By Jim Clarke
November 2006

SPARKLING: Laurent Perrier Ultra Brut Champagne, France

Made without any dosage, this is literally as dry as it gets. It’s got an impressively minerally nose, with touches of lemon and almond; only on the palate do some of those bready notes typical to Champagne begin to emerge. Even without that touch of sugar, it still shows the smoothness you’d expect from Laurent Perrier.

Serve with: Oysters

WHITE: Flora Springs Chardonnay 2005, Napa Valley, California

This Chardonnay shows a great combination of Burgundian elegance and California fruitiness. There are tropical fruit aromas, especially mango, but they’re supported by a minerally note and wrapped in touches of marzipan, smoke, and coriander spice. A touch over medium body, this Chardonnay doesn’t go through malolactic fermentation, so it retains a higher acidity which gives it focus and length.

Serve with: Dungeness crab

RED: Cesca Vicent “Lo Piot” 2002 Priorat, Spain

This Priorat has everything you hope for from the region: a great, slatey touch, lots of dark fruit (think boysenberry and figs), and a dusting of chocolate. It’s full, rich, and powerful. The Vicent family has been growing grapes in Priorat for centuries; in 1999 Cesca began making wine herself instead of selling the grapes to other local wineries.

Serve with: Braised short ribs

DESSERT: La Tunella Verduzzo 2004, Friuli Collie Orientali, Italy

Made from the local grape Verduzzo, raisinated on the vine, fermented, and then aged in barriques. The oak-derived aromas balance well with the grape’s own fruitiness, and the wine shows notes of caramel, fig, date, and vanilla, plus touches of almond and hazelnut. It’s sweet, but not cloyingly so, and the tannins from the wood help keep the finish dry and clean.

Serve with: Crème Brulée

BEER: Aventinus, G. Schneider and Sohn, Germany

Celebrating its centenary next year, the Aventinus is a German wheaten doppelbock – meaning it includes wheat in the mix, and is fermented twice, once in the tank and once in the bottle (putting the “doppel” in “doppelbock”). Unlike the summer wheaten beers that are more common on the market, this is dark, with a touch of sweetness and notes of chocolate, dates, and clove. Despite the sweetness on the palate it finishes clean and dry.

Serve with: Wild boar

SPIRIT: Marcarini Barolo Chinato

Properly speaking, this isn’t a spirit as it’s not distilled. But it drinks like one, especially if you like Italian Amari (bitters) at the end of your meal. Essentially it’s a Barolo that’s been infused with quinine and a mix of herbs and spices. The wine’s power and notes of lavender, black cherry, and a truffly earthiness come through, embellished by a little sweetness and touches of clove, mint, and juniper. Many Chinatos aren’t imported, but the Marcarini is a classic example that’s found its way over.

Serve with: Dark chocolate



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