Dinner party wines

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When Mary and John come round for dinner, you know it’s going to be a great evening. Foodies and winos like ourselves we all enjoy some of the hedonistic pleasures of life.
I know also that I have to make some inspired choices re wines – they both love wine and, John particularly knows his stuff. They love French wines, Spanish too, and are great customers of the Mendoza family – that’s the Alfaz del Pí based, Bodegas Enrique Mendoza, as well as Llíber’s Pepe Mendoza Casa Agrícola.
Well the French wine was covered nicely – we’d bought a bottle of Bergerac wine, specifically for the next time they came to dinner, a couple of years ago when we were holidaying in situ and, typically and to our children’s chagrin as usual, visited a chateau. The Mendoza connection was also catered for – I’d also been saving a bottle of one of the limited production Pepe Mendoza Casa Agrícola wines.
However – it was going to be a long night, so we needed reinforcements and we know that John and Mary are always open to trying new wines, as are we. So, I selected from a supermarket a Cava that we haven’t tried and I correctly guessed they hadn’t either. Plus, a white wine, again from a supermarket about which I’d heard glowing reports, but hadn’t yet had the chance to sample. Not forgetting, of course, a dessert wine, local and luscious!
Sorted! Oh, and the food? Well, Claire and I combined forces – she made a super salad, copied as far as we could remember from that which we’d enjoyed in a lakeside ‘guingette’ on our recent holiday in Perigueux, topped with BBQed (by myself) fresh prawns marinated in oil and garlic, which followed chilli oil basted haloumi cheese, also grilled on the BBQ.
Main course was BBQed medallions of pork, marinated in Claire’s delicious secret marinade with my seared leeks, cut lengthways and thyme dotted setas. Dessert was a strawberry and fig tart, before which we’d enjoyed some excellent French and German cheese.
Told you we’re all foodies!
Juvé & Camps is a wholly reliable cava producer. I selected their 100% Xarel.lo, Essential Brut Reserva and wasn’t disappointed, Xarel.lo is one of the three main cava varieties and has recently been appreciated even more, with wineries in Cataluña making still versions, which I also highly recommend. There aren’t may monovarietal cavas, but when you see one – buy it! In some ways it’s like a blanc de blanc Champagne, made with Chardonnay. Pale gold coloured in the glass, the wine has presence on the palate after at least 15 months ‘en rima’ and a good medium length finish. There is a little papaya on the flavour though the aroma and taste of orchard fruits dominate. I’ll definitely buy this again.
Our white wine hails from Lanzarote where the volcanic soils of the Canary Isles really make a pleasing mineral contribution to their Malvasía white wines. El Grifo, made by El Grifo SA is a lovely wine which has a dash of salinity on the palate as well as that hard to define minerality. Perfectly dry with an understated citrus flavour the wine went very well with the prawns.
For the main course I opted for Ortus de Chateau Belingard 2015 AOC Côtes de Bergerac. This classic Bordeaux blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon had been a little green when we’d tasted it in 2018. I thought time resting in my ‘cellar’ would do it some good and I was delighted to see that I was right. Lovely violet aromas escaped the decanter into which I poured the wine and hour before dinner. Later, when drinking it with the pork there were forest fruits on nose and palate, the tannin that had made it a little harsh two years ago had mellowed perfectly. Its 18 months in oak (French, bien sur) has amalgamated well with the 3 years or so in bottle and the result is a really stylish Bordeaux-esque wine. Lovely.
We’re Francophiles in our house, preferring the cheese course to follow the main, with dessert as the final plate not the other way round, which I find mystifying to be honest. We love French cheeses too and opted for Langres and the deliciously runny Saint Félicien, plus a nod to our German friends with an equally runny Cambazola.
The wine of choice was Pepe Mendoza’s bright, fresh, elegant and tasty El Veneno Monastrell con Raspa. Kit’s a fascinating wine made from Monastrell grapes growing on old vines in rock ridden vineyards offering little sustenance. These hardy vines are acclimatised, each year producing excellent, perhaps 2kg of fruit, maybe less. Whole bunches are fermented, 50% of them with their storks and all, and the wine is then finished in 500 litre French oak barricas. It’s crunchy and juicy, very Mediterranean in style, 14% abv but quite light, almost Burgundian on the palate. It’s another classic from this bodega which specialises in minimum intervention, limited production wines – when it’s gone, it’s gone. Another may be made the next year, but it won’t be the same because the vineyard’s exclusive micro-climate will have been different. It’s unique!
Finally, for our fruit tart dessert I turned to M de Alejandria – a super, delicious and luscious sweet wine made in the style of an Ice Wine, where the grapes are frozen after harvesting (Ice Wines are made in cold countries where the grapes are frozen naturally on the vine). This freezing intensifies the sweetness and the aromas, yet M isn’t at all a cloying too-sweet wine. The balance between sweetness and acidity is just right and it added a grapey, slightly orange zest character to the fruit of the tart.
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