A lesson in wine and food pairing even a novice can grasp
- Credit: Stuart Beard Photography
I'll start by saying I am no wine connoisseur, and if looking for a bottle you'll generally find me hovering around the £5 rosé in my local supermarket - Jean-Charles Boisset I am not.
So when I went along to try some of the best wines the Norfolk Wine School could find, I took a much more sophisticated friend along with me, to lend me his palette.
The night we were guests at was a first for the Norfolk Wine School, a charcuterie and wine workshop.
The school was set up by chief wine tutor Jeremy Dunn last year, in a bid to bring courses and tastings for both novice and experienced wine lovers to Norfolk.
Mr Dunn, who has spent more than 10 years in the industry and has a Wine and Spirits Education Trust diploma, said wine schools had become hits elsewhere around the country.
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So with Mr Dunn at the helm on the night, we knew we were in good hands.
It all started with a run down - presumably to get beginners like me up to speed with the professionals.
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Why certain wines were paired with certain foods, whether it was to complement or contrast, and a crash course in how to taste wine.
I'd seen the swilling done before, but the aerating with what seemed to me to be a rather odd sucking sound was new.
I failed to do it without almost losing the wine down my front (something I prefer not to do until I've had at least a bottle...)
So I stuck to swallowing - something I was pleased to see everyone else doing too as I was dreading being expected to spit out and waste my tipple.
Lessons over, we got onto the pairing itself. The charcuterie had been provided by Les Garrigues, a quaint French food and wine shop on St John Maddermarket, in Norwich.
And it was clear each product was carefully sourced and high quality.
In fact four of the wines on the list that night were also from Les Garrigues - no wonder they worked so well together!
What hit the pair of us most throughout the pairings was just how much the charcuterie changed the taste or the wine, and vice versa - to the extent where it could have been a completely different bottle.
For example, I'm not a fan of a dessert wine as a rule, and that rule rang true when trying the final wine.
But after trying the Chateau La Passonne alongside the chicken liver parfait, it may as well have been a different glass of wine to me - less syrupy and much more palatable.
The other five wines we tasted held their own surprises.
• Mas de la Berben Les Lauzieres Blanc 2015, Coteaux du Languedoc with French Cured Ham
My friend Peter described this as 'mellow, like a lazy afternoon in the sunshine with no homework' - he has a reputation for being colourful. I found the ham took the sharpness out of the wine, making it a more enjoyable drink.
• Le Loup Bleu Vol de Nuit Provence Rosé, 2015 AOP Cotes de Provence with Jesus Salami
As a rosé fan, I thought this would be right up my street, even though it wasn't your bog standard white zinfandel found at the family barbeque. However, although it was refreshing, it wasn't my favourite pairing of the night.
• The Cicada 2016, Chante Cigale, IGP Mediterranee with Corsican Coppa Ham
Peter was not a fan of this one .'Too much tannin,' he said, picking up on the lingo. But he did admit the pairing with the ham softened it a little, making it more to his taste.
• Anciano Tempranillo Gran Reserva 2008, Valdapenas, Spain with Spanish Cured Ham
This pairing was by far my favourite - nothing to do with being four wines in I'm sure. But by now I thought I was starting to get the hang of things and really felt the flavours were enhanced by the Spanish ham. Maybe because it was a Waitrose wine I fell into my supermarket safety net!
• Mas d'Amile Vieux Carignan 2014, IGP Saint-Guilhem-le-desert with a traditional French Saucisson
Peter found the wine 'very smoky' but said this 'gave way to the saucisson' by cutting through, as we'd learned was the case.
Neither of us being experts, although one with infinitely more expensive taste than the other, the evening was a brilliant introduction to tasting and pairing - enhanced more by Mr Dunn's hosting. One to recommend to a friend.
• For more information on the Norfolk Wine School, visit www.norfolkwineschool.com