You get two for the price of one with the Creagh/Carr Review – Here they give their views on the latest Luton Hoo Gourmet Wine Dinner:
If you’re after a sophisticated evening of wining and dining, look no further than one of Luton Hoo’s fabulous Gourmet Wine Dinners.
It’s like going to an intimate dinner party in a beautiful stately home setting, complete with crystal chandeliers and starched white napery.
On Thursday the focus was on South Australia and the Thistledown Wine Company. Owner and Master of Wine Giles Cooke is not only extremely knowledgeable about modern methods – including picking grapes early to ensure a fresh, light taste – but he’s also a most amusing ranconteur.
The dinner was held in Luton Hoo’s Grinling Gibbons room, which is adjacent to its Wernher Restaurant and was originally the games room when South African diamond magnate Sir Julius Wernher owned the estate. It boasts marble panels and rich fabrics and allegedly still has a secret wood panelled cue cupboard.
Oenophile and Sheffield University graduate Giles spends half his year in Edinburgh – the Australian wine industry was founded by Scots – and the other half in the Adelaide Hills, producing hand-made boutique wines.
He says Australia has a hot robust climate but the way Thistledown makes wines is conducive to a more subtle flavour.
Canapes were accompanied by a bone-dry Courtesan Riesling from the Clare Valley, renowned as one of the world’s top Riesling regions and coming back into vogue after a period in the wilderness.
It’s crisp and food friendly, according to Giles, but was a tad too sharp for me and my Sauvignon Blanc palate.
First course was pan fried scallops with crisp kale, lemon emulsion and fennel pollen, paired with a Great Escape Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills.
This was absolutely fabulous on all fronts – a match made in heaven.
According to Giles, Australian chardonnay is a breath of fresh air, its light citrusy character a marked improvement on the original buttery bright yellow versions which heralded the wicked acronym ABC – Anything But Chardonnay.
Next came a tasting of English lamb – roast loin, slow cooked belly and braised shoulder – on salt baked celeriac with sage reduction. It was teamed with a Bachelor’s Block Shiraz from the Barossa Valley. I’m normally not a red wine lover but I fell for this in a big way. It was velvet smooth and complemented the lamb perfectly.
This again was picked early to ensure freshness and vitality, lightness and elegance.
The grand finale was a trio of English cheeses – Rosary Ash, Godminster Cheddar and Cornish Yarg, served with grapes, walnut bread and celery.
And to drink? The Vagabond Grenache from Blewitt Springs in McLaren Vale.
And I’ll let you in to a little secret: Giles is on a mission to bring Grenache to a wider audience. “My favourite vineyard area is Blewitt Springs,” he says.
“It’s world class. It produces the Grand Cru of Grenaches with an amazing fruity character. And ours has just been voted one of the top 100 wines in Australia.”
All in all a fabulous evening with convivial company (there were 12 of us round the oval table) and delicious food – take a bow, Luton Hoo head chef Darren Curson.
And the cherry on the top was being asked to vote for which Australian wines should be included in the Wernher Restaurant’s new wine list.
The Great Escape Chardonnay won hands down, as did the Vagabond Grenache – and Giles was naturally delighted.
Visit www.thistledownwines.com for more information.
The next Luton Hoo Gourmet Wine Dinner is on November 9 when Cristal Roederer champagne from France will be featured.
Call 01582 698888 to book.