Matching Wine, Shakespeare Sonnets And Cheese

by Nick Harman - Saturday August 3, 2019 8:08 am

'My love is like a red red rosé .' A Provencal rosé, perhaps? Nick tries a fun new night out, matching wines with Shakespeare sonnets (with apologies to Robert Burns).

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You know that bit at the end of a live gig when the band do the ‘hit’?

You’ve sat patiently through the new album, which you’ve only heard once before the show, you’ve stirred fitfully in your seat for the oldies, but now it’s the ‘hit’ and you’re on your feet waving a cigarette lighter and cheering.

Well, that wasn’t quite how it was when Benedict Ainsworth launched into ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day.’ but we did all raise our matched glasses of wine politely and pause from ingesting gorgonzola.

What kind of crazy mind comes up with the idea of matching wines to Shakespeare’s sonnets?  His name is Adam Burak, Artistic Director of Coin Events and creator of the concept. “Shakespeare and Wine”

“We recognised with disappointment that all the wine tasting experiences are almost the same. They have their essential elements and sophisticated art, but we were eager to give more. We aimed to explore a brand new multi-sensory experience,” he says, before we all sit down at Tosi Gorgonzola Bar,

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The bar, which opened two years ago in Farringdon, is linked to Tosi, the oldest Gorgonzola cheese maker in Italy. Tosi is the last producer carrying out the cheese making process entirely by hand and the Gorgonzola Bar is dedicated to carefully sourced fine wines and a variety of hand-crafted cheeses.

Tonight’s wines from Shelved Wine, have been carefully paired up with the sonnets by Valentino Minotti, sommelier of Hakkasan Restaurant in Mayfair. All of the wines are locally sourced from small and middle-sized producers from Italy, Spain, and other countries.

As we taste the cheeses, all of which are delicious and some quite outstanding, Benedict reads sonnets from a great big book.

He is an internationally acclaimed Shakespeare actor with lots of experience and gives the sonnets proper respect for rhyme and meter. Those of us who can still remember what an iambic pentameter is feel rather pleased with ourselves.

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Actually, although the sonnets are all bit ‘knotty’ (scholar speak for ‘not all that easy to understand’), Benedict’s reading helps tease out the meaning, along with his explanations, and as we glide through the  delicious wines, from sparkling, to white to red, his help is increasingly appreciated.

We move from light, cheerful sonnets and wine to the darker sonnets and appropriately dark wines. Yes, the wines do match the poetry; like the poems they rhyme, scan and make sense.

Unlike the awful ‘Poems on the Underground’ which, as I point out to my neighbour, often irritate me with their lazy blank verse and trite, commonplace, observations. Oh dear, perhaps I have drunk too much. The red mist is descending.

The gathering is small, all the better for strangers to chat and get to know each other and the evening is very different from the usual kind of wine evening.

mcith_tosi5_.jpgValentino’s explanations of each wine are refreshingly lacking in jargon, do not drag on longer than needed, and are genuinely informative and interesting.

At the end we all left, I think, feeling rather more civilised than when we arrived. The taste of the finest Gorgonzolas fresh in the memory, the mind just a little hazy from the wine but cheerfully elevated by the Bard.

As Shakespeare says in Henry VIII, ‘Good company, good wine, good welcome, can make good people.’

Besides the corporate and private functions already available for pre-bookings online, from September, regular tastings of Shakespeare and Wine will be scheduled in London twice a month at secret locations in Mayfair, the City, Knightsbridge, and Fitzrovia. RSVP is available here

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