Last week, I co-hosted a Provencal Dinner and wine tasting, ably assisted by Jason Yapp and the genial Chef-Patron of The Ambassador, Clive Greenhalgh.
For a nominal £10 fee, guests were free to partake in a 15 wine, tasting tour of Provence. With the bottles spread down The Ambassador’s long bar and Jason and I on dispensing duties, it made an enjoyable start to a cracking evening. We met lots of new people as well as some old familiar faces and it was great fun sharing the aromas and flavours of the region’s assorted wines with an inquisitive and appreciative audience. With such a diverse range of grape varietals including Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Marsanne and Vermentino in the whites and Cinsault, Syrah, Folle Noir and Mourvèdre amongst the reds, there was a wine and style for everyone and that’s not including the three different rosés on show.
All the wines showed well on the night and here are details of my 3 favourites:
Cassis: Clos Sainte Magdeleine 2008 - £16.75
This is always an interesting wine. Clairette, Marsanne and Ugni Blanc give a wine with a herb/pine aromatic nose and mouth-filling citrus flavours with an intriguing oily texture that carries the developing flavours that last for a long finish.
Côtes du Luberon: Château la Canorgue 2009 - £12.25
Grenache Noir, Cinsault and Syrah form lovely red berry aromas that continue on the palate. Crisp and refreshing, it is a real taste of summer in a glass.
Côtes de Provence: Domaine Richeaume Cuvée Tradition 2008 - £15.50
This has a fantastic nose, full of fruit, spice and herbs. On the palate, the Syrah provides the warming richness with a spicy core. Cabernet Sauvignon contributes to the backbone of mouth-chomping berries and robust, yet yielding tannins as well as a lingering touch of mint.
Following the tasting, there was an option to stay for a three course Provencal feast for a bargain £25. There were six wines available to purchase from the tasting to consume with the dinner. My table opted for a Coteaux d’Aix: Domaine Oullières Blanc 2009 (£9.25) to go with the generously portioned Pissaladière with Cornish Sardines. It’s salty, savoury flavours were well matched with the fleshy, oily sardines.
For the main course of Rump of Lamb with Olive Oil mash, peppers & lemon thyme, I just had to go back to the minty Domaine Richeaume. Hats off to Clive for a superb dish. The lamb was cooked to perfection and the Domaine Richeaume’s complex flavours combined well with the tender meat and the delicious, rich mash.
Forgoing apricot tart we all shared a French cheeseboard. A glass of Côtes du Ventoux: Château Valcombe 2005 (£9.95) was the perfect all-rounder to finish with. Plummy fruit, light spiciness and rounded tannins lead to a smooth finish and there was still enough dry, acidity to cut into the stronger cheeses and leave one wanting more.
Overall, it was a great evening and although officially ‘work’ it never seems as such when you have such a relaxed, fun crowd sharing the experience. From the favourable comments on the night, it really reminded me of how interesting and educational these events can be.
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The Ambassador, 55 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QL.
Tel: 020 837 0009