The Long Liquid Lunch is an annual gourmet food & wine event of the Harrogate Medical Wine Society. Venues and chefs change for each event which is restricted to fourteen members at a time. Each participating couple provides two bottles of fine wine to accompany their chosen dish of a four-course meal. Wines are tasted blind, identified as closely as possible, their quality and suitability for the meal discussed and scored.
The sparkling wine served as the aperitif at the Second Long Liquid Lunch fooled everybody. It was crisp with a fine mousse and had all the features of a good Blanc de Blancs champagne. It was a Blanc de Blancs but came not from the Côte des Blancs, but from East Sussex in England. The Hoffmann & Rathbone Blanc de Blancs 2010, a 100% Chardonnay produced by a small boutique winery run by husband and wife team Ulrich Hoffmann and Brigit Rathbone, received an average score of 15 from the tasters. Only 2000 individually-numbered bottles were produced and sold at £40 each. The selection of canapés served – smoked salmon, cream cheese & lumpfish roe on bread, olive, mozzarella & sun-dried tomatoes and Prosciutto di Parma, partnered the wine well.
It is not easy to find a wine that partners soup well but the two wines chosen coped reasonably well with the rich, creamy Shellfish Chowder. The 2014 Albariño from Bodegas del Palacio de Fefiñanes in Rías Baixas, the first ever producer to bottle albariño, was made by Cristina Mantilla with fruit from vineyards with granitic soils, had strong varietal aromas and fine citrus flavours, was full-bodied, silky and fresh. 12.5% of the tasters identified the varietal. The average score was 15.5. (Average UK price (ex-tax) is £14 and average critic score is 90/100).
The second wine with the chowder was Josmeyer’s Alsace Grand Cru Riesling Hengst 2007. Unusually ripe grapes of the 2007 vintage were harvested in late August and the resulting wine is rich and fresh with a residual sugar level of 7g/l and 6.4 acidity. 92% of the tasters identified the varietal, 70% knew the origin and 16% correctly guessed the vintage. All tasters thought it paired the chowder well. Average score was 16.5. (Winesearcher average critic score is 92/100 and the average price is £38)
Fillet of Beef Wellington was paired with two reds.
The first was Bouchard Finlayson Hannibal 2014, a blend of 33% Sangiovese, 22% Pinot Noir, 18% Shiraz, 17% Nebbiolo, 6% Mourvédre and 4% Barbera. Components were fermented separately in stainless steel tanks and then transferred to French oak barrels for the malolactic fermentation. The wine was matured for 13 months with a 16% new wood compliment. It is a surprisingly accessible medium bodied wine with elegance and balance with underlying spicy tones. Almost all the tasters identified Pinot Noir in the wine and one actually thought it was from south Africa. The average score was 16.5. (Average UK price is £23). Watch Peter Finlayson describing Hannibal: WATCH VIDEO
Antinori’s IGT Toscana Tignanello 2004 was poured next. Tignanello is a milestone – it was the first Sangiovese to be aged in barriques, the first red wine to be blended with non-traditional varieties (like Cabernet) and one of the first Chianti reds not to use white grapes. The 2004 was made from 85% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, aged in barriques for about 12 months and for a further 12 months in the bottle before release. It was breathtaking! Almost all the tasters picked up the two Cabernets and gave the wine 18 points. (Average UK price £118, average critic score 93).
Corte Sant’Alda Recioto Della Valpolicella DOCG 2011 was poured with a rich chocolate torte. The biodynamic wine comes from two 1.5 ha vineyards in the Val di Mezzanne area and the fruit (Corvina grossa 60% and Rondinella 40%) was fermented in wood and aged in 118 litre French oak barrels for two years. The wine has an alcohol level of 15.5% and 90 g/l residual sugar. 2000 bottles were produced. Tasters’ average score was 16. (Average UK price £52.80 per 500 cl bottle).
The final wine was Warre’s 2009 (Liberator) which was sipped with a selection of English and French cheeses. Paul Symington has written: ‘2009 was a very challenging year in the Douro. Following three consecutive dry years, yields were incredibly low but of very high quality. Of the three principal Warre’s Quintas, two have cooler microclimates which enabled them to produce wines which were considered of Warre Vintage Port quality. This Vintage Port is, notwithstanding, cast in a classic mould, with the staying power for very long term ageing. 2009 marks the 200th Anniversary of the liberation of Oporto by the Anglo-Portuguese Army led by the Duke of Wellington. Captain William Warre was awarded the country’s highest military honour, the Order of São Bento d’Aviz, for his courageous efforts against the French Army. The Symington Family are only releasing 500 cases (6,000 bottles – each numbered) of this exceptional Vintage Port. Warre’s & the Symington Family are donating £48 for every case sold to the British Charity ‘Help for Heroes’, so that William Warre’s valiant efforts of 200 years ago continue to help today’s soldiers.’ None of the tasters had any difficulty recognising it as a Vintage Port. It was silky, rich and wonderful. The average score was 17. (Average UK price is £63 and the average critic score is 94).
It was quite late when the last Armagnac was finished and the lunch finally ended. The two young ladies who helped with the serving left and the chef made an appearance. There was a contented look on everybody’s face.
(The Second Long Liquid Lunch was held in Ackworth on Sunday 8 January 2017 and was hosted by Peter & Carol Murphy. All participants were members of the Harrogate Medical Wine Society. The meal was prepared by Cordon Bleu chef Charlotte Broadbent from Pontefract.)