A trip down the Loire in Soho
by Nick Harman - Thursday June 8, 2017 10:06 am
Before London Wine Week wobbles to an end, we try a taste of the Loire and you can too if you're quick.
Desperate food bloggers are lighting their dishes with one hand holding a mobile phone in ‘torch mode’, while using the other hand to hold the camera. Other, wealthier, ones have pulled out massive dSLRs that can see in the dark.
The lights change colour a lot, they are a kind of disco lights and under them, strutting his stuff like John Travolta but talking rather like Jools Holland, wine expert of ES Magazine Douglas Blyde is taking us on a journey along the Loire.
We’ve already sampled quite a few upstairs, nine in fact, but now it’s time to pair them with food provided by Chef Phil Carmichael.
It’s all in honour of London Wine Week and the Val du Loire’s desire to promote the fact that they have the world’s most diverse range of wines with three regions, seven departements and over 800 km of wine trails for the wine lover to wander down. It is in fact France’s third largest wine region, if one excludes Champagne.
Most wine production in the area is white, followed by rose, then red and a small amount of sparkling wine, which to my tongue tastes every bit as good as the big C.
Muscadet from the far west of the region is probably the largest export, although not every wine buff is a fan. We drink Clos de la Senaigne from one the three sub -brands, as it were, of Muscadet, Muscadet-Côtes de Grandlieu.
The lake close to this region creates an unique microclimate and the wine is aged on the lees, for a slightly fuller body and this example is remarkable for its minerality which reminds me, and I am no Jancis Robinson don’t forget, of a good Riesling. It partners well with a delightful slice of toasted sourdough topped with Colchester crab with brown crab mayo apple and coriander.
Douglas is back on his feet, with a lighting change that has me groping blindly for my glass, to introduce pan fried rainbow trout with a wasabi butter sauce. This is a delicate bit of poisson and the wasabi not too nose-clearingly powerful although some people take a mouthful and fall ominously silent with tears emerging from the corners of their eyes.
We temper the fire with Savennieres from the banks of the Loire, a tiny area that produces dry, full bodied Chenin Blancs.
They are a bit unusual in that the grapes are often harvested with a touch of noble rot, the grape fungus better known for producing the intense sweet wines from Bordeaux. I am told that those in the know rate these wines very highly indeed and the Clos de la Hutte 2015 is certainly quite delicious.
From out of the gloom emerges a Dingley Dell pork chop with an apple, tomato and sage sauce. It’s excellently cooked, butter soft and just enough. Chef clearly has a digital probe thermometer, the best way to cook outstanding pork. With it come two reds - a Saumur and a Chinon Rouge.
Saumur is a town in the heart of the wine region, known for its dry reds although back in time it was its sparklers that shone the brightest. The reds are usually quite light and tannic and this Saumur Champigny Lisagathe 2014 is like licking a pencil in a good way, deep and concentrated flavours that linger. The Chinon Rouge, Clos de la Dioterie 2009 is powerful and spicy and has a hint of tobacco, which reminds me I haven’t yet been outside for a cigarette
English cheeses to end with along with Berners Tavern own wines from Anjou. One of our number gets up to tell a joke in the style of Alfie Solomon from Peaky Blinders. I don’t get the punchline so it’s hard cheese on me.
And to end, what may well be the world’s finest coffee from Difference Coffee, introduced by the company’s founder Amir Gehl. It’s enough to power me to the tube station and home, my Loire journey over.