Thursday, 22 March 2012

Dinner at Alba Restaurant  Wednesday 7th March 2012

Nic & Pablo with Grant
I was joined on a Wednesday evening a couple of weeks ago by Pablo Montero, Export Manager and Nicholas Saelzer, Commercial Director of the Anakena Winery in Chile along with Catherine Hill from Stratford Wines, their UK agents. I had selected a range of their wines to complement Grant Nethercott’s sublime cooking, and had agreed on them along with Julia Knight, Grant’s business partner and Alba’s maître d’hôtel. 

The Chilean visitors wanted us to show an additional couple of wines, so we ended up with 6 wines over a 4 course dinner.
The starter was a subtle little crab and avocado mousse sitting in a pool of punchy gazpacho. Two whites were served with this: Anakena Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc and the ONA white blend of Riesling, Viognier and Chardonnay. The room voted the ONA blend as the better match and I agree! It is a rich and complex wine with enough structure to both carry the gazpacho and not to overpower the delicate crab. The Sauvignon is a fine example of cool climate viticulture with good expression of fruit in a refreshing mouthful, clean and accurate. More robust than French Sauvignon and not as opulent as their New Zealand cousins.
We paired the fish course of sea bream fillet with confit chicken leg and girolle mushrooms with the INDO Chardonnay. There was an underlying smokiness to the dish which was complemented by the partial oak fermentation of this reserve wine.
Nic & Pablo strutting their stuff!
The main course was very interesting in that there were two distinct elements to the dish – confit leg of Cornish duck on a bed of crushed flageolet beans with smoked pancetta, lemon and thyme.  We served the INDO Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva and the ONA Pinot Noir alongside each other. On our table we were split down the middle! The problem was that the Cabernet went very well with the beans while the Pinot was a great match for the confit leg. Neither wine was completely successful with the whole dish so we voted for our favourite with the dish and ended up in a draw. Around the room the Pinot won through, but I suspect that was as a measure of quality rather than food matching!
The dessert of a perfect mini crème brulée flavoured with vanilla, served alongside spiced pineapple and passion fruit ice cream, was matched with the Noble Late Harvest Viognier. This is a botrytis rich wine which is briefly oaked. The acidity was a lovely match to the pineapple and passion fruit while its smooth rich peachy fruit ran nicely alongside the delectable crème brulée. Only 60% of the wine has noble rot so it does not overpower and become too honeyed – a style I particularly like and one which is well suited to this kind of light dessert, rich yet low in sugar.

Overall the wines were a big success and everyone seemed to have enjoyed it! Watch out for Anakena promotion in store at the Penryn warehouse in April!

Mike Maguire