The best way to taste wine, especially red wine, is with food, so, when I see a tasting dinner organised in a local Bristol restaurant by The Wine Society, I take notice. When the topic is Portuguese wine and the speaker is as knowledgeable about his subject and as entertaining as Charles Metcalfe, it is clearly an event not to be missed. So, despite the awful weather – wind and lashing rain – my wife and I joined some 60 others at Bristol’s River Station restaurant recently. And we were not disappointed!
We were greeted with a warm welcome from Charles Metcalfe and an aperitif of Soalheiro’s Alvarinho, a rich, intense white from the Vinho Verde region, but with far more depth of flavour than you often find from there. A starter of scallops was accompanied by Filipa Pato’s Nossa Branco, an oaked example of a wine made from Bical, one of many native Portuguese grapes tasted during the evening. Even though the oaking was subtle, I wasn’t convinced it made the best flavour match with the delicious scallops.
Rare roast beef is marvellous for showing off a good red wine and we had two in contrasting style. For me, the steely Vinha Pan produced by Filipa Pato’s iconic father, Luis, from the Baga grape worked slightly less well with the dish than the fuller, more generous Quinta do Mouro, a blend of Aragonez (aka Tempranillo) and other Iberian varieties from the warmer south-east of the country.
The Quinta do Meruge from the Douro, another blend of local grapes, followed with the cheese course – a tasty, mature Montgomery Cheddar – showing, once again, how well a good hard cheese and red wine go together; sensibly, the restaurant avoided the temptation to offer a mixed cheese board, which is so much harder to match with a wine.
And finally, a dessert Moscatel from the Douro. Delicious on its own, but its intense sweetness seemed to have rather a fight with the chocolate, amaretti and sour cherry terrine. It was a brave attempt to match the chocolate and the sour fruit – both tricky flavours; sometimes these combinations of food and wine work well and surprise everyone. Unfortunately, for me, this one didn’t!
All too soon, time to thank our host and leave. Yes! It was still raining, but it didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for a delightful dinner, wonderful wines and Charles’ most interesting commentary.
Some of these wines may be available through The Wine Society, but are not part of their regular list, so I have not indicated prices.