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The ‘Perfect Wine’ Dinner At Albert Square Chop House

Stellar bottles matched with fine British food wow Neil Sowerby

Written by . Published on December 5th 2014.

The ‘Perfect Wine’ Dinner At Albert Square Chop House


IT’S a hostage to fortune proclaiming the ‘Perfect Wine’ Dinner – certainly a hostage to wines that might cost a fortune.

Tasting the eight thoroughbred wines on offer was like inspecting Frankel’s foals before returning to one’s everyday donkey ride plonk

I hesitated to price the Chateau d’Yquem 1976 which concluded the recent wine matching meal of that name at the Albert Square Chop House; a colleague on my table researched and tweeted later that it would cost £457 a bottle from a merchant and more than £1,500 in a top end restaurant. Wow. I was just tickled that it accompanied my Manchester Tart. Beautifully.

Welcome From Roger WardChop House owner Roger Ward welcomes the guests at this very special dinner

This Premier Cru Classe Sauternes from a legendary vintage was awarded the perfect 100 points by the Godfather of wine critics, Robert Parker – and that was the whole point (sic) for this charity dinner, dreamed up by Roger Ward and his Chop House team.

The roster of bottles, while not all attaining that degree of Parker perfection, aspire to it. Actually three more hit the century, too – all from California’s Vérité, while our canape-partnered palate freshener Nyetimber was named The Best Sparkling Wine in Britain at the International Wine Challenge and Jancis Robinson MW had given our turbot-accompanying Pouilly Fumé her perfect score, too.

Pierre Seillan With One Of His Seven 100-Point WinesPierre Seillan with one of his 100-point wines

Star guests at this amazing dinner, unique in the UK, were Vérité winemaker Pierre Seillan, his wife Monique and Master Sommelier Dimitri Mesnard, who works for their Californian business partners Jackson Family Wines. Further Seillan-made wines featured on the night – the 2005 Chateau Lassègue (92pts) from his St Emilion base and his Super Tuscan red, the 2008 Tenuta di Arcano (96pts)

The ‘Perfect Wine’ Dinner, attended by some 50 folk, wasn’t just to showcase some exceptional bottles but also the commitment of the Manchester-based Chop Houses (Albert’s, Tom’s and Sam’s) to wine. For the past two years their list, assembled by their legendary wine buyer George Bergier, has won a Wine Spectator magazine award for Wine Excellence – the first in Manchester ever to do so.

Przemyslaw Markwart, Roger Ward, Pierre Seillan, Garry Clark And George BergierPrzemyslaw Markwart, Roger Ward, Pierre Seillan, Garry Clark And George Bergier

Now, upping the game further, the new restaurant manager at Albert’s is Garry Clark (Into The Fire), for 10 years the Head Sommelier of the Michelin-starred Chester Grosvenor. Garry previously worked for Gordon Ramsay and at the Gleneagles Hotel and brings a wealth of contacts.

So the dinner was a celebration... but also a fund-raiser, via a silent auction (of wine and various wine-related prizes). The event raised more than £1,400 for the North West Air Ambulance Charity and Movember’s Prostrate Cancer Charities.

For the dinner, Albert’s new head chef Stuart Valentine was charged with matching the finest British ingredients to the amazing wines. Here’s a summary of courses – alongside brief tasting notes for the wines, few of which I’m likely to savour again. If you get the chance, do.


Canapes: 2009 Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs, Sussex

Lovely straw colour, lots of green apple fragrance and brioche on the nose with a whack of citrus on the palate and good minerality. Pierre Seillan (a Frenchman) was impressed but thought there was sightly too much dosage (too sweet for his palate). The estimable Berry Bros & Rudd stock this at £39.95.

Terrine Of Game

Terrine of game: 2008 Tenuta di Arcano, Arcanum, Tuscany

Needs more time, but still offering an elegant trove of cherry and plum fruit with scents of honey and lavender.

Roast Turbot With Morecambe Bay Shrimps

Roast Turbot with Shrimps: 2012 Didier Dagueneau Silex, Blanc Fumé de Poully, Loire

Oak aged and the product of rigorous selection, this tastes like no other Sauvignon Blanc on earth. The legacy of the late  Didier Dagueneau lives on in floral, herby, grapefruity harmony. Smoke, mineral, iodine in a silky sleeve and none of the tropical, gooseberry excess of New World Sauvignon. The big hit of the dinner along with Lassègue, below. Majestic stock the Silex in limited stores at £75.

High Peak Lamb Rump And Braised Neck

Lamb Neck & Rump: 2005 Chateau Lassègue, St Emilion Grand Cru Classé

Great value quality St Emilion, from a great vintage, that needs decanting to yield its full pleasures at the moment. Then it is generous with its fruit and spice peeking through ripe tannins.

La Joie IndeedLa Joie indeed. Image: NS

Cheese (Baltic, Yarg and Belton’s Cheshire): 2008 Vérité, La Muse; 2008 Vérité, Le Desir; 2005 Vérité, La Joie, all Sonoma Coast, California

The three Vérité wines each feature a different Bordeaux-style cepage, the Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Peit Verdot sourced from various impressive vineyards from across California before being blended. New World wine made with Old World expertise. All are very intense with the kind of extract favoured by Parker, hence those perfect scores. All need a decade or two to show their best. I’d put a punt on La Joie – a blend of 67 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon with 12 per cent Cabernet Franc, 12 per cent Merlot and the rest Petit Verdot and Malbec. Its bouquet of smoke and licorice is extraordinary, matched by the extraordinary length of its black fruit.

Manchester Tart With Chateau D'yquemManchester Tart With Chateau D'Yquem. Image NS

Manchester Tart: Chateau d’Yquem 1976, 1er Cru Classé, Sauternes, Bordeaux

A golden wonder from 80 per cent Semillon, 20 per cent Sauvignon. It smells of dried apricot, and bananas and has a massive, complex, spicy palate. Classic.

Not everyone’s a Robert Parker winner, of course. The former Baltimore lawyer’s verdicts can make or break the reputations of wineries and vintages. In a BBC fly on the wall series a few years back called simply ‘Wine’ I recall some of the finest chateau owners in Bordeaux quaking in their expensive boots while they awaited the scores from Parker’s Wine Advocate bulletin. Only then dare they name their prices for the vintage.

Parker is remarkably perceptive on fine wine but some have railed against his undue global influence, insisting that winemakers desperate for his recommendation tailor their wines to suit his particular palate. I put this to  Pierre Seillan, a Gascon who has built up a formidable reputation – and some impressive air miles – on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Yes, they call it Parkerisation,’’ said Pierre. “It happens, of course, but not with me. I’ve been making wines for nearly 50 years in France and Italy and now California and I always make wines the way I feel they should taste. It’s all about the soil. We are fortunate Mr Parker has become such an admirer. It is on our terms, though."

The proof was in the tasting on a night of Manchester food and drink that was simply Perfect.

Picture gallery by Georgie Glass (unless otherwise accredited). 

The Albert Square Chop House, Memorial Hall, 14 Albert Square, Manchester M2 5PF.

0161 834 1866


George And His Nose For Fine WineGeorge Bergier and his nose for fine wine; below, an honoured guest looks on

Lowry Looks On

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