Make Time for Rhône

by Mike Fairbrass - Sunday July 2, 2017 5:07 pm

Mike meets a host of nubile French women in a railway arch.

There are not many nicer things than a glass of wine at the end of a long sunny summers day.

Unfortunately the British weather has taken a turn and it’s hammering it down as myself and friend Adam approach the Disappearing Dining Club studio in Hoxton - but there will be wine.

We’re attending a “Make Time for Rhône Discovery Wine Masterclass” hosted by “wine educator and communicator” Amelia Singer and then we are lucky enough to have a pop up dining experience created by the DDC.

We join a small damp gaggle gathering in a railway arch converted to an event space and photography studio complete with white backdrop. A projector beams “Côtes du Rhône – everyday sophistication” on to it. After a warm welcome we are and handed mini clipboards with a list of the Rhône valley wines we will taste before dinner.

Amelia has given the wines nicknames to reflect their qualities and waiting staff distribute the first glass: “Audrey Tatou: Quirky, different and charming” ( la Vigne du Roy, Cotes du Rhone, white, 2014 – 100% Roussanne). As we check the colour Adam sniggers at the thought of it being a liquid actually extracted from Audrey rather than just named after the bob hair-styled French film actress from Amelie with the cheeky smirk.

We learn that Rhone wines in general are known for notes of peach, apricot and honey, with Syrah dominating the north of the valley and strong characterful blended reds in the south.

“Many think a single grape must be superior but it’s not true”, says Amelia, “there’s nothing wrong with blending; It’s like an orchestra, the strings, the brass, the percussion - all creating a wonderful harmony which can evolve.” Adam and I copy her as she tastes, swilling it around in our mouths and sucking it through our teeth like a couple of irritated Caribbean women.

Audrey is “Zesty and zippy” with a fresh acidity. Others take notes on their clipboards but Adam begins doodling Zippy from Rainbow. A receptacle is offered around and quite a few people tip what’s left of their wine into it, we share a look in disbelief, what are they doing? – It’s wine - you drink it.

We glug ours down to make way for the arrival of “Brigitte Bardot: Voluptuous yet still a coquette”. (Rive droite, Rive Gauche, Côtes du Rhône, white, 2015 – Grenache Blanc blend)”.  She’s delightful of course.

Adam misheard and looks confused as he searches his taste buds for hints of potato croquette. The strange people tip theirs away again. I hope there is a little South American guy washing up round the back who gets to quaff litres of an entirely unique new blend.

Before we’ve quite had time to finish flirting with Brigitte, Catherine Deneuve shows up demanding attention. “The Ice Maiden: Zesty yet restrained” (Arc du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône, Rosé, 2016 - Grenache).

Each of these wine goddesses is getting gradually stronger and more characterful. Catherine is peppery and assertive without being masculine; she can swing by any day. Adam is now concentrating hard as he doodles ‘zesty’ the cartoon Lemon.

“Not your average Bond girl” Eva Green rocks up (Leon Perdigal, Côtes du Rhône , Rosé, 2015 – Grenache blend) forcing Cath into the slosh bucket. Eva has “personality and pizzazz.” Pizzas? Adam starts drawing a slice with arms and legs. Eva has a darker blush and is described as “Amplified, fleshier, earthy and savory”. Phwoar - and she’s only £7:49 in Waitrose.

But wait, Eva’s not alone, she has some guy in tow – “Inspector Clouseau: cheerful and fun crowd pleaser” (Gabriel Meffre, Côtes du Rhône, organic, red, 2016 – blend of Grenache and Syrah). What’s he doing here? The wine is lovely but the man’s a ludicrous incompetent and bound to cause spillage.

Then last to arrive is Gérard Depardieu swaggering in half cut with his “heady Hedonism”, (Mistral Domaine Coulange, Côtes du Rhône, red 2015 – blend of Grenache and Syrah). The wine has plenty of, ahem, nose and his “muscular grapes” make for great earthy wine.

As if all this sexy wine wasn’t enough, we now take our seats to find a tiny glass of yellow gazpacho with grilled asparagus poking out of it, the first of a series of tasting dishes created by The Disappearing Dining Club to pair with the wines, it’s deliciously fresh yet savoury with a surprise cube of goats cheese at the bottom. It’s paired with Audrey Tatou - they make a lovely couple.

Tasty Salmon Ceviche, smoked beetroot, cucumber and horseradish swiftly follow and these excellent combinations are accompanied by Brigitte Bardot. Adam shows us his drawing of a ‘muscular grape’, Brigitte throws her head back with laughter and tousles her hair.

Now Catherine Deneuve is back, sashaying over with Steak Tartare, sorrel, grilled prawns and matchstick fries, this is delicious food, Adam has even stopped drawing, swapping pen for cutlery as we get to know Cath more.

Then the boys are back, Clouseau  with Sea Bream, baked Fennel, chorizo and saffron aioli and Gérard with a lovely roast lamb rump, crushed nicoise potatoes and tomato vinaigrette. All our new friends share hilarious celebrity anecdotes with us until the dinner comes to an end with a final flourish of Chocolate Brownie and Griottine cherry parfait.

We’ve certainly enjoyed imbibing all the sophisticated icons of the Rhône and the food was classy too. Adam also enjoyed creating an array of cartoon characters, but alas we are about to walk out into the rain as we arrived, unaccompanied once more.  But wait - goodie bags are being given out containing a Rhône wine called 100% Xavier. He apparently has a balanced feel and ample length. We’ve pulled.www.rhone-wines.com/

@MikeFairbrass

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