Tuesday 22 September 2009

Mauled in the Mall.

After a week centred around the Abergavenny Food Festival, non stop tastings, cookings, meals and even an attempted Basque BBQ, of which more in a later post, we decided to head off to London for a respite.

A cunning plan that immediately fell apart when our very generous friends announced we were off for an evening of wine in Pall Mall. It's a tough life.

The host for the evening was Akos Forczek. He runs Top Selection Ltd who supply wines to many of the country's best restaurants. He told me the most oversubscribed events were always what he calls his "extreme tastings". Like his all 'Grand Crus' or, tonights, with 150 wines accompanied by many of their producers. Our friends had bagged the last four tickets.

We arrived with an hour to taste before dinner. No-where near enough time to taste so many wines... but I gave it my best shot.

Dinner was in private rooms upstairs.

We were greeted with a wall of wine left over from the tasting and told to help ourselves.

With it some fabulous food. Someone said the chef here had previously taken over the cooking at L'Aubergine when Ramsay famously walked out. Lobster ravioli with cauliflower, cauliflower cream and a delicious shellfish sauce. Generous chunks of lobster too.

A daube style piece of beef was exceptionally well executed. With it drank a great Crozes Hermitage that I'd missed at the tasting. All purple, peppery, syrah juiciness.

Excellent Creme Brulee and a chocolate and vanilla ice cream for desert.

With this we drank the best Pedro Ximinez I've tasted. Only 600 bottles will make it to the UK, and Stephane sitting opposite, had already bagged a hefty allocation!

It's an incredible wine. Nothing like the usual overtly sticky stuff best poured on puddings. At the tasting I'd had it after a top Sauternes and an Austrian Eisewein. It was miles better. A sublime combination with the salty chocolate sugar puff things.

Stephane told me something I didn't know. Apparently Pedro Ximinez owes it's origins to the Germans. They wanted to make something akin to Esiwein in Spain but lack of frost meant instead they dried the grapes to concentrate the sugars... and the grapes they used were from home...Riesling. Yes, Pedro Ximinez is the Riesling grape. That's news to me.

It was a great night, Arkos was a super host. And a big shout out to Tio and Ed for inviting us.

Click here for Arcos Forczek's:
There were some crackers and I didn't have time to taste many, missed some splendid looking Italian and Spanish wine. Of what I did taste the following really stood out:
Andre Jacquart Grand Cru Le Mesnil. Pure chardonnay foaming creamy lushness. The Belle Epoch in a glass... bring on the dancing girls. Andre's daughter does the marketing and explained that all their wines are aged on the lees for 3 years. The vintage for 4. You could taste it too.
Christophe Coquard Saint Veran 2007. Super Burgundy class for the money. The same negociant's generic Macon was also very good.
The Gem range from New Zealand. Particularly the sauvignon blanc (bone dry, how refreshing) and the pinot noir. The wine maker explained he is using a technique that allows some alcohol to evaporate during the fermentation process. Fascinating. Thus he manages to ferment ripe grapes to a more acceptable 13% abv rather than the often standard 14.5%. As consumers seek out lower alcohol wines that has to make sense.
La Ferme Du Mont's Hermitage was my favourite wine of the night. Fabulous dense syrah nose and a real power that came from strength of flavour rather than over extraction. Reminded me of La Chapelle.

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