Another London Wine Week has come and gone again, and this year I had the pleasure of attending a very classy evening at the five-star London Edition Hotel – a Val du Loire opening event hosted by wine connoisseurs Douglas Blyde and Lindsay Oram.
The Loire Valley, France’s third biggest producer of AOC wines, is home to some of the world’s very best wines, and Londoners are lucky enough to enjoy them in restaurants and bars scattered across the capital.
Prior to dinner, we enjoyed a free pour preview aperitif of nine wines alongside some appetizing canapés, whilst I attempted to shake off the rain from my freshly styled hair.
The wet hair look may suit others but dampness turns mine into a frazzled mess.
Dinner was held in an underground private salon, with technicolor, dim lighting that although created a seductive ambience, proved to be a challenge with food photography (!)
Portraits of a young woman were lined up against the wall. She looked rather miserable and unhappy. I sat with my back towards her and continued enjoying my wine – I have a tendency to insensitive like that at times … I blame the wine.
The technicolour lights changed throughout the evening, with background sounds and music, as part of our sensory Loire Valley Wines experience.
The menu created by Chef Phil Carmichael sounded tantalizing, and made me feel hungrier than I already was.
The first course was a slice of sourdough toast served with a generous mount of Colchester crab seasoned with apple, coriander and topped with a dollop of brown crab mayo.
Ah crab, one of my favourite shellfish delights that brought back memories of our seafood feast in Lisbon – minus my clumsy attempt at hammering and squirting those around me with crab juice …
As much as I love some hands-on action, this much more sophisticated de-shelled version was delicious nonetheless.
This was paired with a Muscadet cotes de Grandlieu Sur Lie, 2015, with a lovely combination of citrus notes and depth of flavour that goes perfectly with shellfish.
The second course was a pan fried rainbow trout with a nice crispy skin, balanced on top of some chargrilled courgette, cucumber and topped off with some caviar. The wasabi butter sauce got some mixed opinions from around the table, but I personally wiped my plate clean – I do love a bit of Asian fusion …
Some suppressed sniffles were heard around the tables – either my tastebuds aren’t very sensitive or they’ve built up tolerance over the years of me dousing my sushi in wasabi soya sauce.
Glasses were filled with Savennieres, Clos de la Hutte, 2015 – Savennieres which was described by wine extraordinaire, Douglas, as the most exciting region of the Loire valley for white wine (scribbles huge star on menu for future reference!). Made from a grape called Chenin Blanc which behaves in a little way like Reisling (I do like Reisling …).
The lighting had now changed to a deep shade of purple before another momentary transition to deep blue, into ‘blue water territory’, as we headed further into our Loire journey.
This was followed by a meatier course of BBQ Dingley Dell pork chop, garnished with roasted calcots onions, apple, tomato and sage sauce. According to the chef, these pigs are handled delicately from farm to plate, and even given massages (!).
The meat was cooked well – tender with a good amount of fat that contained most of the delicious flavours.
This time, we had not one but two glasses of red wines to accompany our dish:
The first was a Chinon Rouge, Clos de la Dioterie, 2009, by Charles Joguet: philosopher, poet, sculptor and a living legend in the Loire and for many years who produced the finest wines in Chinon. The product of 80 year old vines, it displayed deep, intense flavours of fruit and spice, and apparently tobacco, that I could not possibly determine having never smoked a cigarette in my life …
The second was the Saumur Champigny, Lisagathe, 2014, a bright-garnet, rich and full-bodied wine from the Anjou-Saumur appellation.
The room now lit up with red lights, which felt all very risqué …
And finally for our final course: a savoury dessert which consisted of a selection of cheeses, pear and saffron chutney, and homemade mixed seed biscuits.
A white and a red wine, Anjou Blanc 2015 and Anjou Rouge 2014 from Clos de l’Elu, personally chosen from the Berners Tavern wine list accompanied this sumptuous array. Although tradition dictates that cheese is best served with red, the acidity, freshness and temperature of the white makes it an ideal pairing to cut through the mellowness of the cheese. A show cheeseboard was paraded around the room, which got plenty of attention from the paparazzi cameras – definitely an Instagram-worthy shot.
Difference Coffee Company that uses 100% Arabica Speciality Coffee, the highest grade of bean, provided our caffeine fix to end our night, although I did opt for the decaffeinated version instead to avoid the risk of a sleepless night. They do say that it’s all psychological but I didn’t want to take my chances with my precious 5 hours of sleep.
Served in golden cups and saucers, it was just what I needed to warm me up before my drench-free Uber journey back home.
In preparation for the event that evening, I also had the opportunity to enjoy a couple of bottle of these fresh and elegant wines that are starting to become trendy with today’s customers:
Chenin Blanc which produces anything from searing dry, fresh and mineral examples, to luscious sweeties; and Cabernet Franc which has scents of violets and crushed red berries, and soft red fruits and tannins. Although other countries produce wines from these grape varieties, the Loire is the real home of these grapes. If you’re looking for something to sip in the summer months (summer has finally arrived!), these would be a couple of recommended options:
Clos du Gaimont, Vouvray, 2015 – refreshing, clean and crisp white wine, bone dry but bursting with mineral notes. Great with French cheese, pork and even Thai curry. An unbeatable choice of wine to pair with sweet and sour food.
Croix de Chaintres, Saumur Champigny, 2015 – full of rich raspberry and cherry flavours with a classic hint of herbaceous notes of Cabernet Franc. Great with barbecued meats, steak or meaty fish.
It has been an educational and entertaining journey tasting all these delicious wines – now all I need is someone to fly me to the Loire Valley for a relaxing summer holiday to complete the experience.
The Cheekster, signing out x
I was invited to review, but views remain my own.