25 Feb 2008

Venue versus Vino

'Foie gras terrine with grouse breast and Sauternes jelly. Excellent. The combination of rich foie, gamey grouse and the sweet musk of Sauternes was impeccable. So why did the cook drizzle truffle oil all over it? Inexcusable. Disgusting. Truffle oil and Sauternes - if you want to get the effect at home, try drinking sweet sherry out of a teenager's well-worn trainer.'
[A.A. Gill]
COURTESY OF 'The Wine Studio', I sampled curiosities under crystal splendour (and marooned love balloon) at The Dorchester. These included traditional wine bore Lebanese favourite, Chateau Musar.
The '66 was sepia coloured and cloudy, with wormery, moss and decomposing leather on the nose. On the palate, things improved little: a memory of sweet red fruits. The '78 evoked once lit stale cigar, butcher shop window display in summer and yet more hide. Not fine, but charismatic. The '00 was beautifully dark cherry sweet, however, possessive of an engagingly fresh Italo-French palate. I was reluctantly seduced. I see what the furore over this vintage is all about. Tasted last, cellar temperature '91 white which was dumb initially, gradually revealing a gelatinous texture: impossible to imagine food synergy. It is hard to fathom such a wine in a manner of minutes.
Also encountered, four vintages of Torres' Mas La Plana single estate Penedès Cabernet Sauvignon. Suffice to say, between the excellent, grown-up, warm, cedary, cranberry '94 and the enormous, impavid, cassis and coffee '03, the style has dramatically altered, undergoing plastic surgery. For me, Fransola, their discreetly barrel fermented and matured multi-dimensional Sauvignon Blanc with Parellada remains the most peacockish of their single vineyard wines. The '05 briefly mesmerised with its blossom notes, cut watered grass and precise citrus edge.
Finally, '04 Clos Poggiale Vermentino from Corsica stood out as being deeply impressive. An inexpensive, white peach, tangerine, physalis and gunpowder scented wine with a soft, gardenia landing in the finish...
I am reading 'Table Talk' by A.A. Gill. I must admit feeling slightly ashamed (somehow dirty) being seen on public transport with his book. Though occasionally clunky, and somehow detached, I am however picking up useful facts. Gill doesn't drink by the way. Most restaurant critics skim over wine (1/3 of the bill minimum) in their reviews. Some hardly mention the food. Indeed numerous chefs guiltlessly admit preference for any other tipple. Ramsay, I am told, likes near frozen Chardonnay. Matthew Norman plays late night cards drinking whisky, with Guinness at lunch.
Incidentally, despite the distressing Tartan, from memory, The Grill Room does a very good value three-course weekday lunch.