute. A wealth of flavours on a plate, whose different textures and balance of flavours worked seamlessly with the wine.

    Still on Riesling, wizard Tom King then waved his magic wand and brought out two wines from the cellar collection – wines that have been slumbering in the cellars for years, and are now starting to emerge from their chrysalis into rare and stunningly beautiful butterflies.  Riesling Clos Sainte Hune 2008 is Trimbach’s flagship wine, produced on limestone soils, from a single vineyard, and only in the very best of years. As Julien stated ‘if Riesling is in our blood, Sainte Hune is in our heart’. This wine is extraordinary – racy, nervy, taut as a tightly-wound violin string, bursting with a myriad flavours of marmalade, lime and those typical petrolly characteristics, all bound up with outstanding purity and minerality – if you have some, it’s another toddler to leave to develop a while longer.

    Proving the point, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Alsace, and in particular Trimbach makes wines that can last decades, Riesling Cuvee Frederic Emile Vendange Tardive 1983, a 34 year old, very rare wine, produced in tiny quantities, from botrytised grapes, which are very rare from this vineyard – the epitome of elegance, redolent of white flowers, roses, rosehips and honey; rich, intense, multi-layered, with marvellous depth – mature, but still with trademark steely acidity coursing through its veins. A rare treat.

    How to follow such a majestic wine?  Chef Taylor finished off the evening with a Peach Bavarois, wobbling in its creamy unctuousness, accompanied by a tangy, perfectly spiced Schezuan pepper and bay leaf ice cream.  Picking up on the delicate, floral notes in the dessert, our final wine was Gewurztraminer Selection des Grains Nobles ‘Hors Choix’ 2007, amber in colour and steeped with rich nectarine, honey and candied fruit flavours – exotic, decadent and supremely balanced.

    Four hundred years on, Trimbach is still proving why its iconic wines are revered all over the world.

  • Roaming through the Rhone

    Domaine Brusset DinnerIf any Rhone wine lovers reading this have not yet made acquaintance with the delights of Domaine Brusset, I recommend that you do before Christmas.  Not only are the majority of the wines perfect festive fair, and brilliantly friendly with turkey, goose, and various party gatherings,  but they’re fascinatingly good, and superb value to boot.

    Last week, Great Western Wine’s Fine Wine Manager Tom King, hosted a delightful evening at the award-winning Allium restaurant, where executive Chef Chris Staines, created a stellar menu to showcase each of the wines.  Tom deserves extra praise for stepping in at the last minute  when winery owner Laurent Brusset was unfortunately delayed in a road pile up close to Dijon, but Tom was on expert form, and did Laurent proud, with his customary mix of intense knowledge and humour.

    This was a red wine only dinner; challenging for Chef, but ably delivered.  Chris Staines is undoubtedly one of the most wine-knowledgeable chefs around, and it’s refreshing to see his stance on wine dinners.  Unsurprisingly, his palate is fine-tuned, but unlike many chefs, who will take heed of wine styles , or pay lip service to them, before devising their menu, Chris insists on tasting each wine, and will then build the menu to showcase the wine – scents of ginger and nectarine? Chris will work something in. Mocha and dark chocolate on the palate? Again, I’ve seen Chris weave cacao into spicy meat dishes. Genius.

    Brusset’s world is the southern Rhone, that vast expanse of France, below Valence, leading to Provence; a land of heat, sunshine, olive trees and lavender fields, with sleepy villages, full of golden-hued houses, cafes, and village squares, where communities congregate.  In terms of wine, this is the land of Cotes du Rhone; within this, there are 18 villages, which now lay claim to their own appellation.  Unlike many regions, the magic of the southern Rhone is the mix of grape varieties, which all add to the unique mix of complexity and difference. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault are the classics, but many more abound.

    Domaine Brusset, Côtes du Ventoux Les BoudallesIn an unusual twist, one of my favourite, great value reds Côtes du Ventoux ‘Les Boudalles’ 2015, was served as an aperitif.  Had it been Summer, I’d have loved to have seen this served chilled. Côtes du Ventoux lies just south of the main Côtes du Rhone region, and produces some of the very best value Rhone wine around. Soft, juicy, with gentle, sweet plum and cherry fruit, at under £10, it’s a steal – stock up for Christmas Eve and Boxing Day parties, it’s a real crowd-pleaser.

    It’s not easy to pair a red wine with a starter, so Chris Staines was challenged and came up with a perfectly seared piece of pepper and sesame crusted tuna, enhanced, in his own unique way with a melange of chilli, turmeric, coriander and cumin infused lentils with a spicy mooli relish and a kick of yuzu.

    Tuna, like monkfish is a meaty fish that can cope with red wine.  Brusset Côtes du Rhone 'Laurent B’ 2015 was juicy,and packed with forest fruit flavours and hints of black pepper.  Bright, fruity, and another absolute Christmas bargain.  However for this dish, I found the alternative wine, Cairanne 'Les Travers’ 2014, the winner, with its sweet, rich, concentrated fruit, which matched with the natural sweetness of the tuna and the pepper spice. I’d certainly recommend this to anyone looking for a rich, silky red to impress, and tasting far more expensive than it is!

    For the main course, we moved to two wines from one of the best-known areas within the southern Rhone, Gigondas, known for its rich, meaty, well structured reds.  Top end Rhone wines are known for their natural match with rich, wintry dishes – this one didn’t disappoint. Meltingly tender, slow-cooked braised beef, with an enticing medley of autumnal favourites – slow-roasted and pan-fried, earthily sweet Jerusalem artichokes, on a bed of crunchy winter cabbage, sweetened with bacon, carrot and celeriac, atop a creamy and pungent artichoke puree, all infused with the heady scent of truffles – Autumn on a plate.

    Domaine Brusset, Gigondas Tradition Le Grand MontmirailTwo wines to stand up to this heady dish – both Gigondas; the first a dazzling, perfumed, rich red, with a bewitching orange peel and Christmas spice scent, and a bold, sweetly enticing flavour Gigondas ‘Le Grand Montmirail’ 2014 – from grapes grown in the shadows of the Montmirail mountains, sharp, jagged-edged hilltops and hot sunshine.  If you’re serving game, or slow roast lamb over Christmas, this will make you smile. What will make you smile even more is the utterly delicious and majestic ‘Les Hauts de Montmirail 2014 a stunningly crafted red, produced from the Grenache and Carignan grapes, oozing richness, concentration and class.  Packed with inky, licorice and dried fig character, it was absolutely spot on with the beef, and would serve as a worthy red to serve on Christmas Day.

    Rhone wines from the inky, Syrah-dominant reds of the north, through to the fragrant, yet rich diversity of the southern Rhone offer great value at every price point.  If you haven’t explored this producer yet, it’s a great time to start.  Enjoy!

    By Angela Mount

  • An evening with Howard Park at Allium Restaurant

    Great Western Wine and Allium Restaurant run some pretty good wine dinners, and I’ve been lucky enough to attend most of them. However, the prospect of a combination of Chris Staines’ magic culinary touch with the wines from one of the most revered wine producers in Western Australia, Howard Park, was one that grabbed my attention as soon as it was announced, and was heavily highlighted in the diary from an early stage.

    I’ve loved Howard Park wines since I first discovered them, when staying with my brother-in-law and his family, in a rather gorgeous Hispanic mansion in Elizabeth Bay, Sydney. I was over on my first buying trip to Australia, and had lots to learn… and I’m still learning.  In those days, Western Australia had yet to really strike a chord in the UK, it was all about Southern Australia and brands.  I was introduced to Leston Cabernet Sauvignon and Howard Park Estate Chardonnay at a barbecue overlooking Sydney Harbour and I've never forgotten their elegance, poise and indisputable style.

    Fast-track forward more years than I care to remember, and I've come to know Jeff and Amy Burch, the passionate and tirelessly enthusiastic owners of Howard Park, and Burch family vineyards. Owners of one of Western Australia’s top wine estates, they own vineyards in both Margaret River, and The Great Southern, and their philosophy is simple – quality, quality, quality – and keep it family-owned.  Established as recently as 1988, they are true pioneers in terms of how they are showcasing the true beauty of Western Australian wines, and creating the very best of wines from their region. They also get a big thumbs up for putting all their wines (yes, reds included) under screw-cap, rather than cork since the year 2000.

    Western Australia is renowned for its elegant, high quality wines, which have a thoroughbred, restrained and complex style, with freshness and poise. The Burch family own vineyards both in the iconic Margaret River and also in the Great Southern region, which lies about 5 hours away, and create award-winning wines in both areas.

    Jeff and Amy purchased the property in Margaret River in 1988, a beautiful piece of land, with a run-down cottage. Development started in 1995 and they made their first vintage in 1996.  With Jeff and Amy at the helm, and their children also involved in the business, they are now the largest family wine business in Western Australia. I love their pioneering spirit, I love their family values, and this is what great family wineries are all about. They have a very simple, but effective philosophy 'Premium wine can only come from excellent fruit, and therefore plant each grape variety in the best location to suit the climate and the soils' said Jeff.  Howard Park wines are only made in very small quantities, and are made with intense care and craftsmanship.

    Howard Park Great Southern RieslingSo what better showcase than at Allium Restaurant, for an evening starring some of their great wines, with the sublime cuisine of Michelin-starred chef Chris Staines.  The newly-revamped Allium Bar was buzzing, and amidst the eclectic décor, and spectacularly back-lit bar, guests were served the first wine of the evening, and one of my absolute favourites, the bright, citrussy, lime-drenched Howard Park Great Southern Riesling 2013.  It’s fresh, it’s bright, and searingly zesty, with a unique mash-up of fresh lime, lime cordial, rose petals, and a hint of fat, luxurious honeysuckle, with a searingly crisp finish – an amazing wine which was spot on with the little salmon tartare canapés.

    Howard Park ChardonnayHoward Park Estate Chardonnay 2012 was the first wine to be served, once guests had taken their seats.  It’s not easy to find the right partner to this award-winning wine, which is restrained, and almost Burgundian in style, with a silky-smooth, aristocratic demeanour – bright, lively, full of succulent, ripe peach fruit, but with a cool, very clean edge, and a nervy freshness. Chris’ salad of charred Atlantic prawns, avocado puree, seaweed and sesame salad, managed to sashay a beautiful dance with this wine .

    One of Chris Staines’ many skills is balancing textures, as well as flavours, and teasing guests with the unusual flavour combinations; smokey, gently-charred prawns wobbled atop a mound of crunchy, spiced vegetables and herbs, with the finest of shredded  carrots, asparagus, beansprouts, and leaves, mingled with a dressing of soy, tamarind and palm sugar, with hints of ginger, and a touch of mango thrown in… and all of this topped with a snap-sharp, crunchy, sweet sesame crisp… and tempered by a creamy avocado and sesame puree. The wine match worked, simply because the elegance, acidity and complexity of the wine was both able to match the riotous, exotic, sweet, sour, hot, salty flavours of the dish, and  it’s freshness also managed to lift the dish to another level. It was delicious – and, having saved a little of the Great Southern Riesling aperitif wine,   I felt that the multi-facetted characteristic of this wine worked even better.

    Howard Park Miamup ChardonnayNext up was my favourite wine and food match of the night. Howard Park Miamup Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 is a perfect example of top notch Western Australian reds at affordable prices. It’s polished, elegant, and oozing class, yet with  a velvety softness and early-drinkability. I loved the purity and intensity of the ripe, perfumed blackcurrant fruit, mingled with hints of eucalypt, ground nutmeg and cedar.  There is also a definite waft of bitter chocolate in this wine, and it’s this component, that Chris very cleverly picked up in the matching dish – Lightly smoked wood pigeon with cauliflower ‘couscous’, cauliflower puree and bitter cacao. If I had to pick one dish, which really defines Chris Staines’ style of cuisine, this would be it – challenging, detailed, and juxtappositions of textures, flavours and colours, with that trademark Asian twist.

    There was a lot of sweetness in this dish, but this merely served to heighten the ripe, bright fruit character of the wine. Meltingly tender slices of pink pigeon breast were served alongside a dreamy, light-as-air little  oriental nem, with softly yielding rice paper pastry, within which nestled an aromatic, masterfully seasoned filling of minced pigeon and duck, spiced with Chilli, lemongrass, star anise and cinnamon .  Minute shreds of crunchy cauliflower and dabs of glistening, bitter chocolate infused sauce finished off this little masterpiece, with the cocoa, serving only to enhance even further the dark, silky richness of the wine.

    To  showcase two of Howard Park’s most prized reds, the final, fitting course was a  Short rib of beef, with shitake mushrooms, grilled broccoli and lightly pickled ginger. Once again, textures, colours, flavours, and that characteristic umami effect were to the fore. Chris Staines’ never goes for the easy option, and some of the intricate spicing and fusion of flavours in this dish may have looked challenging, on paper at least. But Chef worked his now familiar blend of craftsmanship and alchemy, and produced a sumptuous plate of artistry.  Succulent, sticky, oriental -spiced, melt in the mouth, tender beef, was topped with crunchy, charred spring onion shards, and a combination of  al dente broccoli, and  a  creamy puree of the same.  Nestled alongside was a  deliciously rich quenelle of  sweet, earthy, aromatic shitake mushrooms, combined with thai  green curry paste and herbs.

    Onto the wines – both Cabernet Sauvignons, both the same vintage, but oh so different. Western Australia produces world  class Cabernet Sauvignons – the weather is cooler than in most of South Australia, and also benefit from the nearby ocean. This gives the wines an added elegance, balanced with beautifully ripe, fruit intense wines.

    Howard Park Leston Cabernet SauvignonHoward Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 is one of the flagship wines of the company. It’s from the Leston vineyard, named after Jeff’s father and mentor. It’s a wine of amazing purity and breeding, still a baby, with many, many years ahead of it.  With glorious, intense aromas of cassis, dark chocolate, mint and cedar, it is enchanting on the nose, and delivers  layers of dark, sweet dark berry flavours, with hints of violets, and a long, balanced finish.  It has all the nerviness of youth,  but the deep, subdued powers of this wine are already evident, and it will simply blossom, and reveal another layer of character and personality year after year. Now’s the time to buy some, and let it slumber gently for a few years.

    Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet SauvignonHoward Park Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 was an altogether bigger, bolder red, at this stage of its evolution. Named after Jeff’s great grandfather (keeping it in the family), It’s produced from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from both the Leston Vineyard in Margaret River, and also the Dennis vineyard, in Mount Barker, Great Southern. The  proportions vary, year to year, depending on the vintage and the quality of fruit. This wine has a majestic, brooding intensity and latent power. It’s bold, rich and savoury, with that characteristic blackcurrant and mint character, but with enticing hints of sandalwood, sweet spice, mocha and earthy, exotic truffles.  Still in its infancy, the textures and promise of things to come are all there – powerful, concentrated, with breeding and an aristocratic hauteur.

    Great Western Wine and Allium wine dinners are always special – this one definitely raised the bar on all levels.  Thanks to Jeff and Amy Burch and to Chris Staines and his team for a thoroughly tasty, entertaining and enjoyable evening.

    By Angela Mount

  • South Africa meets Bordeaux - an evening with Morgenster

    'I went to South Africa to retire; I found my dream home; I bought the property for the house, not the land; little did I realise how this purchase would be the start of a new dream for me.'  So said Giulio Bertrand, owner of the exquisite, chocolate-box perfect estate of Morgenster, which is nestled among the hills, surrounded by the imposing and towering presence of the Heldeberg and Hottentots Holland mountains.

    And what  an unexpected dream it has been for an Italian business man from Piemonte, who was the 5th generation of a family wool and textile business. Having travelled around the world extensively, he sold the business in 1990, and planned to retire in South Africa, where he felt an emotional connection.  He searched for two years before finding his dream property.

    Morgenster means ’Morning Star’, as depicted by the star in a scallop shell, the estate’s logo, seen on each and every bottle of their wine.  The Morgenster Estate is to be found in the Somerset West area of the Cape, about 35 minutes west of Cape Town, and south of Stellenbosch. Situated just above False Bay, it’s close to the South-facing Ocean, with its sea breezes, and glittering waters that are far warmer than those on the Eastern bays close to Cape Town. The 300 year ‘Cape Dutch’ manor house is one of the  most beautiful and historic private properties in the Cape, surrounded by 200 hectares of vineyards.

    The fairytale continues... 'I found out that my land comprised some of the best terroir in the Cape' he told me 'back in the 18th century, Dutch pioneers had owned this prized land to produce wine, and produce, which surpassed all other.'  Having realised how lucky he was with this unexpected gem, ever the entrepreneur, Giulio set about a new career – as a wine and olive oil producer.

    He renovated the house in 1993, then as all true professionals would do, he set out to do his research, and bring in expertise for this newest of business projects.  He started with the olive groves, as he wanted to produce his own oil, rather than having to import what he wanted from Italy; he enlisted the help of experts, and made his first harvest in 1997. Morgenster now produces 250,000 bottles of olive oil per year.

    Giulio set off to France to learn more about wine, and in a fortuitous meeting, carved a bond with legendary winemaker Pierre Lurton, of Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau d’Yquem fame. The results of this now long-standing friendship and sharing of passion for wine are illustrated by the wines that Morgenster is now producing. Lurton visits twice a year, and works closely with Morgenster’s young and gifted head winemaker Henry Kotze.

    Fuelled with determination, passion and excitement, Giulio returned and set about planting vines. But not just any vines. As a passionate Italian, it’s a bit of a given that he would want to plant his native Italian grapes, and, of his 40 hectares of vines, 3 of those are given over to his beloved Nebbiolo and Sangiovese.  But the driving focus of his vision has been to produce Bordeaux-style wines in the unique terroir of his land.

    Chris Staines

    He first planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot in in 1994 and  first harvested in 1998, following a massive investment, which was unique in South Africa at that time. ‘Many people thought I was crazy’ he told me’ but my focus is on quality, quality, quality. We produce the very best that the vintage and the terroir can offer. And then we leave the wines to rest, and evolve’.  A big investment indeed. Slumbering in French oak, the wines are left until full maturity before release (and it’s not cheap to do this!). Showing classic Bordeaux elegance, but made in a New World style, these wines are stylish, unique, and much prized.

    I was fortunate enough to taste them at a recent dinner at the Allium Restaurant, in Bath, where culinary genius, Executive Chef Chris Staines, created sheer stardust-sprinkled magic in the inspired dishes he brought out to complement a selection of Morgenster wines.

    Morgenster Estate WhiteEver one to celebrate the latest in seasonal produce, since this was in May, Chris first showcased a salad of new season English asparagus, with peas, wild garlic and goats curd. Pretty as a picture, vibrantly colourful, and packed with the freshest of flavours, this was served with Morgenster Estate White 2013. A classic Bordeaux Sauvignon/Semillon blend, the smooth, creamy, yet lifted, citrussy fruit had a richness and peachy ripeness that married deliciously with the intense but super-fresh flavours in the dish. Combining the soft, yet salty creaminess of the goats cheese, with the al dente, charred asparagus, tang of lemon,and a crisp little parmesan biscuit, this was a thing of beauty, and showcased both the dish and the wine to perfection.

    Next up was what I can only describe as ‘Chris Staines on a plate’.  Referencing his skill and passion for adding an Asian twist to many of his signature dishes, we found ourselves looking at a stunningly dressed plate of utter delight – a petite, glistening, tender piece of soy-glazed quail, balancing atop tiny, pale, shemiji mushrooms,  and crunchy Spring Cabbage. But of course, because it’s Chris Staines, this also had his trademark mix of brilliant textures and flavours – from the tender, succulence of the tiny quail, to the soft, earthy texture of the mushrooms, and the crunch of the vegetables, mingled with coriander and five spice.

    Morgenster, Lourens River Valley I was slightly worried that the exotic flavours might overpower  many wines, but  I should have trusted in the fact that Chris is one of those relatively rare chefs, who has a passion for wine, and an instinctive knowledge of what to pair. He builds the dishes around the wine, not the other way round. We were treated to an 14 year old Morgenster Lourens River Valley Red 2001, full of mature, cedary, tobacco and dried fig scents and flavours – still elegant, and sprightly. I particularly enjoyed the, by comparison, youthful Morgenster Lourens River Valley Red 2003, which is the current vintage, having waited a mere 11 years for release. The dominance of the super-ripe, fleshy, plum and blackberry-stashed Merlot grape in this blend gave the wine a glorious exuberance and youthful vigour, choc-full of ripe, sweet blackcurrant and dark chocolate scents and flavours, enhanced by a waft of aromatic cedar. This picked up perfectly on the sweetness of the quail, the aniseed whack of five spice and the earthy fleshiness of the mushrooms.

    But the summit of this particular climb to culinary heights was yet to be reached, and it was not long before guests were sighing and smiling blissfully at the simply celestial combination that followed. Here we were on safe ground – Bordeaux style, New World red and the best of British beef. However that simple description is almost an insult to the sublime partnership that was served to us.

    Out came two very special, very prized reds from the Morgenster stable, perfectly mature, poised, aristocratic and at their peak. The Morgenster Estate Red 2001 demonstrated the sheer class, poise and elegance that cleverly crafted, top notch South African Bordeaux blends can reach. Aristocratic, yet generous, with a seamless streak of silky smooth, complex, mature fruit, with hints of mocha, it retained a sprightly vigour, combined with a luxurious soft richness.

    The Allium and Chris Staines excelled themselves with one of the best pieces of beef I have tasted in a long time. Chargrilled treacle cured fillet of Black Angus Beef, with smoked Grelot onions, mash and bone marrow, was how the menu described this dish.  Chris has always been great at the understatement.  The beef was melt-in-the-mouth tender, delectable with its tarry, sweet molasses marinade, and a bitter-sweet edge, further enhanced by tiny, indulgent dabs of bone marrow, and the most indulgent of creamy mash – all bolstered by crunchy little charred baby onions and a spiky sauce.

    Morgenster Estate RedMy favourite match of the night was the opulent, seductive Morgenster Estate Red 2003, winner of a prized gold medal in last year’s much lauded International Wine Challenge. The blend in the Morgenster wines varies from year to year, between Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and merlot, and is determined by what the vintage dictates. In this particular year, Cabernet Sauvignon dominated, and is showcased by the vibrant, pure and intense scents and flavours of blackcurrants and wild mint. The wine is incredibly youthful, elegant, balanced, with lots of power, and an admirable restraint, showing its thoroughbred pedigree.  In 2003, 31% of the fragrant, raspberry-scented Cabernet Franc was added, and this adds a distinctive perfume, and lifted freshness, which simply enhances the overall experience of this plush, opulent, and complex beauty. Every element of its richness and balance matched the lusciousness of the beef dish.

    Morenster Tasting

    The menu and the wines seemed to reflect the personalities of the evening. Giulio Bertrand, and the Managing Director of Morgenster, Judi Dyer, were utterly charming, engaging, poised, assured and passionate about their estate, their wines and their vision. Chris Staines did what he does at his brilliant best – put out stunning plates of food that simply bring out the very best in the wines on show. As Giulio said:’ it takes a very special palate and a very special chef, to match and contrast the flavours in the wines and the food’.

    It also takes a very special vision to create an estate so distinctive, showcasing wines of such style and class.  It’s also very unusual to find wines of such maturity on wine shelves – and wines which will last a good few more few years.  I can’t wait until Giulio agrees to let the next vintage out of the cellar and into our glasses… but we may have to wait awhile.

    By Angela Mount

    Photos by Paolo Ferla

     

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