September saw the amazing Luiz Hara – aka The London Foodie – conjure up some incredible Japanese food for an evening of feasting, great coversation and most importantly, great wine-pairing education from wine expert, Christina Pickard, about non-red Bordeaux Wines under £20.
When an Englishman thinks of Bordeaux wine the word ‘claret’ is immediately conjured. But it’s not our fault; the association is engrained in our history – and much deeper than most realise.
Indeed, the popularity of Bordeaux wines this side of The Channel increased dramatically following the wedding, on Whit Sunday in 1152 at a castle in Poitiers, of Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Not only was it a marriage to confirm one of the most potent unions in European history, but for the following three centuries the French region’s favourite grape juice – clairet – became it’s most popular export to England.
Clairet – a dark pinky-purple, rosé-type wine – was Bordeaux’s leading seller up until the 18th Century, and thanks to its vast consumption by English guzzlers the Anglicisation of ‘claret’ stuck. And, such was its universal appeal and association with the hue of red, after too much drinking there might be fisticuffs resulting in a bloody nose – a spilling of another form of claret.
Even now, with the history book returned to its dusty shelf, red ‘claret’ is synonymous with Bordeaux. Perhaps it comes as little surprise, then, to learn that of the region’s 700 million bottles produced every vintage (the most in France) some 89 per cent is red.
What a delight, therefore, to attend a supper club hosted by Luiz Hara – aka The London Foodie – in mid September to be fed Japanese food and educated about the other 11 per cent of Bordeaux’s wines.
The Brazilian-born former investment banker swapped spreadsheets and risk for rice paper and a whisk three years ago. And now Le Cordon Bleu-trained Luiz’s supper clubs are notorious on the capital’s underground dining circuit.
To accompany the chef’s Asian delicacies the evening was co-presented by charming and genial drinks expert Christina Pickard, who was armed with seven non-red Bordeaux wines – all easily available and under £20 a bottle.
As canapés of pan-friend leek gyoza dumplings and shichimi-flavoured popcorn were handed out upon my arrival, so too were glasses of Réserve de Sours Sparkling Rosé NV and Château Le Bernet Bellevue 2011, a white which, as Christina said: “is perfect as an aperitif”.
The former, beautiful bright salmon in hue and with summer berry fruits in smell, is available from Marks and Spencer at £19.99 a bottle and the latter, equipped with jasmine and grapefruit aromas, from Sainsburys for a tenner less.
There followed another crisp rosé – Château Méaume 2011 (from Majestic, £7.49, and online at FromVineyardsDirect.com, £7.35) – and a more rounded and soft white – Les Amants de Mont-Pérat 2010 (The Wine Society, £9.25) – in combination with our starters: salmon sashimi, South American style; ‘Ankimo’ monkfish liver with shredded daikon and Ponzu dressing; and deconstructed sushi.
Christina, a smily New Yorker, had selected very well, but the true hit was to come, served as it was with the main course. To augment the teppanyaki of rib-eye steak (marinated for two days in miso, sake and mirin) we were given a typical Bordeaux wine – a red, of course. But the Château Fonguillon 2009 (Tesco, £7.99), while chocolatey and yet fruity, was not the top choice of the evening.
That honour was saved for Château Roquefort’s Roquefortissime 2010 (Waitrose, £12.99), which was paired with sea bream rice, aubergine miso soup, and peach and daikon salad. Delicious with the fish, in particular, it was creamy, oaky and well rounded, and since the meal I’ve already ordered a case.
Additionally, there was one final surprise when we were offered a splash of Ginestet Sauternes 2009 (ASDA, £10) with our flourless dark chocolate cake with whiskey prunes and green tea ice cream – a lovely dessert wine to conclude.
It was a highly illuminating evening, shining a light on the seldom-championed varieties away from the region’s claret and showed that it might be time to throw out the history book when it comes to Bordeaux wine.
By Oliver Pickup
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To find out more about Everyday Bordeaux Wines, please visit www.bordeaux.com/uk/wines/selection