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Neil Sowerby's February Wine Column

Burgundy, Portugal and a Heroes Wine Dinner at Mr Thomas’s

Published on January 30th 2013.

Neil Sowerby's February Wine Column
“TOO Much Vino” is hardly the way to start a wine column, but here goes. With time to spare before a Portuguese Wine dinner at Mr Thomas’s Chop House (of which more anon) I popped into the Northern Quarter bar Common to inspect their walls. 
Valle Pradinhos Red Reserva 2007, chocolate, peppery, vanilla nose gave way to dense blackberry fruit on the palate with enough acidity to give it elegance
To illustrate the perils of quaffing an excess of wine with friends these had been transformed by artist Billy into vividly coloured murals using African tribal motifs. Perhaps we could enlist her to do the same at Confidential? 

“It is a documentation exploring how the development of a taste for wine, a love of colour and the search for happiness can work together in such harmony (or not, if you’ve drunk too much),” goes the blurb for the show, the artist’s first in the UK, which goes on until the summer.

A Common showA Common show

At the launch providing and pouring the wine (excellent Wolftrap white and red – from South Africa naturally) was Ben Stephenson of Hanging Ditch, Manchester Food and Drink Festival’s Wine Retailer of the Year.   
Hanging Ditch run regular tutored tastings at their shop next to Manchester Cathedral. I attended two recently. The first, exploring the sheer variety of Burgundy, was tutored by general manager Mark Dent.
Stand-outs (and I apologise in advance for the price of the two reds – but they are worth it):
P Piuze Chablis Terroir de Fye 2011 (£40, magnum): Restores one’s faith in Chablis. This is a racy, juicy, smoky, grapefruit-zingy treat with great grip and length.
M Cheveau Trois Terroirs Pouilly Fuisse 2011 (£25): A completely different take on Burgundian Chardonnay, all honey, peach and pineapple, immediately flamboyant but finishing with surprising elegance.
C Lafon Macon-Milly Lamartine 2010 (£25): Top Meursault producer’s revelatory take on a Maconnais white mixes a mineral yet floral nose with a dense fruit and a taut backbone.
JF Mugnier Nuit St George Clos Fourches 2008 (£50): Earthy, herbal cherryish Pinot Noir bliss with a floral nose and beautiful length.
P Bouree Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 1999 (£80): Exquisite apogee of Vallet Freres’ 'hands-off' winemaking, this is special occasion red Burgundy, delicate, bewitching fruit with huge concentration.
The second HD tasting, Discover Portugal, was tutored by Simon Woods, who was named International Online Wine Columnist of the Year in 2010 for his blog, Drinking Outside The Box, which I highly recommend, click here.

Simon Woods in actionSimon Woods in action 

Of the 13 wines Simon showcased on the night here are three beauties:
Howards Folly Alvarinho 2010 (£15): Attractive Vinho Verde typically boasts pale straw colour with greenish tints, lovely scents of lemon zest and intense lime and grapefruit on the palate coupled with lean minerality.  
Maladinha Nova Branco 2009 (£30)Its time in new oak is evident through its toasty nose, but there’s peach and pear there in this blend of indigenous Arinto and Chardonnay with a touch of Viognier. Good acidity, too, on the rounded palate.
Luis Pato Rebel Tinto (£17.50): Made from the red Baga grape in the Beira region. It follows a lovely nose of spice, chocolate and maybe a hint of pine with an earthy mouthful of blackberry and blackcurrant flavours.
Simon Woods also talked the Portuguese talk at a splendid wine tasting dinner at Mr Thomas’s, hosted by Chop Houses' wine buyer George Bergier and his protege, sommelier Joanne Twentyman. On a winter evening this Confidential Heroes event was a terrifically cheering occasion.

Portugal's wine terracesPortugal's wine terraces 

Thomas’s own Portuguese list, Port apart, is limited to a Conde Villar Alvarinho Vinho Verde 2011 (£25, restaurant/bar price) and Pedra Basta 2009/10 (£29.50), an excellent Alentejo red from from wine writer Richard Mayson's estate, so the wines were sourced from Wines of Portugal (click here) – the official portal for that country’s wines.
The night’s starter was pan-seared cod cheeks and chourico (chorizo in Portuguese) with piri piri oil and micro fennel, the matching white a Pato Frio Antao Vaz 2010. Antao Vaz, better known for its role in White Port, is the recommended grape in Vidigueria, the white wine enclave in predominantly red-friendly Alentejo. It imparts to this blend a pleasant mix of minerality and fresh tropical fruit that was stern enough to handle the pepper dash of the dish. 

Cod Cheeks With ChouricoCod Cheeks With Chourico 

Of the two reds that accompanied our main of Chanfana lamb shoulder and anchovy and parsley crusted loin with paprika crushed haricot beans and Madeira jus I preferred the Valle Pradinhos Red Reserva 2007, a predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon blend from the far north-east region of Tras os Montes.
Its chocolate, peppery, vanilla nose gave way to dense blackberry fruit on the palate with enough acidity to give it elegance. In contrast, the pruney, herbal fruit was a mite harsh in the Tons de Duorum 2010 – a typically Portuguese grape mix of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz. 
And so to the Port. From the decanter the Graham’s Crusted NV (available in Tesco and Sainsburys for around £20) was liquid spicy fruitcake. You hardly needed the accompanying dessert trio of port poached pear with sweet lemon and black olive cookie, rice pudding with honeyed fig and (less engaging) dark chocolate and pistachio salami.
To find out more about Hanging Ditch events ring 0161 832 8222or visit www.hangingditch.com. The next event is Rioja Legends, February 5 (£25).
Too Much Vino, free exhibition, Common, 39-41 Edge Street, ring 0161 8329245 or visit www.aplacecalledcommon.co.uk.
There are regular wine matching dinners at Mr Thomas’s Chop House, Cross Street, 0161 832 2245 or visit http://tomsmanchester.thevictorianchophousecompany.com

If you fancy rustling up a Chanfana or dishing out the chourico, I recommend the classic, revelatory Taste of Portugal by Edite Vieira just published in a new edition by Grub Street (£20 hb).

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MaggieJanuary 31st 2013.

OMG! Wish I'd been there, all sounds heavenly.

Portuguese wine is so under-rated x

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