Wines of Santorini

19 July @ 10:00 am 5:00 pm BST

Six top Santorini producers will be in London on Tuesday 19th July 2022 to showcase their wines. The event will begin with a walk-around tasting, followed by lunch featuring a food and wine pairing menu.

Morning session

Walk around tasting: 11.00-12.30

Lunch

12.45-14.30 (Places for lunch are limited and will be allocated on a first come first served basis.)

Afternoon session

Wines featured in the walk around tasting earlier in the day will also be available to taste after lunch from 14.30-15.30.

Strictly for trade and press. 

This event is not organised by The Sommelier Collective. By registering to attend you agree to share your details with the organisers.

RSVP

Vinoteca City

21 Bloomberg Arcade
London, EC4N 8AR United Kingdom
+ Google Map

And, the winner is…

The judges have deliberated and made their decision for the #koshufoodmatch competition. And, the winner is…

🥇 The overall winning dish is “Scottish mackerel fillet, marinated in rice wine vinegar & lightly torched” by Josie Phillips, The Macallan Estate

Koshu is a receptive/versatile wine that can accept even blue fish (mackerel) without any discomfort at all. A dish in which the body and flavour of Grace Koshu Hishiyama is well balanced with the richness of the pine nuts and rillettes, and the pleasant acidity of the Hishiyama can be expected to balance with the elderflower jelly. It is also interesting to note the spiciness (cumin in this case) in the delicacy of the Koshu, and the combination of yoghurt. A dish with a high degree of perfection.

🥈 The silver medal goes to “Cured seabass, pickled forced rhubarb, rhubarb juice & smoked oil” by Harry Cooper, FENN Restaurant.

This dish shows a good sense of the subtle astringency in the delicacy of Koshu and the smokiness that gives “Grace Koshu Hishiyama” its depth. A refined dish that adds a lingering root-like astringency behind the sharp acidity of rhubarb and smoked oil to the subtle flavours of sea bass.

Cured seabass, pickled forced rhubarb, rhubarb juice & smoked oil by Harry Cooper, FENN Restaurant

🥉 The bronze medal goes to “Handpicked Cornish crab, kohlrabi, apple and shellfish broth” by Max Manning, Allegra.

The delicate, gentle sweetness of the Cornish crab and kohlrabi is expected to harmonise with the subtle flavours of the Koshu. The combination of shellfish soup and seaweed with the wine’s minerality is also excellent. The textures of kohlrabi and apple and the fragrance of mint are also good accents.

Handpicked Cornish crab, kohlrabi, apple and shellfish broth by Max Manning, Allegra restaurant

Well done and congratulations to all. The Sommelier Collective would like to thank Grace Wines for hosting the competition for our members.

Find out more about this and other the competitions.

Time for something completely different

It is ten years since Ronan Sayburn, head of wine at 67 Pall Mall visited Grace Wine in Japan to learn about Koshu. And in that time he says they’ve gone from obscurity to award-winning status.

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Koshu has been cultivated in Japan for over 1,300 years and is a distinctive grape with pinkish-grey skin. It is a white vitis vinifera, now indigenous to Japan and produces quality, still, white wines.

Ronan Sayburn MS, head of wine, 67 Pall Mall

Grace Wine has been at the forefront of Koshu from Japan earning international acclaim and becoming an award-winning wine. They are very proud to have won Japan’s first ever gold medal in an international wine competition and have gone on to win gold medals for five consecutive years at the Decanter World Wine Awards.

Family owned since 1923 it is located 100km east of Tokyo in the prestigious Yamanashi prefecture in the Katsunuma village – an important village in the GI, renowned for its abundance of fruit trees.

Map locating Grace Wine in Japan.

Ayana Misawa is chief winemaker and fifth generation family member at Grace Wine, but being the owner’s daughter doesn’t come with any favours. Ayana took ten years to hone her skills and learn her craft working in the northern and southern hemisphere with an impressive selection of work placements and study periods including House of Arras in Tasmania (which shows in the Blanc de Blanc, see below).

The winery owns most of its own vineyard area, buying just a small amount of grapes from growers they have long established relationships with – essential, Ayana says, for their commitment to quality wine production.

Pergola system: Each bunch is protected by a small paper hat covered wax that allows water to run off and protects the grapes from heavy rainfall and subsequent damage in the typhoon season. Applied one by one, this meticulous work requires dedication and time to hand staple every single hat.

Japan has a difficulty in that vintage variation is huge with 160cm of snow falling in 2014 followed by typhoons in 2016, which was the most difficult year Ayana can remember. This makes winemaking more challenging than usual and another reason Ayana wanted to gain so much international experience before returning to the family estate.

Whilst Ayana describes the climate as continental, Sayburn was more confident in pointing out its sub-tropical micro-climate, with the whole region situated in a hot and humid geographical basin with clay soils where that the rain just runs off. Indeed, Ayana pointed to the similarity of heat during the growing season to the Hunter Valley in Australia – another region she spent time working harvest and learning her craft.

To find out more about Koshu and discover for ourselves the extraordinary range from one of Japan’s leading wineries we sat down with Ronan, and Ayana on Zoom, along with a group of fellow sommeliers to put his knowledge to the test. First we tasted the wines.

Tasting notes

2014 Grace Blanc de Blanc

A blanc de blanc grown on volcanic soil it displays minerality on the nose – a very saline wine. Whole bunch picked, as you’d expect, this wine was disgorged by hand in 2020. It had 60 months lees ageing and was described by Ayana as refreshing, bright and vibrant with brioche and nutty characteristics.

2020 Hishiyama Koshu

Koshu grapes – picked between the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon harvest – have thick skins, that protect from disease and botrytis, are a pinkish/grey colour. Notably for Koshu the grapes in this vineyard are grown on pergolas, with low yields and slow maturation. This wine has a flint noise, light aromas of yuzu, slightly lemon. Reminiscent of Albarino in flavour – without the high acidity. A fresh, delicate palate with phenolic character, despite no lees ageing. Will pair well with fish, sushi, rice.

2020 Misawa Vineyard Koshu

A single vineyard wine, not typical for Koshu, the Misawa vineyard, named after the family, is also VSP. Malolactic fermentation, 60% old/neutral oak, gives this wine a little more richness with delicate flavours of pear skin or agave on the palate and under ripe banana or mango. There is slightly more colour in this wine – which is understandable when you note the bunch size difference between pergola vs VSP. Battonage is kept to a minimum as it’s a delicate style of wine.

2016 Cuvée Misawa Koshu

The 2016 has an almost menthol aroma and juicer, bright tropical fruit characters of mango and papaya, with a clean palate. The development shown from age is positive – indeed, the 2017 won 98 points at Decanter World Wine Awards which gives further interest to the ageing potential of these wines.

2015 Cuvée Misawa Koshu

2015 has a smokier, almost spicey, nose with beeswax, toasty and richer flavours. It keeps the salinity of Koshu and has good acidity and good length. Sayburn said this older Koshu wine reminds him of an aged Swiss Chasselas.

2009 Cuvée Misawa Cabernet Franc

With just 500 bottles produced this wine was universally enjoyed by the guests, with Sayburn calling it “a really classic cabernet franc” and others comparing it to cool climate wines from British Colombia. It had a herbaceous, earthy nose with soft and complex tannins. More savoury on the palate than fruity on the nose with lots of tertiary and gamey flavours. Whist koshu is the most important grape for Grace Wine it is Cabernet Franc that is Ayana’s favourite, and it shows with this wine.

Food pairing

To illustrate how versatile these wines are when pairing with food, and in particular not just Japanese cuisine, we were presented with a four course tasting menu, curated by Sayburn and the head chef Marcus Verberne at 67 Pall Mall.

To start, the Blanc de blancs 2014 was paired with Citrus cured salmon, clementine gel, tobiko. The citrus flavours and celery notes from the tobiko linked the wine beautifully with the salmon. It is these delicate touches that harmonised the dish and the wine.

Next, the Koshu Hishiyama Vineyard, 2020 & the Koshu Misawa Vineyard, 2020 wines were tried alongside a Crab and avocado tarte. The sweet richness of the dish was well balanced and finely sliced grape gave freshness, alongside micro herbs for a touch of bitterness that elevated the pairings.

Moving on to more complex dishes Sayburn presented Glazed veal sweet breads, peas and confit lemon puree, potato shard, chicken jus. The ageing on both Akeno Koshu 2016 & Akeno Koshu 2015 allowed these wines to stand up to these bolder flavours – in particular the lemon puree, fresh peas and chicken jus gave the food pairing the acidity, sweetness and umami needed.

To finish, Roast rump of lamb, sauteed courgette, slow cooked cherry tomato, black olive jus had all the right elements to work beautifully with the Cuvee Misawa Ridge System, Cabernet Franc, 2009. The provencal-style vegetables ensured the flavours come together.

And no dashi, sushi, sashimi or wasbi in sight!

Working at The Ritz – London I already had the opportunity to taste Grace Koshu wine – a very versatile style, but very interesting given the origin of the indigenous grape. A clear and brilliant lemon style, with aromas of white peach, pears and minerality, on the palate and vibrant acidity, perfect to combine with seafood. 

Giovanni Andriulo, sommelier, The Ritz
Giovanni Andriulo, sommelier, The Ritz

Tasting highlight

Whilst Koshu is the most important grape grown at Grace, Cabernet Franc is Ayana’s favourite red grape variety. And it shows in the small 500 bottle production of 2009 Cuvée Misawa Cabernet Franc that we tasted.

Andriulo told us he: “was very impressed by the cuvée Misawa the Cabernet Franc 2009, intense, complex with herbaceous notes (mint, lavander, fennel) and with tertiary aromas due to a good bootle aging (wet leaves, vegetal, forest floor). A Cabernet Franc that may recall some styles in the right bank of bordeaux. Excellent combinations can be with grilled foods, grilling adds a bitter component to the food and creates a great stage for cabernet’s tannins and of course with red meats such as lamb.”

Whilst Koshu, or wine for that matter, is not a part of Japanese drinking culture it has gained a reputation for premium quality wine, much to do with the winemaking philosophy that mirrors Japanese life including respect, precision, and artisan craftmanship.

Attention to detail is part of the Japanese way of life and it shows in these precise wines. Nothing is left to chance and everything is considered. Even down to the labels – which happen to be designed exclusively for Grace Wine by Mr. Kenya Hara, celebrated Japanese graphic designer and art director at the famous Japanese chain store MUJI.

#KoshuFoodMatch competition

If you have not yet tried these wines now is your opportunity. The Sommelier Collective has teamed up with Grace Wine to run a food pairing competition. For more details visit #KoshuFoodMatch.

Entries close 25 February, 2020.

Grace Wine is imported in the UK by Hallgarten & Novum Wines

#KoshuFoodMatch Competition

Create the perfect Koshu food pairing with Grace Wine

Delicate Japanese Koshu wines are now more widely available in the UK and if you have not yet had the chance to try this unique Japanese varietal then this is the moment.

Not only are the wines naturally lower in alcohol, but they are a great match with a wide variety of dishes. Seafood is an obvious choice, but there are a lot more flavours to experiment with, including umami, spring vegetables, spicy dishes and recipes featuring poultry or pork.

Grace Wine has joined forces with The Sommelier Collective to find out the best Koshu and food pairings with two of its white wines.

Since its foundation by the Misawa family in 1923, Grace Wine has been pioneering the making of fine wines in Japan. It established the use of vertical shoot positioning for Koshu and has been winning awards since 2013, when it won Japan’s first gold medal in the Decanter World Wine Awards.

Grace Wine embodies the delicate precision and rigorous craftsmanship of Japanese culture and remains a family-owned business with Ayana Misawa its chief winemaker and a fifth generation family member.

Its Koshu wines are an exciting partner to a wide variety of international cuisines, not just classic Asian pairings. You might love the citrus, floral, mineral quality of their native varietal Koshu or be really into the nuances of a lees-matured wine…whatever your choice, Japan’s No.1 white wine producer, Grace Wine, is challenging the top sommeliers in the land to find the best food and Koshu pairing.

How to take part

It couldn’t be simpler…

All you have to do is apply for one of ten special Grace Wine tasting packs that will contain two bottles: Grace Koshu 2020 and Grace Koshu Hishiyama Vineyards 2020; then select your best food pairing for each Koshu wine; and explain why you think each wine matches perfectly with your chosen accompanying dish.

Grace, Koshu 2020

Grace, Koshu – Hishiyama Vineyards, Katsunuma 2020

Grace, Koshu – Hishiyama Vineyards, Katsunuma 2020

Share your creative #KoshuFoodMatch

  1. Take a photo, or two, of each of your Grace Wine Koshu food matches
  2. Add a tasting note and brief description of why the matches work
  3. Share it on your social media channels with #KoshuFoodMatch #SommelierCollective @sommeliercollective @gracewine_1923

It’s up to you!

Your match might be simple, using a single ingredient like red snapper ceviche, or you could choose more elaborate dishes to pair with your Koshu wines. Have fun trying something different – it certainly doesn’t have to be a Japanese dish to be a winner. In fact, we’re looking for a new pairing, so be daring!

Now it’s up to you discover the best Grace Wine Koshu food match and enter the #KoshuFoodMatch challenge to see if one of your matches scoops you the prize.

For more information, and for more ideas about food pairing Koshu visit the LEARN section.

Winner’s prize

Each entrant will be featured on http://www.sommeliercollective.co.uk and instagram.com/sommeliercollective.

And, the best overall pairing will win a Grace Wine Tasting Menu dining experience for 2* at private members’ club for wine lovers, 67 Pall Mall, London.

*Terms & Conditions apply

  • Open to The Sommelier Collective members.
  • Only ten tasting packs available.
  • In applying for a set of wines to try you are required to enter the competition and share your matches on your Instagram account, using the competition #KoshuFoodMatch #sommeliercollective and tag @sommeliercollective @gracewine_1923
  • This competition is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Instagram.
  • Tasting kits available for UK mainland delivery only. Damages/lost items cannot be replaced or refunded.
  • By taking part in the competition you give permission for The Sommelier Collective to copy, store and share your text and photography with due credit and without exclusion.
  • Entries must be published on your Instagram account before 23.59pm, 25/2/2022.
  • The prize will be awarded for originality and thought by the organisers (Grace Wine & The Sommelier Collective).
  • The winner will be announced on 4 March, 2022 on http://www.sommeliercollective.uk and communicated to members in the email newsletter.
  • Prize must be taken by 31 July, 2022. No cash alternative. Non transferable. Travel expenses not included.

Application form

Grace Wine imported by Hallgarten & Novum Wines

Any questions?
Simply email us and we’ll help you out.

#KoshuFoodMatch #SommelierCollective

It Was Like The Champions League…

After taking part in this year’s Copa de Jerez, Collective member Mattia Mazzi is already dreaming of next year’s competition.

The Copa is a real three-day immersion into the world of sherry

This year’s Copa de Jerez [held on November 9th and 10th in Jerez] was incredible. Really unique. For me and my chef Vincenzo it was something else – and not what we expected.

We were there to represent the UK, and thought it would be more like what we did in the regional heat in London, which was quite formal. But you get there and it is like Masterchef meets The Final Table: the Dutch team brought carriages of trolleys with all the silverware and chinaware, the Russian had massive beautiful trays. It was incredible.

It didn’t feel like a competition – more like a World Cup or the Olympics – everything was bigger and more spectacular.

Mattia Mazzi

You watch the videos and it looks amazing, and you go ‘wow, I was part of that’.

I’d recommend it to anyone who’s thinking of taking part, but be aware: we’ll probably take part too – and now we know what you need to do to win!

You get a taste for it. You see what the rest can do. London is big and international, but being able to challenge other countries and the approach that they have is just crazy. It’s very inspirational.

The Belgian team were sheer class. Paul-Henri Cuvelier was best maitre d’ in Belgium three years in a row and Fabian Bail was a Bocuse d’Or finalist. Particularly in terms of presentation, there was definitely inspiration there from the other teams.

No shortage of media and audience
The classy Belgians in action
A truly international event

Inspiring visits

While I was there I also learned from the producers who gave me great ideas on how to pair sherry. Fernando de Castilla gave me a really good insight into the way the negotiant world works over there.

El Maestro Sierra, who provided my chosen sherry match for the main course, gave me a great historical snapshot into how sherry evolved.

I hadn’t planned to see them. But the oenologist, Ana, approached me at the competition and told me to come and visit. They don’t do tours or accept many visitors, and their bodega has a life of its own – with no electricity! It’s a place of silence and love.

A trip to Barbadillo was one of our scheduled visits

Top-class pairings

During the Copa there were some great masterclasses. On the afternoon after the competition, there was a debriefing of some of the sauces that we used. There are little samples circulating on the stage and you get to try it, which is really clever – it’s not just someone talking you through a pairing; you’re actually experiencing it.

Matteo Mazzi
Tasting and matching on stage

Ex El Bulli super-somm, Ferran Centelles

Throughout the competition there were masterclasses and food pairings. For instance, I went to a talk by Ferran Centelles, who was the sommelier at El Bulli. It was really geeky, but really digestible, and eye-opening.

Matteo Mazzi

While I was there I also did a tuna ronqueo where you try cuts from nose to tail moving from those with less blood to those with most blood, then fat and finally the cheeks. It wasn’t part of the Copa, but someone invited me, so I went, and it was amazing; the perfection of the pairing with the manzanilla was stunning, and they only used three ingredients per dish.

Preparing…
Presenting…
The judging panel

No regrets – well, just one…

From this year’s competition, I’ve only got one regret: I wish I’d gone to the region before the Copa, doing these kind tastings and visiting the wineries. It would have taken my presentation to the next level.

The Copa de Jerez is like the Champions League: it’s a thrill, a journey, doing something you love with a friend, the back-stage stories…

You have to be a bit of a performer – it’s not like service – but now we know how much we can push it. And we’re already thinking about our idea for 2022.

Vincenzo and I hope to be back again next year!

Find out more at http://www.sherry.wine #sherrywinesjerez

If you’d like to take part in one of the many sommelier competitions visit our COMPETITIONS page for more details.

Gosset Matchmakers Shortlist 2021

Food and wine matching is the heart of the sommelier’s job; a combination of passion and flair, but also knowledge and experience. This is why the Gosset Matchmakers competition has established itself so quickly in the heart of the profession – because it taps straight into what makes the job both interesting and challenging.

To remind you how it works: a chef/sommelier team select an expression from the Gosset range of champagnes, and work together to create a dish that they think matches it perfectly.

It’s a chance for young chefs and sommeliers – entrants must have less than five years’ experience – to show what they can do. To ally teamwork and vision with creativity and delivering under pressure.

Sifting through the entries was a particular treat this year, since we’d asked the candidates to create short Instagram videos showing what they had done and why. We felt as though we’d got to know the entrants even before we’d tasted their amazing creations!

There was so much skill and talent on show that creating a shortlist was a tough task indeed.

But here are the entrants to make our first ‘cut’, with the finalists due to be announced next week.

Having seen so many wonderful looking food-pairings on screen, we can’t wait to taste them in real life – and we hope you enjoy watching their videos as much as we did!


Gosset Matchmakers Shortlist 2021

(entrants listed in alphabetical order)

67 Pall Mall, London

Lucy Meza-Ortega and Sammy Benouhoud

Chosen Wine: Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs Brut

The team at 67 Pall Mall elected to match the Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs with a dessert containing many of the champagne’s key flavours of citrus and stone-fruit.

‘When we first tasted this champagne we were delighted by its elegance and refinement,’ said sommelier Lucy. ‘We wanted to mirror this through a simple yet effective dish, where balance is key.’

At the base of the dish was a champagne-infused jelly with lime zest and a touch of lavender flower, on top of that a crème patissiere infused with fresh apricot, apricot tartare, robed with honey, apricot and smoked thyme coulis. Finally there was a sprinkling of crumble, also infused with lime zest and smoked thyme.

‘We put together all this to bring out the beautiful flavours of the champagne without hiding them,’ explained Lucy. ‘They really come together to create something that elevates both the dish and the champagne without hiding each other’s components.’

Lucy Meza-Ortega and Sammy Benouhoud from 67 Pall Mall, London

City Social, London

Ljudmila Bobik and Adam Cowie

Chosen Wine: Gosset Grande Reserve Brut

The starting point for this team’s pairing was a simple one: ‘It was inspired by the idea of ‘it goes where it grows’,’ said sommelier Ljudmila. Champagne, as she pointed out, is famous for its rabbit dishes, so that’s what they majored on.

In this case, the rabbit was wrapped in parma ham with new Jersey potatoes, morels, broad beans and peas, finished with a truffle black mushroom puree with pea shoots. An accompanying sauce was made from rabbit bone stock.

‘The rabbit is cooked sous vide so it’s very delicate, and the champagne pairs with it very nicely and brings some more savouriness,’ explained Ljudmila. ‘Also it cuts the richness and toastiness of the parma ham while cleaning the palate. The elegance, freshness and complexity of the champagne is a perfect match.’

Ljudmila Bobik and Adam Cowie, City Social, London

The Creameries, Manchester

Emily-Rose Lucas and Vic Watkins

Chosen wine: Gosset Grande Reserve Brut

Both Emily-Rose and her chef, Vic, were of one mind with their choice of matching the Gosset Grande Reserve with a dessert.

‘The sweetness that comes through on it, followed by that very beautiful nutty profile… We found it incredibly appealing to work with,’ said Emily-Rose.

‘As soon as we tried it, we thought it would pair really well with a quite salty or savoury dessert,’ added Vic.

The result was a take on a Gateau Breton: a brown butter biscuit base, on top of which are prunes gently cooked in manzanilla sherry, ice cream made out of a ‘tangy and creamy’ Irish sheep’s cheese with malt loaf biscotti and roasted almonds to give it some rich malty flavour.

Emily-Rose Lucas and Vic Watkins, The Creameries

Fischer’s Baslow Hall, Chesterfield

Matthew Davison and Adam Eyre

Chosen wine: Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs Brut

The entry from the Peak District designed an ambitious scallop dish that they were hoping would ‘encapsulate the five tastes that you would experience on your palate.’

Looking towards the autumn season, they started with a hand dived-Orkney scallop with nori salt, baked celeriac, fermented ceps from ‘last season’s forage’, XO sauce, umeboshi furikake with more sliced nori on top and a reduced celeriac stock.

‘We are looking more towards autumn with this dish,’ explained sommelier Matthew. ‘But we feel that the fact that Gosset don’t do any malolactic fermentation means the true expression of champagne will shine through and allow it to cut through the natural sweetness of the scallop. It offers toasted and nutty subtleties to complement our dish and create balance.’

Matthew Davison and Adam Eyre, Fischer’s Baslow HAll

The Game Bird at The Stafford, London

Davide Santeramo and Marco d’Andrea

Chosen wine: Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs Brut

Chef Marco created a vibrant green asparagus risotto with a carpaccio of Sicilian red prawns on top of it with crispy onion garnish and artfully positioned blobs of yuzu cream that captured the very essence of early summer.

And it was this joyous, breezy element that formed the basis for the wine matching.

‘I chose the Gosset Blanc de Blancs to go with this because of the elegance and finesse of the wine,’ said sommelier Davide. ‘It should match perfectly with the flavours in the dish. The risotto is made in a light, summery style so the acidity of the champagne will cut through the creaminess and fattiness without being overwhelmed.

‘I also think the citrus notes of the champagne will work well with the red prawn carpaccio placed on top.’

Sketch: Lecture Room & Library, London

Emeline Gigaud and Francesco Di Flumeri

Chosen wine: Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs Brut

Emeline and Francesco created a video that was something of a work of art, featuring the grand arrival of the bottle and ingredients into the venue, and a beautifully-shot preparation and serving of not one, but two dishes – a starter and a dessert – based on the same key ingredients.

‘We started with the concept that champagne and blanc de blancs is always suggested at the beginning of the meal, but never enjoyed with the dessert,’ said Emeline. The idea was to tap into Gosset’s sustainability message by using the same ingredients throughout.

The main course was a ‘trompe l’oeil’ of Granny Smith apple poached in oyster and champagne dressing, scallops coral foam with Gosset blanc de blancs jelly, Granny Smith and samphire salad with apple vinaigrette and breadcrumbs. ‘The dish extends the continuity of the champagne,’ explained Emeline. ‘It’s all about the balance between the delicacy of the creaminess and the twist of the freshness.’

The dessert – Lemon Amalfi confit with vanilla – used the same components but ‘worked in a different way’. ‘This is a contrast pairing,’ said Emeline. ‘Proof that minerality and sweetness are not opposed, but can be complementary.’

Emeline Gigaud and Francesco Di Flumeri, Sketch, London

Where The Light Gets In, Stockport

Emily Klomp and Seri Nam

Chosen wine: Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs Brut

‘Champagne is usually associated with quite luxurious ingredients,’ said sommelier Emily. ‘So I think what we’ve decided to pair with it is very interesting.’

Certainly, the innovation is to be applauded. This does not look like a dish that would be served in too many restaurants in and around Reims.

‘The delicate flowers on the nose and saline finish took us straight to the beach,’ explained Emily. ‘For the oldest champagne house we created something luxurious but patient and considered at the same time.’

The main ingredient is onion and scallop entrail sauce. ‘We cooked the onion wrapped in kombu and steamed after leaving it to marinate overnight,’ said chef Seri.  

The sauce was emulsified with butter, soy and plum wine, before over the top they added a little hawthorn oil, pickled samphire (foraged locally), sea purslane powder, and a touch of maromi ‘a by-product of our bread soy-making process’.

‘The sea herbs bring forward the chalky minerality, and a little plum wine in the sauce heightens those mirabelle plum notes on the nose,’ explained Emily. ‘Seri’s idea to marinate the onions gently in kombu brings out a really delicious savoury, umami note in the wine.’

Emily Klomp and Seri Nam, Where the light gets in, Stockport

2022 Entry NOW OPEN

Top Tips For Matching Champagne And Food

Want some top starting points on how to match champagne and food? Or how to smash it out the park when it comes to doing it competitively and under pressure, with a glittering prize tantalisingly within your reach?

2020 Winners: Joshua Castle (left) and chef Myles Donaldson; Photography: Miles Willis

Of course you do! And we figured there’s no better place to start for either of these points than asking Joshua Castle, the winner – with chef Myles Donaldson – of last year’s Gosset Matchmakers competition.

And with a good few Sommelier Collective members probably considering their entries for this year’s Matchmakers competition right now, the timing could hardly have been better. Lucky coincidence, huh?

So sit back, take a few notes, pop a bottle of Grande Reserve if you have one, and prepare for instant success!

So where do you begin when it comes to matching champagne? With the flavours? The texture? The acidity?

I think you’ve almost got to take one step back away from the food. So in the case of the 2020 Matchmakers Competition first of all I listened to what Gosset had to say about their wine. A lot of champagne and food pairings have been born out of changing styles of champagne, with slightly warmer base vintages, and wider, more gastronomic wines.

But Gosset described their Grande Rosé as a very ‘winey wine’, which I really agreed with. It wasn’t the richest rosé, but certainly it had this freshness – this gastronomic side. I think understanding the wine is step one.

So you start with the wine. What next?

Next I’d look at the pairing in general and see how the food might link in with it. So acid, tannin – in a rosé at least there might be some of that, dryness, autolytic character, aromatics. How does all that translate onto the palate and how does it combine as a texture? Then you can think about ingredients that will interplay really nicely with those.

Contestants in 2021 can choose from Gosset Grande Reserve and Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs

But you can also go one step beyond that and think ‘how would I put this dish in a dining setting? Is it an aperitif-type a dish, and is the wine an aperitif wine?’

What’s the hardest element when you’re matching with champagne?

Champagne is such a cool thing to pair. It can be a really intelligent thing to use in the right context. It’s true that you’re contending with high acidities, but the thing that is most tricky to me is allowing the delicacy of the champagne to not be overpowered by a dish.

Sure the flavours can be very concentrated in high quality champagne – and they certainly are in Champagne Gosset. But there’s also very delicate parts of it. There has to be room on the stage for the Champagne.

Your dish was ‘calves’ brains seared in brown butter, with Lardo di Colonnata, Kentish Cob Nuts, Champagne vinegar and watermelon radish’. How did you come up with that?

Sorry, we just have to say this in our best ‘zombie voice’: ‘braaaaaiiiiinnnns.’

I’d been doing a bit of research into German wine that week and I’d been coming across all these amazing old venues from ships and hotels in New York at a time when German wine was as expensive as Chateau Margaux. One of the recipes was for larded sweetbreads.

Basically the idea is to combine sweetbreads or offal – so not a particularly fatty cut – with lard, so you’re basically substituting the lack of fat in the cut. Lardo di Colonnata is basically pork fat aged in these marble sarcophagi, and it develops this amazing nutty earthy flavour. It goes sort of translucent when it’s warm and the fat melts. The idea sort of stemmed from there: something that is textually and visually very interesting.

So I was playing around with a couple of ideas in reference to that with champagne. And I thought ‘imagine ordering larded sweetbreads in this amazing regal dining setting, and having it with something that is texturally, really bright’. I thought: that’s a killer pairing – that’s really cool!

So how did you see it working with the wine?

You could easily go for a richly textured white wine – like Burgundy – with a dish like this. But here I wanted something that is going to make your palate sort of ‘pop’.

Brains are texturally hard to describe, but they’re not very filling, and we wanted to bring an element of acidity, that was not overwhelming to the wine, so we added a little champagne vinegar.

Creating the dish with chef Myles Donaldson

If you think about it, it’s a really simple dish: protein, acid, and then we kind of had to work around texture, which we achieved through these really cute little watermelon radishes. They kind of bled ever so slightly into the vinegar, giving it this pinky hue. We hadn’t expected that, but it really worked!

You’ve mentioned that your dish was really simple. Do you think entrants need to beware of trying to do too much on the plate?

Yes and no. We were pretty blown away by our competitors;  some of the dishes that they were putting out were technically phenomenal and visually really blew ours out of the water. But I think that represented who they were as sommeliers and chefs. If you can achieve that technically in that period of time, then go for it!

But the core of it has to be a wine and food pairing. The dish doesn’t have to be complex as long as it represents you – and we had a nice story behind it as well. It felt like something that we would put up in the restaurant, and it was collaborative between me and the chef. It felt natural.

The competitor dishes looked great…

But a watermelon radish pink tinge…

and superb matching skills won out

So a final ‘in a nutshell’ bit of advice?

It’s important to remember that this isn’t a cooking competition. Simple and repeatable is good – particularly if it has a nice story behind it.

You need to ask whether the cooking is being done for the sake of it, or whether it’s a means to an end – which is matching the wine.

The five finalist teams of 2020

The Gosset Matchmakers competition is now open to all chefs and sommeliers with less than five years experience. More information – including entry form – visit www.gossetmatchmakers.uk. Entries must be received by Thursday 30 June, 2021.

2022 Entry NOW OPEN

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Lambrusco – great value gems that are perfect for food

The plains of Emilia Romagna and Lombardy are home to some of the biggest foods in Italian gastronomy: prosciutto, Grana Padano, and tortellini to name but a few. And here they are paired with the local Lambrusco.

It’s a wine like no other – sparkling, bright purple in colour… and tannic – which makes is ideal to go with those high fat, opulent, local products.

Lambrusco in the area’s bars is served by the glass, alongside a platter of warm, oil-dripping focaccia and all the mouth-watering products that the region has to offer. In the local’s houses, Lambrusco often goes through the whole meal, where it’s sparkle and richness helps refresh the palate.

Emilia-Romagna – the gastronomic heart of Italy

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. It’s true that Lambrusco’s name declined in the 1980s when co-operatives produced most of the wines and their ethos was definitely one of quantity over quality.

But there have always been independent producers that have made high-quality Lambrusco and there is now an upwards quality trend. Admittedly there are fewer of these good producers than there used to be, and the number of hectares planted has declined. But they’re still there and they are still worth looking out for.

Lambrusco is great value for you and your guests

Vibrant, varied, good with food and by the glass, Lambrusco can really add something different to your list – and your customers’ experience. And since it is generally very cheap, it can be an affordable surprise for your guests.

clones and styles

Lambrusco is produced from the grape of the same name, though there are several different clones named after the villages where they originated:

  • Lambrusco Salamino is the most widely planted and the most aromatic; normally medium sweet, balanced by high tannins.
  • Lambrusco Sorbara is the most deeply coloured with lower tannins. It’s typically dry or off-dry.
  • Lambrusco Grasparossa is considered the finest clone, producing the deepest wines, with lower tannins. It’s usually found as a dry wine.

Other clones exist, and they can be planted virtually anywhere within the appellations, though each of the five DOCs has a minimum percentage required of each clone for the wines to be classified.

Frothy, yes – but there are multiple styles of Lambrusco

Modena’s province, is where most of Lambrusco is produced, and it has four DOCS.

  1. Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC is the most floral, and direct, with soft tannins. Produced on sandy soils, it is usually medium sweet and is well suited for a pasta dishes and/or grilled vegetables.
  2. Lambrusco Salmino di Santacroce is 90% made up of the Salamino clone and is produced on both flat and hilly sides. It is meant to be drunk young and tends to be sweet, with high acidity. Ideal served chilled by the glass as an aperitif.
  3. Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro comes from vineyards situated on the hillside, with longer ripening season, higher concentration, and more complexity. It usually the driest in style and most age-worthy.
  4. Modena DOC is the largest and the quality and style of wines here varies a lot

Most noteworthy Lambruscos are produced using the classic method, or Ancestrale (pet-nat), which involves bottling an almost fully-fermented wine and sealing it in order to trap the CO2 produced, rendering the wine sparkling.

These are definitely the styles that quality producers are championing, and can be a great companion to food, as they tend to be dry and complex with a savoury palate. They can also age for a few years, developing dry fruit and forest floor flavours with time.

Lambrusco offers great quality for the price, starting at £5 and rarely above £20; it has a unique style that offers something different for food-matching, but it can be easily served by the glass too. I have previously stocked Lambrusco by the glass in the summer season and it went down very well with my customers.

Of course, its reputation might mean that it needs to be ‘pushed’ to them. But in hot months served alongside charcuterie and fritters, it really comes into its own.

cellar suggestions: Three to try for your list

Lambrusco Reggiano DOC Concerto, Medici Ermete

Vinum Terra, £10-12

A classic method, Lambrusco, Dry with aromas of roses, cassis, plums and an undertone of sage and bread. Served with a rich steak or lamb it works really well.

Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC Secco I Quercioli, Medici Ermete

Vinum Terra, £8.00-10

Brut style, this has more direct aromas of maraschino cherries, plums and strawberries. I would suggest it goes best if you serve it with deep-fried vegetables or cheese.

Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro ‘Ribello’ Roberto Balugani

Fields, Morris and Verdin, £8-10

Ancestral Method, off dry, with savoury aromas, herbs, and plums. This has a delicate mousse and goes well as an aperitif with salami or with a cheese platter and tomato relish.