17 March 2020 - Nick Reynolds (more to come)
10 March 2020 - Steve Liebeskind
3 March 2020 - Denis Redfern
Food review by James Tinslay and wine review by Chilly Hargrave
The cook-off caravan moves on, and this week it was Denis Redfern for cook-off 4. Supporting him was Team Redfern made up of his wife Trish Redfern, Jennifer Darin and Josef Condrau. Numbers for the lunch went up and down like a yoyo with walk-ins, cancellations and every combination thereof. When we sat down, we were some 45 members.
Denis is nothing if not organised and he had telegraphed beforehand that there would be four canapés for us. These were:
- • Escargots a la bourguignonne on brioche
- • Duck rillettes on toasts
- • Potage parmentier in shot glasses
- • Coquilles St Jacques on a spoon
There appears to be a growing trend of members being spoilt with three or four canapés before we sit down, and I have not heard any complaints.
All four canapés were appealing and satisfying. In particular, the duck rillette was special. The duck had been sous vide and then combined with orange and Hennessey XO to give it more depth of flavour.
The main course was of course duck. Dennis had brined the ducks with a mixture including orange and then sous vide them at 65° in a specialist tank i.e. a Bunning's tub. The potatoes, or roasties, had been parboiled and then roasted in ghee and finished at REX in duck fat. To die for. Which reminds me, a defibrillator at REX may not be so silly with so much duck fat recently!
The duck was served on jus and was accompanied by some just cooked and crunchy beans with slivered almonds and some cranberry (I think) jelly. The dish looked good and was scrumptious.
Today was a smelly cheese day and James Healey served us Epoisses, sourced from Côte-d'Or, from maker Berthaut. It is a washed rind cheese with a very strong flavour finishing off with some barnyard characteristics that make it, apparently, one of the smelliest cheeses on earth. It was wonderful. The cheese was served with grapes.
Spencer Ferrier was absent this week but continued his long walk to find a Society Blend. This week he supplied us with a high roast espresso-style coffee with a flavour note of roast and a slightly burnt flavour. It was a blend of five beans treated in various ways with a major quantity of Kenya AA. The coffee had a very good mouthfeel, medium-bodied, but not overpowering with, as expected, a slightly burnt finish. An excellent coffee.
Canapé wines were a contrast of styles and colours. A 2010 Montgomery Hill Chardonnay from Margaret River was a complex mix of wild, barrel ferment and bottle age. Still bright and clear, it showed the rich fruit characters typical of the region. It was paired with the same vintage of a Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir. At 10 years of age, it impressed with its drinkability. While the tannins were a little firm, there was still fresh varietal fruit notes on the nose and palate.
To match the duck there were a pair of red Burgundies. A 2015 Christian Clerget Bourgogne Rouge was the preferred wine. It had lively, berry fruit aromas with a complex, well-integrated palate of red fruits and firm tannins. The 2016 Domaine Collotte Marsannay Champsalomon was an interesting move further up the Côte de Nuits towards Dijon. Although Marasannay is little heard of, it is starting to be considered further as the climate warms and these cooler vineyards achieve better maturity. The wine had lovely berry fruit characters with soft tannins and genuine Burgundian texture. Perhaps not as pure as the village wine from Clerget, it still impressed.
The cheese for the day was a burgundy favourite - Époisses. Traditionally this is paired with a Pinot Noir, but today we also tried something different. Taking a leaf from the Alsace playbook we had a 2012 Gewurztraminer from Hugel. Locally this is often matched with Munster. With its slight sweetness and spicy fruit notes, the wine was an excellent match. The more traditional 2015 Pinot Noir from Greywacke was another good match with its strawberry fruit and soft tannins.
25 February 2020 - CoTD Peter Kelso
Food review by James Tinslay and wine review by Chilly Hargrave
Our first wine lunch for 2020 and Society President, Peter Kelso, was in the kitchen with his wife Catherine. They were assisted on canapés by Mark Bradford.
There were two notable factors about the lunch. One good and one not so good. Starting with the good, Winemaster Charles “Chilly” Hargrave opted for an all-white selection of the six wines which was commented during the lunch. On the worrying side was that there were six members who had booked and had not arrived for the lunch. Some of these attempted to signal their inability to attend at the last minute, but somehow communications did not get through.
There was an abundance of the two canapés today with the first being beetroot stewed in orange juice and beef stock and then served in pastry cups topped with some Chevre. The next was a taramasalata on toast topped with not just fish roe but caviar. Both were commented upon favourably.
Being a wine lunch, Peter instinctively cooked a dish that would complement the white wines, not compete. We had fish in a parcel or poisson en papillote. Inside the parcel was what looked like a lettuce leaf wrapping the fish which had been topped with a prawn to enhance the presentation. Shrimp paste, lemon, dill and bits of other things had been used to complement the flavour. The fish was pink ling and it was perfectly cooked so that the segments fell apart easily to the fork. This was simply accompanied by rice coloured yellow with turmeric to which preserved lemons and toasted almonds had been added.
A simple and very tasty lunch.
The cheese selected by James Healey today was the subject of many informed guesses, none of which were on the money. It was the Tarago River Triple Cream from Gippsland, a white mould pasteurised cow’s milk cheese. This cheese has a fat content of 36% and was rich and buttery with a texture that was creamy. The cheese was beautifully fresh, and much enjoyed.
While Spencer was absent this week, he had asked Peter Kelso (who clearly had nothing else to do on the day) to source some Illy coffee for the lunch. Peter had freshly ground the beans before the lunch. Illy is a commercial favourite for Spencer as it provides a smooth experience in the cup, as it did on this occasion.
Today’s wine lunch started with a pair of Tyrrell’s Johnno’s Semillons that really showed that we have vintage variation in Australia and the Hunter in particular. Curiously in Riesling bottles (perhaps a throwback to Hunter Valley Riesling) we tasted/drank the 2011 vintage followed by the 2010. Preference was split between the two, but there was general agreement on the quality of the wines. Both showed the slight phenolic edge typical of Johnno’s, but also the impact of vintage conditions. The 2010 wine was full-flavoured and textual, perhaps drinking at its best, while the 2011 was pure in fruit, very pale in colour with fine acidity - an absolute keeper.
The wines on the table were a selection of six Chardonnays. This drew comment on the lack of red wine (a rare occasion for the Society) with further discussion about matching cheese with white wine.
First up a 2012 William Fevre Chablis from the Grand Cru vineyards of Bougros. One of the earliest maturing wines of the seven Grand Cru, it showed richness and depth with some influence of lees ageing. These characteristics are what separates these top wines from the rest of Chablis. This Fevre wine, although it still carried some sulphur dioxide, was showing some development, unfortunately also under cork. Perhaps it would have shown better at a slightly lower temperature.
In a slightly confusing layout (a copy and paste error from the clumsy cellar master) we had a pair of wines from the cellars of Benjamin Leroux which were fortunately under screw cap. The 2014 Auxey-Duresses Blanc reflected its terroir, with some lees notes, full flavour and tension. Probably closer to its neighbour Meursault in character than the Montrachets over the hill. On the other hand, the 2014 Chassagne Montrachet was outstanding. It had the minerality, mouthfeel, length and poise that one would expect of Premier Cru or more. A great example of the purity and tension that can be found in Chassagne.
The final burgundy was a 2012 Vincent Girardin St Aubin ‘Les Murgers des Dents de Chien’ 1er Cru. This is the most highly rated vineyard in St Aubin. Situated on the other side of the scrubby hill (mont rachet in French) from the Grand Cru vineyards of Chevalier Montrachet, it shares a similar terroir. The Girardin wine was full-flavoured and textural. It was impacted by the used of old oak and starting to show colour. An excellent example of the impact of cork on white wines, it lacked the expected precision and structure.
Finally, we had a pair of Chardonnays from Curly Flat. The ‘basic’ Chardonnay from 2015 had an excellent balance of fruit, acidity and barrel ferment with a touch of struck match. It was fresh and lively with lingering melon fruit flavours. The 2012 ‘The Curly’ was a different creature altogether. Fermented and aged in 100% new oak with a high proportion of malolactic it was a bigger wine with a richness of flavour and mouthfeel. It still had lingering oak aromas and tannins that tended to dominate the fruit. An interesting pair of wines to compare with the burgundies. They lacked the purity of the first four but were still excellent examples of the variety and were probably the best match for the cheese.
Finally, I thank Frank L, James T, James H and Matt H for their assistance in pouring, always a difficult exercise in a crowded room
18 February 2020 - CoTD Matthew Holmes
Lunch review by James Hill
Matthew Holmes was in the kitchen today for our third cook-off for coveted Chef of the Year glory. He was assisted by Nick Reynolds and Richard Gibson, who presented the wines in our Winemasters’s absence.
He followed his previous theme of Japanese inspired menu we started with Sydney Rock Oysters from Merimbula that were served with a Japanese dressing of ginger, mirin, soy, sake and topped with some caviar roe and spring onion. Then followed black tiger prawns sitting on top of wasabi mayonnaise and pickled cucumber and topped with dill. Both were well received by members today, great flavours and texture and matched well with our aperitif wines.
KT Riesling Clare Valley 2015 fermented in a blend of stainless steel and old French oak had high acid over citrus, a little out of balance, not a typical Clare Valley Riesling. The Tyrrells Vat 1 Semillon 2011 had a good fruit focus, balanced with lemon/lime acid and good length, and was the preferred wine of the two presented.
Norwegian salmon marinated in home-made miso with a sauce of soy, sesame, lime and ginger. It was accompanied by soba buckwheat noodles, seasonal mango and watercress. The salmon was cooked well and flavours perfectly integrated with peppery watercress, sweet mango and noodles. A great effort.
Main course wines
Our Winemaster chose two Chablis from 2018 vintage to complement the main course today. The first was Chateau Defaix and seeing this early so reflects that mineral/salty attribute with razor edge acid with a medium weight. What was most preferred in the room today was the William Fevre. It was vibrant with good density and length with lemon/lime citrus and minerality.
Our Cheesemaster James Healey presented a new cheese to our Society today with no one hesitating a guess. It was a ‘Mont Enebro’ blue mould, a surface-ripened pasteurised goat’s milk from Central Spain presented in two logs. It is 100% artisan handmade cheese with the cheesemakers inoculating the logs with penicillium Roqueforti the same mold used to make Roquefort. However, rather than piercing the cheese in the traditional way and allowing the blue range to develop throughout, the mold grows on the rind of the cheese adding to the complex flavour and with a distinct ashed appearance. The interior is pure white and has a chalky flaky texture. Flavours are mild, nutty and citric with just a hint of blue at the rind. Today was an example of the cheese served young. Apparently, when it matures it is not for the faint-hearted! Our CoTD served the cheese with black grapes and sesame biscuits.
Our cheese wines were Houghton Wisdom Shiraz Frankland River 2009 showing cherry fruit, full of life and tannins with some bottle variation. Some thought a bit jammy. We also had the Tyrrell’s Old Hut Shiraz 2014. This was an excellent vintage, fruit-forward, rich red and ripe with good tannins and length.
Spencer Ferrier continued his coffee theme this year of coffee blends today deliberately skewed towards the high roast end of the roasting spectrum. High roast simply means that the beans are cooked in the roaster for longer. They are distinguished by a blacker or darker brown colour. The effect is that much of the acidity in the oils in the coffee are removed by the heat leaving residual flavours that include the simple sensation of burned vegetable material.
This style is used with low-quality beans when mass quantities are required. It is also deliberately done when an element of the burned, cooked and charred quality is to be introduced into the coffee drink. It is common practice for quality beans to be used but more for the purposes such as to provide an element of this flavour spectrum rather than as a whole flavour of itself. In today's blend, he had mixed a much higher quantity of high roast coffees than for normal coffee drinking, but the beans, when left unaltered, will give an 'espresso' style to plunger coffee. The darker bean also does pretty well in the espresso machine, and it is not uncommon in Italian-style espressos. This is the third of examples of coffee styles that build a flavour profile for blending to achieve a preferred taste. It is generally popular but usually is better expressed with a more middle-roast coffee to provide other parts of the coffee palette.
11 February 2020 - CoTD Paul Irwin
Food review by James Tinslay and wine review by Chilly Hargrave
For the second Chef of the Year cook-off, we had Paul Irwin in the kitchen with a support team of Steve Liebeskind and Romain Stamm. As expected, it was a full dining room.
We were treated to three canapés today, a more common occurrence than it used to be. They were served in a specific order with the first being, citrus cured salmon on a spoon, then a pork and venison terrine served on crusty bread and topped with beetroot chutney and finally a mushroom pate with truffle oil and parsley in a pastry cup. Comments on the salmon were very positive as were the comments on the beautifully prepared terrine with beetroot chutney, adding a little bit of flourish in both flavour and presentation. The mushroom pate was thought by many to be a little bland, especially as it was served after the terrine.
As expected and required the main we were served today was based on the meal Paul served last year that landed him in the Chef of the Year cauldron. As was the case in 2019, it was a picture-perfect presentation with the word pretty coming to mind.
The meal was based on lamb backstrap which had been sous vide and coated in salted leek ash but there appeared to be a slight bite reminiscent of chilly. The lamb was served on a smoked eggplant baba ghanoush with roast carrots and blanched broccoli. In addition, there were duck fat roasties that Paul had parboiled and then cooked twice in duck fat. The only complaint from the floor with that they would have liked more. This addition was to add some diversity of texture to the meal.
The lamb was tender and tasty and the presentation of this dish would not be out of place in a fine dining restaurant.
The cheese presented by James Healey today led to an amount of head-scratching. Blue, clearly, but it was not salty enough to be Roquefort. A number of informed guesses proved to be wrong and it was revealed as a Berry’s Creek Riverine Blue from Gippsland in Victoria. To add to the mystery it was a 100% pasteurised buffalo cheese. It had a beautiful soft creamy mouthfeel and was at its peak.
Spencer’s aim for 2020 is a “Society coffee”. Whilst absent this week that didn’t prevent him from continuing the quest. In Spencer’s sometimes cryptic style we knew that today’s coffee was 50% peaberry which he described as an intense flavour, but often a little thin. The other 50% was a general full-spectrum coffee but no other information was given. It had a round sweet palate that could be described as a little thin.
Today’s excellent starters were accompanied by a couple of wines that share the German tongue. A 2017 Groiss Germischter Satz from Weinviertal, Austria’s largest vineyard region, was confusing for many. Although it had some citrus, lime notes to indicate Riesling, it was actually a blend of a multitude of varieties, the majority of them unpronounceable - except perhaps for Josef. Certainly a wine with complex fruit aromas, it was dry and a little closed.
The 2016 Timo Mayer Remstal Riesling from Baden-Württemberg in Germany was an excellent match for the terrine with its fruit and off-dry finish. The glass stopper closure was a new experience for some and difficult to extract for many.
The main course was yet another matching of lamb and the Cabernet family. From Bordeaux, we had a 2010 Chateau Peyzat. A wine from the renowned Teyssier portfolio and vines near to St Emilion, it was a blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. With the expected Bordeaux aromas, it was an attractive mix of spice and blue fruits with fine-grained tannins. The 2006 Jacob’s Creek Cabernet Sauvignon had regional cassis and mint notes but was a little on the ripe side at 14.5%.
There were two more Cabernet-based wines with the fantastic cheese. The Yalumba Cigar is a Society favourite and the 2009 vintage was preferred by many. It still carried fresh oak but lacked some varietal definition. It had excellent Cabernet tannins. The last red was a Tapanappa Whalebone Cabernet (65%) Shiraz (35%) from Wrattonbully. A rich wine at 15.1% alcohol, it seemed more Shiraz than Cabernet. It was well balanced and complex with none of the jam or heat one might expect from that degree of ripeness. The tannins led the wine to a soft, round finish.
4 February 2020 CoTY Cook-off 1 CoTD Grant Montgomery
Thanks to Steve Liebeskind for the food review and Chilly Hargrave for the wine review.
Today we started the COTY cook-off season with Grant Montgomery in the kitchen and over 50 people rolled into the Society’s room eagerly waiting for the fine fare with anticipation.
We were treated to two starters:
Duck pancakes (Peking duck style) – what a hit these were and as good as you get in a restaurant. Beautifully presented duck with spring onion, hoisin sauce, coriander and cucumber all on a thin pancake and tied together by a chive.
Pate with onion chutney on a toast round – this was pretty and a refreshing canape. The pate was quenelled and sat on the onion and toast.
Grant replicated his lunch of 2019 being a lobster tail in a shell sitting on two prawns, noodle birds nest and two strips of nori paper for colour. This was accompanied by snow peas, roast potatoes and a sauce of reduced fish and chicken broth with butter and lemon myrtle.
The main came to the table and looked colourful and presented beautifully on the plate – all were excited.
The general consensus was that it was a quality lunch and well deserved being in the cook-off. The hero was the lobster and prepared by having it thawed and place in the oven with garlic and butter for a short time and then torched before serving. This created a lovely redness on the flesh and was complemented with salmon roe and a sprig of dill. The prawns had their heads attached for presentation and the noodles gave extra texture.
Majority of attendees were very happy and praised how the meat was cooked although some members commented that theirs was overcooked and that they found it challenging to remove the meat from the shell. The potatoes and snow peas were terrific. The sauce presented to accompany the seafood was creative and looked good on the plate.
One of the best cheeses presented in quite some time. This was even more relevant in light of the recent passing of the quintessential former Cheesemaster and life member Ross MacDonald. He would have been so excited and happy with the high standard of the Montgomery Cheddar that was served today. The cheddar had lovely colour, texture with a delicate creaminess. No salad or other accompaniment came with the cheese, but it was good enough to carry it off.
Excellent lunch to start the new year, a new decade and the COTY cook-off.
To finish, the Society toasted the lives of members Bob McCann and Ross MacDonald plus that of Society friend and restaurant bon vivant Tony Bilson who passed away since our last lunch. A number of members stood up and spoke of the quality of these men and what they meant to them and the Society. They will certainly be missed but always remembered.
The aperitif wines at today’s lunch were an excellent opportunity to understand the longevity of Hunter Valley Semillon. From the highly regarded 2007 vintage, we tasted the Tyrrells Belford and the Vat 1. Individual preference depended on whether on like the fuller style of the Belford or the citrus intensity of the Vat 1. Nonetheless, they both drank beautifully.
With the exceptional fish course, we tasted a young Chablis and a mature Australian Chardonnay. The Louis Boileau Montmains 1er Cru showed the whetstone mineral aromas of the region, while the palate was slightly blowsy with lower acidity than expected. The winemakers of Chablis have a slight dilemma with the warming climate. Their grapes can be harvested at higher potential alcohols and consequently lower acidity. It’s interesting that the relevant authorities to their South are debating removing Chablis from the Burgundy appellation. Perhaps they are concerned about competition going forward.
The second Chardonnay was a 2010 Tapanappa from the Piccadilly Valley. This is Brian Croser’s label with fruit drawn from his vineyards surrounding the old Petaluma winery. It was starting to lose fruit and didn’t have the structure or intensity to carry the oak - excellent oak though it was.
With the cheese, we moved into some big Australian Shiraz. There seems to a certain love/hate relationship in the Society for these wines. Loved by some and hated by others. The 2012 Bests Bin 1 Shiraz at 14.5% alcohol was unusually big for such a good year. Normally about 1% lower, the wine showed both ripe and unripe characters typical of large canopy vineyards. The grapes for this wine generally come from various Great Western growers rather than the estate which is renowned for its Bin 0.
The second wine was a 2008 Kaesler Old Vine Shiraz. It was produced from two estate vineyards of average age in excess of 50 years. Its alcohol was labelled 15.5%, but may well have been higher. A wine of its time, it had stewed, jammy characters with tough tannins. Its portiness was perhaps an appropriate wine for the excellent Montgomery cheddar.
10 December - Bill Alexiou-Hucker
Thanks to James Hill for the food review.
Our last lunch of the year saw almost half our membership turn up to enjoy the fare of our Foodmaster Bill Alexiou assisted by Voula Price with James Hill on initial canapés.
James provided some of our canapés today the first homemade tarama served in filo cups topped with half a black olive.
The second, served on spoons, fava (split yellow peas) topped with pickled sardines, capers and onion.
We couldn’t pass a lunch without some Iggy’s bread so we saw Iggy’s ficelle topped with tarama and some of the pickled sardines.
Bill and Voula sent out croutons topped with thyme, sautéed mushrooms and Danish feta then followed by a 120 (who’s counting) filo triangles filled with ricotta, Parmesan and feta.
All canapés were a good match for our aperitif wines.
Our main course today consisted of a tapenade, feta and olive crusted lamb rack. This was cooked over potato which soaked up the juices of the lamb.
The lamb was cooked perfectly pink and moist with a salty crust and some mint yoghurt that matched well with stuffed tomato (yemista) which was surprisingly sweet and stuffed green pepper (papoutsakia) that was baked with a bechamel sauce.
Flavours were perfectly integrated, and it was a very good meal for a service of such large numbers
Bill is noted for making sure we don’t go home hungry and he didn’t disappoint today.
James Healey presented Holy Goat Brigid’s Well from Castlemaine Victoria. It’s a handcrafted pasteurised organic goat’s milk cheese and an ‘ashed’ version of the “La Luna Ring”. It has a full-bodied interior delivering a creamy citrus flavour.
Bill chose to serve this with Christmas cake, moist and full of flavour that was a perfect match to the cheese.
Spencer Ferrier introduced a guest today, Rob Forsyth, who supplies most of the coffee we have during the year. Today we had Ethiopian Guji which Spencer thought was coffee of the year. It showed fruit notes with good acidity.
President Peter Kelso introduce a guest today, Trevor Gibson, President of the Federation of Wine and Food Societies of Australia. Trevor presented members James Hill and Michael Staniland with certificates and medals for meritorious service to our society.
Following lunch, presentations were made to our team at the Royal Exchange Club.
In the kitchen chef Leo, chef Amish and kitchen hand Ashish, front of house Rex Manager Ida and Gabriela.
In closing lunch, Peter asked us to raise our glasses with the traditional toast to the Society.
Our first lunch in 2020 is Tuesday, February 4th.
3 December 2019 - CsoTD Grant and Susi Montgomery
Grant and Susie Montgomery were out chef team today for the final mixed lunch of the year. The numbers attending were hearty given the expectation of excellent food and wine.
Two canapés from our duo starting with a pea soup topped with creme fraiche. There was intense sweetness from the peas which again underscores what a wonderful and underrated vegetable it is. This was followed by pastry boats filled with confit tomatoes and olives topped with an onion, anchovy and butter sauce.
The first thought that came to mind when the plate was placed in front of me was how enticing was this meal. The presentation was superb. The centrepiece of the dish was the lobster tail with a prawn standing guard either side. This centrepiece was topped with grilled fish skin. This was accompanied by beautifully crispy potatoes, sugar snaps and some interesting baked rice noodles. The latter had been slightly browned and added an interesting and intriguing crunchy characteristic to the meal. Sauce was also provided which was made from fish and vegetable stock, garlic, bush tomatoes, cream and butter. A fantastic meal. The lobster tail, or at least the one I enjoyed, was not overdone nor underdone, it lifted perfectly from the shell to enjoy its sweet meat.
For information, the lobster was Caribbean spiny, and the prawns were Australian green king.
James Healey was again reigning over the cheese selection and presentation. Today, few of us were familiar with the Mimolette Vielle from maker, Isigny. This cow’s milk cheese comes in an amazing bowling ball shape. It had a few of us wanting to practice our bowling skills across the dining room. The cheese historically comes from the French city of Lille and is a most unusual cheese, not least of which because of its bright orange interior. The cheese is very nutty in flavour, but some found it a little an uninteresting despite the striking orange colour which comes from a natural additive used in production.
Spencer Ferrier announced the end of his worldwide coffee tour for 2019. Today, Spencer sourced a single-origin Australian coffee from Harris Farm, which was medium-bodied with a lingering sweetness on the palate. A good Australian coffee. For tea drinkers, Spencer served a Darjeeling which he described as a summer tea.
The coffee project for 2020 is to define a ‘Society coffee’.
Whilst munching on canapes we had the Salinger 2010 (which Chilly Hargrave had more than a passing hand in its production) and the Ca’ dei Zago Processo 2017. The former was showing its age in the form of its golden colour but it had retained good acidity and some bread yeast characteristics. The latter had been a controversial wine when served in the past because of its very low sugar profile and some had taken advantage of the Campari on the table to add some flavour to it.
With the main, we enjoyed a Yabby Lake 2015 Chardonnay from Mornington Peninsula and a Curly Flat 2012 Chardonnay from the Macedon area. The Yabby Lake was flinty with excellent purity of flavour and appropriate acid balance. It was a marvellous example of a great Australian Chardonnay. The Curly Flat in comparison had more obvious oak and whilst it had bright acidity, the generous fruit may have been little over the top for some. Most commentators preferred the Yabby Lake.
The cheese had us move on to Northern Rhône wines with the Laurent Combier "Cuvée L’ Crozes-Hermitage 2012 and the Maxime Graillot Domaine des Lises 'Equis' Cornas. Easy to say in retrospect but both peppery Rhone Syrah.
The Crozes-Hermitage was showing its seven years of age with some leather characteristics in its medium-bodied style. It had a good degree of complexity but seemed a little hot surprisingly, given that there was no oak and the wine was matured in the more trendy egg-shaped concrete vats.
The Cornas, whilst the more solid wine, had relatively lighter tannins with a distinct, peppery overtone that is associated with northern Rhônes.
A delightful lunch today from Grant and Susi and reminiscent of the quality from the late-year lunch they provided in 2018.
26 November 2019 - CoTD Nick Reynolds
Food review by James Tinslay and wine review by Chilly Hargrave
The final wine lunch of the year was upon us and in the kitchen today was one of our accomplished providers Nick Reynolds. Nick was assisted by another accomplished provider in James Hill. What a pair and the theme was duck.
The canapés began with a duck consomme prepared by Paul Thorne. Not content to use cloudy stock, Paul fines the duck stock with egg whites to produce a beautifully clear and tasty starter for the meal. Paul had lightly dusted some orange zest across each portion which added an extra level of complexity and zing.
The other canapé was of course duck but duck pate served on pastry shells. I recall the pate was a blend of three different types. It was strongly flavoured as duck should be.
As always with Nick, there was a lot going on with the presentation of the dish. The centrepiece was confit duck maryland, served with a duck spring roll and a whole duck egg. This was served on top of lentils cooked in red wine and chicken stock. The photo above will tell you all you need to know. The presentation was pleasing to the eye and the taste terrific.
The bread was supplied by James Hill and of course, it was Iggys, but specifically, the incredible looking large round version where individual ‘rounds’ can be ripped off to enjoy with the butter, which was made by Nick in his kitchen.
James Healey served us a Beaufort cheese today, another one of the Society’s favourites. This cheese from the Rhône Alps is beautifully firm with a creamy texture and it was much-loved.
Coffee from Spencer Ferrier today was Ethiopian Guji, an area that borders Sidamo and Yirgacheffe, both coffees we have had before. Full flavoured with sweet overtones.
In celebration of his birthday, Roger McGuiness treated us to a large volume of Piper Heidsieck. Given the speed with which we were removing corks, it was a generosity that was very much appreciated. Following the rapid evaporation of the Champagne we presented the 2014 Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon. We had the Belford version of this vintage last week which was showing some development. The Vat 1, however, is still in its early stages and will be good drinking over the next 4 or 5 years.
Nick described the sensational duck dish that he was producing, so the search was on to find matching wines. Over the last few months, we have had a number of examples of Pinot Noir, considered the ideal match for duck. Often in blind tastings, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese have been mistaken for Pinot Noir. For this lunch we have gone down that path with three wines from the Piemonte and three from Tuscany.
The first wine was an odd one out being a 2014 Barbera d’Alba. Made by renowned producer Elvis Cogno it had complex aromas of red fruits with a palate showing similar fruit and the expected soft tannins and bright acidity. It will probably be at its best over the next 12 months. For many, it was the ideal match of the day. Second up was a Massolino Langhe Nebbiolo from the same vintage. Here we saw the typical pale colour and rose petal aromas, and again some maturation. The Nebbiolo tannins were starting to soften and the fruit flavours were rounding.
The third wine from the Piemonte was quite unique. The 2011 Aldo Contorno Langhe Rosso is a blend of 80% Freisa (an ancient local variety) and 10% of each of Cabernet and Merlot. The name is derived from the Latin to suggest its aroma of wild strawberry. It is variously suggested that Freisa shares parentage with Nebbiolo while others say that it IS the parent of Nebbiolo. The recognisable grainy tannins were present while the fruit flavours were still lively. An extremely well-made wine with excellent balance of oak.
Moving south to Tuscany we first tasted another wine with Cabernet support. The 2010 Tenuta di Ghizzano Veneroso IGT has 30% Cabernet blended with the 70% Sangiovese. Like many of the Super Tuscans, the large vineyards of the estate are in the coastal region of Tuscany. It showed dark cherries, plums and herbs on the nose with a wonderful harmony of Sangiovese cherry fruit and the black currant of Cabernet with its chalky tannins. A fully organic vineyard, it shows what can be achieved with great attention to detail from a great vintage.
The final two wines were both 100% Sangiovese from Isole e Olena. The Cepparello is the flagship of their large portfolio. It was first produced in the 1970s and carries the descriptor IGT because at the time Chianti had to have a certain proportion of the local white varieties. Two vintages were tasted, the 2012 and the masked 2009. Both had a large input of pencil shavings oak aromas reflecting 18 months maturation in a combination of French and American oak barriques, one-third new. The 2012 wine (scored 97 points by Antonio Galloni) was beautifully poised with a mix of rich, dark, savoury fruits and silky tannins - still a young wine. The oak flavours certainly carried the palate and the wine was much appreciated by those liking this style. The older vintage was from the hot year 2009. This wine showed significant development with tannins softening, fruit moving away from the savoury notes of the 2012 and the oak characters starting to fade.