Dinner, restaurant
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Loire Valley Wines Dinner at Portland Restaurant

After having this blog for nearly five months now, it dawned on me last week that I hadn’t actually dedicated a blog post to wine yet – a shocking travesty! My taste in wine has changed over the years – I used to prefer white, but I’ve got more into red wine recently. I think this is probably because we used to drink a lot of white wine in Cyprus in the heat, but now I love nothing more than a glass of red, snuggled up on the sofa on a winter’s evening in the UK. 

My first experience of properly pairing food with wine came earlier this year, when Tim and I had to choose the food for our wedding. We travelled down to the venue in Dartmoor for the weekend with my sister-in-law and her partner, who know quite a bit about wine, to help us decide.

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And I’m so glad we did, as we ended up choosing the complete opposite to what we would probably have gone for on paper. We decided on smoked duck breast to start, followed by seafood risotto for our fish course, slow cooked pork belly for main course and a beautifully presented cheesecake for dessert. Now if I were to pick a red and a white to go with this meal, I would probably have chosen a sauvignon blanc and a malbec. However, after trying six different glasses (3 red and 3 white), we settled on a chardonnay and a pinot noir. Because it all came down to the pairing with the food. I would never usually order a chardonnay, but it worked perfectly with the smokiness of the duck breast and the saltiness of the seafood risotto.

Choosing these wines really changed the way that I now order in restaurants. And when I was invited by Square Meal to a wine tasting and dinner at Portland Restaurant, I was keen to see what more I could learn.   

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Portland is located at 113 Great Portland Street – it’s not an area I’m very well acquainted with, so I’d never come across it before. And you might not notice it – it’s one of the numerous bars and restaurants on Great Portland Street, but it doesn’t sound as though it needs to stand out. After opening earlier this year, it seems to be doing very well indeed. They adapt their menu to use the freshest seasonal ingredients possible, serving lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday.

The evening was hosted by Loire Valley Wines and we were treated to six different wines from Touraine and Anjou, which were introduced to us by Street Vin’s Ruth Spivey.

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Touraine wines are typically easy to drink – the kind of wine you can drink with friends at parties. The soils which produce these grapes are quartz and limestone clay, fine gravel or sand over Sologne clay, or flinty clay. The white wines, which are made mainly from sauvignon blanc, are dry and aromatic, with hints of blackcurrant leaves, citrus and exotic fruits and white flowers. The red wines, which are blended from malbec, cabernet franc, gamay and pinot noir, are full bodied wines that benefit from ageing.

Rosé d’Anjou is an off-dry rosé, also very easy to drink, and is produced from gravelly soils, silica sands or limestone. It is usually made from the grolleau grape and has a dominant aroma and flavour of red fruits, strawberries, raspberries and redcurrants.

The Wines

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1. Domaine Bellevue Sauvignon Blanc Touraine (2014), Laithwaites, £10.99

2. Domaine de l’Aumonier, Touraine Sauvignon (2014), Stone, Vine and Sun, £9.95

3. Rosé d’Anjou Domaine des Essarts (2014), Christopher Piper Wines, £8.50

4. Rosé d’Anjou (2014), Marks and Spencer, £8.00

5. Red Touraine Les Marcottes Domaine de Pierre (2012), Lea & Sandeman, £9.95

6. Rosé d’Anjou, La Jaglerie (2014), The Oxford Company, £7.99

The Food

1. Pickled Shitake mushrooms, soy and ginger     2. Mangalitsa pig rillettes, pickles, toast

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3. Summer vegetable salad     4. Grilled English asparagus, garlic yoghurt

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5. Charred vegetables, smoked hollandaise, summer truffle     6. Old spot pig belly

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7. Roast Cornish monkfish, cider sauce     8. Potato millefeuille and fine beans with yellow                                                                          courgettes

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9. Almond Pithivier and Raspberry jam

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I was fortunate enough to be seated next to the lovely Denise (The Wine Sleuth) who is very much the wine expert, so it was great to get her opinions and see if/how they differed from mine. 

My favourite of the wines was the second sauvignon blanc, it was just so smooth and easy to drink.  The first rosé wasn’t really my cup of tea at a first taste, but when accompanied by the beautiful shitake mushrooms, the flavour changed instantly and worked perfectly. I personally liked the red wine, although it didn’t appear to be to everyone’s tastes. But it meant I got to polish off everyone else’s glasses. Might explain the slightly sore head the next day 😉

Denise stressed how wine should always be served at room temperature and will happily request an ice bucket for a bottle of red in a restaurant if she feels it’s too warm. The idea of serving wine at room temperature dates back hundreds of years, when room temperature was understandably a lot cooler than it is in today’s world of tower block apartments and central heating! My parents often used to chill red wine when they drank it in Cyprus, because by the time it had been on the table for a few minutes, the heat would take it above the optimum temperature. 

The food at Portland was superb. The vast number of dishes had so many different flavours, the whole evening was a treat for the tastebuds! It’s hard to pick out what I enjoyed the most, as I really did love everything. But I suppose a couple of stand out dishes were the charred vegetables with truffle (as I’m sure you know by now, I’m truffle obsessed) and the gorgeous mille feuille potatoes served with the pork belly. 

It was great to meet some other lovely bloggers, thank you to London Life, Popups and Pucci, Eat Cook Explore, Goan To London, Jess On Thames, The Wine Sleuth, Vi-Vian, Andrea’s Passions, Scratch London, The Foodaholic and Angloyankophile for your company. 

It was a fun evening and it has given me lots of ideas for future blog posts on wine. But what I would give to be sitting outside in the French sun, glass of wine in hand, looking out across a vineyard right now. And so to end on a lovely line from John Keats:

“Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know.”

Perfection. 

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I was invited to the dinner and wine tasting at Portland Restaurant by Square Meal, Loire Valley Wines and Sopexa for review purposes but did not receive any payment. All views are my own.

Square Meal

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