Launceston Place: a very special evening of Portuguese wine & fine dining
Last month’s Portuguese wine dinner at Launceston Place was a huge hit. Chef patron Raphael Francois and Head Sommelier Piotr Pietras outdid themselves, producing some of the best, most creative matches I’ve encountered at a Portuguese food and wine matching event. In case you are wondering, I took the photos of Francois’ beautiful dishes at the rehearsal lunch in the daylight!
With plenty to inspire, the conversation lingered into the witching hour. But it’s fair to say our guests were bewitched long before. From the get go, the canapés and bubbles – Aliança Baga Reserva Bruto 2014 (Bairrada) – set the tone.
Assertive, dry, mineral and persistent this grown up Baga fizz – a method traditional Blanc de Noir – found its perfect match in black squid ink sable with smoked haddock followed by smoked cod on rice cake with horseradish granita.
Fish, of course, is a great match for Alvarinho, but our starter of Belgian endives, bread condiments, whole nuts, dates and parsley mojito played to the complexities of this grape’s finest expressions. Top examples from Monçao e Melgaço exhibit the richness/sweetness of ripe fruit cut with fresh acidity and a green edge. Quintas de Melgaço QM Alvarinho 2015 (Moncao e Melgaco, Vinho Verde) played beautifully with all those elements of the dish.
Pietras and I are both huge fans of Casa da Passarella Villa Oliveira Encruzado 2012 (Dão) and were thrilled that its complexity, intensity and structure enthralled our audience. This concentrated but rapier-like wine was perhaps a little bit too focused for the persimmon, but otherwise its minerality and well-judged oak were a great foil for Sea bass, persimmon, seaweed, chicken oyster, vanilla beurre blanc.
By common consensus, our best match of the night was Aliança Baga Reserva 2009 (Bairrada) with Iberico pluma, rainbow carrots, green curry, belly confit. Originally, we had planned to show a younger Baga, but this mature example from a ripe vintage proved a sublime match given the sweetness of the carrots and curry spice. And, being a Baga from Bairrada, it had the acidity to cut through the belly confit. No surprises there given the local match is suckling pig. This wine also raised eyebrows on account of its bang for buck (see the list of wines & stockists below).
Partridge seems to be the bird of choice in Portugal, but when Scottish grouse is in season….Served pink, Scottish grouse, clementine, crostini, pommes noisettes, watercress paired rather gamely with the very elegant Herdade do Esporao Touriga Nacional 2010 (Alentejo). As you’d expect, the Touriga’s Bergamot notes chimed with the clementine, while its very discreet savoury oak played well with the (liver) crostini.
From a selection of Launceston Place’s groaning cheese trolley, aged Comte – nutty like the Port – worked very well with Graham’s 20-year-old Tawny Port. But a classic contrasting (salty/sweet) match edged it – the Roquefort.
I’ve written about the wonders of the 2011 vintage for Port. Not just Vintage Port, but also 2011 Late Bottled Vintage Ports which represent stunning value for money. We ended on a terrific unfiltered example – Quinta do Crasto Late Bottled Vintage Port 2011. Bottled-aged Ports and chocolate are a marriage made in heaven. Chocolate ganache, steam cake, blackberries, caramelized apple proved to be yet another high note of the evening.
Here’s the list of wine with stockists and retail prices. I’ve no doubt our guests will be looking some of them up. “More forthcoming damage to the wallet!” said one.
- Aliança Baga Bairrada Reserva Bruto 2014 – Blanc de Noir, Metodo Tradicional (Bairrada) – N/A UK
- Quintas de Melgaço QM Alvarinho 2015 (Moncao e Melgaco, Vinho Verde) – importer Enotria & Coe – £13.99 at Direct Wine Shipments
- Casa da Passarella Villa Oliveira Encruzado 2012 (Dão) – importer Enotria & Coe, £52.80 at Hedonism
- Aliança Baga Reserva 2009 (Bairrada) – importer Boutinot – £15.49 at Rannoch Scott
- Herdade do Esporao Touriga Nacional 2010 (Alentejo) – importer Enotria & Coe, £25.68 at The Fine Wine Company
- Graham’s 20-year-old Tawny Port – importer Fells – £36.49 at Waitrose
- Quinta do Crasto Late Bottled Vintage Port 2011 – importer Enotria & Coe – £15.95 Great Western Wine.
Thanks go to Wines of Portugal for supporting this event.