by Emmanuel Cadieu
Our Deputy Head Sommelier, Emmanuel recently came back from a trip to the Douro Valley, Portugal.
The Douro Valley, or Valley of Gold (De Ouro meaning Gold in Portuguese) is certainly one of the most unique and exciting wine regions to visit. Classified in 2001 as a Unesco World Heritage site, the region offers not only stunning wines but also fantastic landscapes. The roads in the Douro takes you along the river and the hills, where you can observe the Solcacos, original stoned terrasses and Patamares, allowing a partial mechanisation of the vineyard, planted on schist and granite. The region is composed from (west to east) three sub-regions: Baixa Corgo, Cima Corgo, Douro Superior.
The Methuen Treaty, known as the ‘Port Wine Treaty’ and set in 1703, encouraged Port to be produced and sold in large quantities. The treaty stipulated that the duty on Portuguese wine would be lower than duty on French wines, encouraging and establishing trading relationships between England and Portugal.
The region is of course mainly known for tremendous fortified wines, but the quality of the still and dry expressions grows year on year, and I came across fantastic examples of still whites and reds during the trip.
Port is a fortified wine, meaning that the fermentation is stopped by the addition of a grape spirit (called aguardiente) at 77%, which kills the active yeast cells, and therefore keeps the residual sugar in the wine.
The grapes are traditionally crushed by foot in traditional lagares (granite or cement vessel), before the fermentation process. Finally, the Aguardiente is added to stop the fermentation and prevent sugars turning into alcohol.
Historically, Port wines were aged in Portlodges in Vila Nova de Gaia, being shipped down the river to the coast with Rabelos, traditional boats used specifically for this purpose. Access to the vineyards has eased considerably over the past 10 years; constructing roads and the creation of the railway were just a couple of developments made to make it much easier to access the vineyards and transport the grapes.
I’ve visited 8 producers in total. I first started with a complete trip with the Douro Boys.
The Douro Boys are a group of five of the best winemakers from the Douro: Niepoort, Quinta do Vallado, Quinta do Crasto, Quinta do Vale D. Maria and Quinta do Vale Meao. Each of those producers have their personnal styles, and they join forces in order to showcase their wines and educate wine lovers about the Douro Valley, organising masterclasses, tastings and seminars.
Dirk Niepoort, whose family has been making wine since 1842, is now based at Quinta do Napoles and Quinta do Carril. Originally from Holland, he’s now the fifth generation.
While he keeps the tradition of making great Ports, he also produces other fantastic expressions, continuously looking for the best terroirs to make wines that inspire him. For instance, Coche (white) and Charmes are produced in the Burgundian style, and a million miles away from what we have in mind when talking about Douro wines. He is one of the most talented winemakers but also one of the most provocative from the Douro Valley. Niepoort is also famous for making Garrafeira Port, maturing Port into demijohns over a few decades.
Discover the other wineries in the next part of my Sommelier’s Diaries!
Let’s celebrate the first day of spring with a sharp burst of flavours.
Head Chef, Marcus Verberne and his team have introduced a fish main course around Peterhead cod, lobster, tarragon and barbe de frate.
This is an equilibrist exercise achieved by Marcus and his team. They’ve managed to balance the vivid bitter-sweet anise flavours of tarragon, the coarser malty lobster, the rounder succulent cod, and the crunchy salty barbe.
Now the challenge is for our Sommeliers to bring a wine pairing which will perfectly complements this flavoursome creation!
So we’ve put Terry, our expert Head Sommelier, on the job. Now it’s your turn to taste and share your thoughts…
Terry, our Head Sommelier suggests:
2015 Sancerre, Les Caillottes, François Cotat @ £11.00 per glass
‘Les Caillottes’ (little stones) is a pure, refined and slightly more classic expression of Sauvignon from the foothills of the Les Montes Damnes vineyard; with notes of freshly cut grass and lively citrus fruit that matches so well the tarragon notes of the dish, the delicate aromatics simply shine through.
Combining the laser-cut minerality of Chavignol’s chalky soils with the salinity of the dish and the savoury complexity of Cotat’s house style, this is a serious wine that deserves collectors’ attention and will just highlight the raw quality of the ingredients been used.
This week, Head Chef Marcus Verberne brings together horse mushrooms, wild garlic and potato mousseline with a delicious roasted fillet of Hebridean halibut. With a selection of refined soft textures for your palate, this dish is the perfect accompaniment to the Club’s collection of delicate, aromatic wines. Our chefs will be serving the halibut as a main course in the Clubroom where our sommeliers will be waiting, bottle in hand…
As we know, one of Marcus’ passions is sourcing flavoursome ingredients that are slightly off the beaten track. Well, this story is a very good example if you wish to know Marcus a little better…
“As a child back in New Zealand, we lived on a hill above a grass airstrip. As a family we’d walk down the hill to the airstrip from time to time to collect horse mushrooms for breakfast.
They start out with a closed cap like a button mushroom but as they grew, they’d open out into a large flat field mushroom up to the size of a dinner plate.
My mother would cook them in garlic butter for breakfast with fried eggs. They were so big, she could only fit one at a time in the frying pan and 2-3 mushrooms would be enough for the whole family… There were six of us.”
We invite you to click on the link below to see quite how large these mushrooms can reach… they are certainly not something you would find in your local supermarket. Do not panic however, Marcus has only selected button-size horse mushrooms for this dish!
Terry, our Head Sommelier suggests:
2016 Chardonnay, Judd Vineyard, Ten Minutes By Tractor @ £11.00 per glass
Ten Minutes by Tractor is truly a pioneer in fine Chardonnay and Pinot, having made some of Australia’s most iconic wines in Mornington Peninsula since the early 2000s.
This is a truly unique style of Chardonnay, reminiscent of fine white Burgundies with lightly toasted, waxy oak on the nose. The classic matchstick notes & hints of brioche are very evident in the glass – characters that match the buttery aspect of the dish perfectly.
A full-bodied, yet carefully crafted and contained modern Chardonnay that has wonderful weight to support the meatiness of the Halibut.
67 Pall Mall hosted a unique opportunity for Members to embark on a 12-vintage Masterclass of Château Montrose, spanning 40 years. Founded in 1815, and named after the pink layer of heather that once covered the estate, four families have built the story of one of the finest wines in Bordeaux. Now owned by the Bouygues brothers, the 2nd classified growth located in Saint-Estèphe is famous for producing some of the Médoc’s longest lasting wine.
CEO at Château Montrose, Hervé Berland, led a comprehensive tasting of the different vintages. Our Deputy Head Sommelier, Emmanuel says: ‘it is a rare opportunity to taste Château Montrose from 1975 up to 2016, and while we usually have one or two favourites, it seemed challenging tonight for our Members to pick only one or two as the quality was so high across the board’.
Visit our Club Events section to discover new opportunities to taste fine wines from Médoc and other origins!
“Sorry, but I’ve got to make him jealous”, my neighbour at the table told me, before quickly snapping the forest of Zaltos that stood before us. On the foot of each glass was written the shorthand for what was about to be poured: G16, G09, G06, S09, S02, S95. She smiled innocently and said, “that’s what photos are for, right?”
The recipient of her photo was a devoted fan of the G and S we were about to drink, which are indeed some of Tuscany’s most enviable wines: Guidalberto and Sassicaia, the two flagship reds from the pioneering Tenuta San Guido.
Nearly 70 years ago, Mario Incisa della Rocchetta planted Cabernet Sauvignon vines on the family farm in Bolgheri, close to the Tuscan coast. His objective was to create a wine with the same thoroughbred credentials as the racehorses for which the San Guido estate was already renowned. The choice of variety was inspired by the great clarets of Bordeaux, whose gravel soils resembled those at San Guido – the name Sassicaia means ‘stony ground’ – but nobody had tried growing Cabernet Sauvignon in Tuscany before.
At another table, on her debut visit to 67 Pall Mall, Mario’s granddaughter Priscilla now stood up to address the St James Room, full to capacity on a wet February evening. The initial vintages were not well received, she told us, but Mario remained convinced of the quality potential. For nearly 20 years the wine was made with no commercial intention, but when the 1968 vintage was finally released to the market, it soon gained a reputation as one of Italy’s greatest reds.
So much so that in 1994 Sassicaia was awarded its own bespoke appellation – the only Italian wine to be so honoured, and a vindication of the vision of Priscilla’s grandfather. Guidalberto was introduced as a second wine in 2000, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that is made to mature earlier than its senior sibling.
Alongside a four-course dinner, three vintages of Guidalberto and Sassicaia were to be served, after a palate-whetting aperitivo of Gimmonet champagne. First came Le Difese 2016 in magnum, the only wine San Guido make with Sangiovese, the paterfamilias of Tuscan grapes that powers Chianti. It constitutes 30% of the blend, with Cabernet Sauvignon making up the rest.
Pairing this with a salad of prosciutto, sour cherries and rocket was especially deft because the middle ingredient is a textbook descriptor for the flavour of Sangiovese. The youthful red fruit of Le Difese matched the sour cherries seamlessly, with its simple palate and light body setting the scene for what was to come next.
The second course paired meatballs and polenta with two vintages of Guidalberto – the 2016 and 2009, again from magnum. Both wines are a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot, matured for 15 months in French and American oak barrels. Consequently, the concentration and richness is a big step up from Le Difese, graduating from featherweight to welterweight, and fully meriting its heartier accompaniment.
Guidalberto 2016 is spicy and fragrant with bittersweet blackcurrant fruit, but a lightness of touch which perhaps reflects the coolness of the vintage. Whereas, at nearly ten years old, Guidalberto 2009 is intriguing and complete, with an earthy beetroot and fennel character that made a fine match for the succulence and brawn of the meatballs. The full body and supple tannins have reached the ideal stage for drinking now, with ample dark fruit supporting the emerging earthiness.
Comparing Guidalberto 2006 with its younger siblings reinforced that view. This vintage had perhaps begun to fade, with leather and liquorice and woodspice upstaging the receding fruit. Served with two generous hunks of venison, roasted to a perfect dark pink bloodiness, the wine risked being overwhelmed by the richness of the meat. Such indulgent ungratefulness was, however, immediately assuaged by the Sassicaia 2009 that was poured at the same time. The long shadow of Bordeaux was immediately apparent in its cedar, blackcurrant and sweet spice aromas. Like the best clarets, it is only just coming of age in its tenth year, with enough tannic heft and flavour concentration to age for another decade.
For the final course, a trio of Italian cheese was served family-style with the two headline acts of the night: Sassicaia 2002 and 1995. Both had achieved wonderful bottle-aged complexity, with the younger of the two all mushrooms and moss on the nose yet retaining vigorous fruit and grainy tannins on the palate, while the 1995 was earthier, with fruit that tasted dried and hung, and a ferrous element adding an almost carnivorous dimension to the length.
Strong parmesan, pecorino and gorgonzola were always going to be a challenging match with dry red of any quality, and their pungency and sharpness contrasted rather than complemented the wine. Perhaps one day, San Guido will make a Sauternes-style sticky to please this picky palate.
In the meantime, their reds have capably fulfilled the ambition to produce wines that bear comparison with the greatest Cabernets of Bordeaux – wines to inspire jealousy; true Tuscan thoroughbreds.
Richard Hemming MW is a wine writer, educator, and a Master of Wine based in London. He made his name when he started working with Jancis Robinson MW in 2008. This collaboration has led him to write for a number of high-profile publications such as Decanter, Financial Times and The Drinks Business. He is a 67 Pall Mall member, often found at the clubroom bar with a glass of northern Rhône Syrah nearby.
Our sous-chef Jason Hay, who has worked with Marcus since his time at ‘Roast’ in the Borough Market has come up with the star dish of this week’s menu update.
Beetroot and goats cheese tortelloni, beetroot and horseradish puree and wild herbs.
This is a beautiful elegant dish of sublime balance. The vibrant beetroot pasta is filled with creamy chevre goats cheese with a little lemon juice and zest to enhance its sharp, tangy character.
The puree, spiked with its old friend horseradish adds the sweetness. Garnished with crisp pickled candy beetroot for a fresh crunch and acidity and delicate wild herbs.
It is not just about delicious food. Beetroot is healthy too. It has showed it reduces blood pressure in hypertensive people, and results in a small improvement in endurance exercise performance. I am not making it up, you can check this on Wikipedia!
2011 Roero, La Val dei Preti, Matteo Correggia, Pinemonte, Italy @ £7.00 per glass
Yesterday we had the pleasure to have Fernando Remírez de Ganuza, Jose Ramon Urtasun and Jesus Mendoza from Bodegas Remírez de Ganuza in Rioja.
The winery was established by Fernando in the late 80’s in the village of Samaniego in the in Rioja Alavesa, which involved the buying and selling of former vineyards. He was 39 years old with no winemaking experience.
Over the years, new techniques have been introduced for crafting and ageing wines making Remírez de Ganuza both innovative and pioneering producers. Innovation has been a particular feature with new improvements being incorporated regularly to raise the quality of the wines produced.
These improvements include sorting tables, cold rooms and the use of new barrels for the ageing of the wines might be looking like common practices for the best quality producers nowadays, but was not common back in time in the region.
Our members had the privilege to try some amazing wines from the library stock of the winery, going back as far as ’94 which was poured out of a Magnum. The wines displayed the continuous thirst of progress in this winery, which was exemplified by the supreme quality of the wines made in the last decade.
Precision and freshness are key elements in their approach of wine-making, making sure that only the best grapes will be used and careful handling in the winery that will just highlight the quality of their raw material.
Trasnocho 2010 and Maria Remírez de Ganuza 2009 were just 2 of the highlights of the evening that our guest enjoyed, a very rare occasion to have them next to each other.
Plus something that our hosts were keeping as a surprise for our guests: a first time public tasting of their 2007 Blanco Reserva and the newest releases of the their whites wines.
We would like to thank Fernando, Jose Ramon and Jesus for this great experience.
Today is the day to find the frying pan, make a mess in the kitchen and indulge in a pancake or two… However, do join us in the Club today if this all seems a bit too much hard work. Marcus will be serving pancakes, served simply with lemon and a sprinkling of sugar.
Only at 67 Pall Mall can we use our expert team of sommeliers to pick a pairing with pancakes – a glass of 2015 Riesling Spätlese, Erdener Treppchen, Weingut Dr. Loosen.
This wonderful Riesling from Mosel is a classic, combining the residual sugar with a zingy acidity that provides perfect balance in the glass. This is the perfect pairing for a light style of dessert, and the delicate sweetness of the wine works in unison with the citrusy lemon and the dusting of sugar.
2015 Riesling Spätlese, Erdener Treppchen, Weingut Dr. Loosen £7.00 per glass
67 Pall Mall’s Jitka Auermüllerová emerged top of the leader board in what proved to be the most closely contested UK Ruinart Sommelier Challenge final to date.
With over 70 candidates from across the country applying for a place at the UK final, Jitka’s competition was fierce with some of the UK’s most knowledgeable sommeliers fighting for the top spot. The judging panel, comprising Ruinart’s Chef de Cave Frédéric Panaïotis, Ronan Sayburn MS (the Club’s Head of Wine) and last year’s winner Tony Lecuroux, whittled entries down to 30 finalists who competed in a blind tasting competition and then participated in Panaïotis’ Masterclass: ‘In Gas We Trust – Oxidation V Reduction’.
Panaïotis comments, “Jitka Auermüllerova, winner of the fourth edition of the UK Ruinart Sommelier Challenge, should be really proud of her performance”, and further adds, “On a personal note, I would like to dedicate the 2019 UK Ruinart Sommelier Challenge to wine world legend, Gerard Basset, who contributed so much to the previous three editions.” As a close friend of the Club, this dedication to Gerard adds even more gravitas to Jitka’s outstanding performance throughout the challenge.
Jitka is now set to join 15 other winning Sommeliers of the Ruinart Sommelier Challenge for an all-expenses paid, four-day educational trip to France in July, which will be hosted by Ruinart’s Chef de Cave, Frédéric Panaïotis.
“Wild garlic is one of the ingredients I most look forward to at the beginning of spring. I always get excited when I see the first daffodils in bloom as the wild garlic arrives at the same time.”
Our passionate Chef, Marcus Verberne is thrilled to bring wild garlic onto your plate. Spring came early this year, and this presents an exceptional opportunity to enjoy the first fresh British wild spices of the season.
This week, Marcus has introduced his ‘seared Isle of Mull hand-dived scallops, wild garlic and potato purée, black pudding’ creation to the Members’ Lounge menu, available as a starter or main course from 1st March. The delicious Scottish scallops are delicately seared and served in their shell on fragrant wild garlic and potato purée. The irony and textured black pudding complements the scallops perfectly, without over-powering their subtle flavours.
The ethically-sourced scallops are hand-dived from the waters of the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. With the cold Atlantic waves and the warmer Gulf Stream, they couldn’t be sourced from a more perfect location. They are also famous for “flying” in the water when approached by a predator. Google it, it’s worth the show! Some say they are the best scallops in the world, but we’ll leave this to you…
Meanwhile, if you want to bring the spring flavours to your kitchen, here’s Marcus’ tip to source it: “you should be able to get it from your local farmers’ market, or why not pick it yourself; it grows along the banks of some rivers or streams. You will smell it before you see it!”.
2016 Chablis, 1er Cru Montmains, Domaine Pinson £9.00 per glass
“Citrusy, fresh chardonnay from Chablis, with small proportion of oak barrel ageing”
2016 Nascetta Di Novello, ‘Anas Cetta’, Elvio Cogno £ 7.00 per glass
“Nascetta is a native variety from Piedmont, Italy. At the nose delicate and perfumed yet quite full body at the palate”
2014 Grüner Veltliner Smaragd, Dürnsteiner Kellerberg, F. X Pichler
“Classic Grüner Veltliner from Wachau . Vibrant, fresh, precise but still able to match the scallops with garlic and black pudding”