I’ve been known to enjoy a glass or two of wine from time to time but I really couldn’t claim to know very much about it. The wonderful people at Malmaison, Brimingham have recently given me a chance to overcome my ignorance by inviting me and a friend to one of their ‘Wine Dinners’.
It’s a really simple idea. While munching your way though a delicious five courses you are served six different wines selected to complement each course. The meal is hosted by one of Malmaison’s wine experts and throughout dinner they tell you all about the wines, why they were chosen and which others you might like to try.
We started the evening with canapés and a chance to chat with some of the other diners accompanied with a glass of the sparkling Balfour Brut Rose. There were 16 of us in total which was the perfect number to create a sociable, comfortable atmosphere. We then moved into the private dining room on the mezzanine floor where our host introduced himself while the salmon terrine starters were served and told us all about the next wine, a Friendly Gruner Veltliner which was my favourite of the night. I’d probably never have thought to try an Austrian wine but I’ll certainly keep an eye out for this one in the future. We also tried a very nice Spanish white but I was too busy enjoying the Veltliner to make a note of the name.
We moved on to a pan fried guinea fowl with confit leg risotto and cranberry jus accompanied by a Erse Etna Rosso while our host told us a bit about how the sediment is removed from Champagne bottles and then the cheese course which was served with a glass of Chateauneuf du Pape La Bastide Saint Dominique (thank goodness I wrote that one down!) when I also learnt that my GCSE French had been letting me down all these years as ‘neuf’ in this context actually means ‘new’ not ‘nine’ as many people think although someone does now make a wine called ‘Nine Popes’ as a bit of a wine buffs in-joke for that very reason.
We ended the meal with tokaji poached peaches with a biscuit cuillere and a dessert wine called Royal Tokaji Late Harvest. This was a bit of a revelation to me as I tend to prefer drier white wines so I’ve never even tried one of these very sweet wines which are made by letting a small amount of the harvest over-ripen at the end of the season but it was absolutely delicious and went perfectly with the light dessert. I’ll definitely be buying more of this type of wine in the future. Finally, after a bit longer chatting with my companions over the mountain of accumulated wine glasses, a strong coffee helped me compose myself for the short trip back to my room.
It was a great evening. The food and wine were both really excellent as I’ve come to expect from Malmaison. I was a little worried before the event that it might be for more serious wine buffs but the atmosphere was really relaxed, informal and friendly, not at all what I had initially expected. There was an interesting range of people from an older couple who had stopped off on their way to their holiday home in a wine making region of Portugal to a young couple celebrating a 25th birthday as well as a couple of groups of friends in their thirties. Some already knew a fair bit about wine and some were complete amateurs like me.
The ‘educational’ side of the evening was genuinely interesting. There wasn’t any ridiculous Jilly Goolden style sniffing and talk of damp earth and pineapple overtones. It was more about how the combination of region (and therefore soil type) and grape variety affect a wine to help you choose wines you might like. Our host gave brief talks between each course but then was sat with us during the meal to talk it through in more detail and was happy to answer our questions, even my rather basic ones.
These types of events are being run in various Malmaison hotels around the country and you can see if there is one near you here. They are normally £45 per person which I think is fantastic value for such a nice meal along with an awful lot of wine (I only managed a small glass of each of the six but a few of my fellow diners happily made their way through at least two glasses of each, they are clearly made of sterner stuff than me!) before you even consider the added value of having a real expert to take you through the whole thing. I’m so glad I went out of my comfort zone and tried something new and I think if you have the chance to combine the dinner with a stay in the hotel itself it would make an excellent celebration for a special occasion.
[Note – Malmaison invited me and a friend to the wine dinner for the purpose of a review. They also provided a room so I didn’t have to drive home after all that wine. No payment was received and all opinions are, as ever, my own.]