Thursday, 20 February 2014

We've Gone All Michelin Starry-Eyed for Wine at The Kitchin

If you're a little bit of a wine geek like us here at Vinspire you'll probably be the one picking up the wine menu at a restaurant long before you've even thought about the food, oohing and ahhing over the unsual varietals or familiar names peering back at you and creating an 'if-money-were-no-object' wine wish list in your head.

For a wine geek, there is nothing better reading than a restaurant wine list.

Whether we're intending to be critical or not, we definitely are. Whether we're actually going to choose that bottle of Chateau Margaux on the list we were lucky enough to try at a tasting one time....well, that's down to the number of pennies in your purse, but probably not.

When it comes to actually choosing a wine, it's often based on what you can afford and even then do you choose the meal first and find a wine to match? Or choose the wine and then find a meal to complement? Decisions in restuarants are hard, especially if you want to try everything on the wine list.

Here in lies the beauty of the matched wine package. Spotted next to many set lunch and dinner menus, the matched wine package takes away any indecisions - perfect for an indecisive bugger like me! - and you get to try a vareity of wines, safe in the knowledge that love and attention has gone into finding a food and wine match made in heaven by in-house sommeliers.

Last week, with my saved up pennies, I dined with the other half at The Kitchin in Edinburgh, opened in 2006 by passionate Scotsman, Tom Kitchin and his wife. With a host of awards for their menus - both food and wine - this michelin-starred team deliver their simple philosophy 'from nature to plate' with exceptional style and elegance.

Having considered many options from both the menu and the wine list, we opted for the Chef's Classic Tasting Menu, and the matched wine package to accompany which was daring as all choice and decision was removed but we hoped for a few surprises.

Decisions made, we were swiftly with a glass of toasty, yeasty Philliponnat Royal Reserve Champagne (check out Champagnes Wines Direct) in hand, and the merriment began without the stress of making a choice from their extensive and incredible wine list. With a wine to match each course, the excitement was not just for the food, but for which wine would arrive to accompany...

For the shellfish rockpool, a cool and crisp 2012 Albarino from Bodegas Martin Codax with just-ripe apple, peach and pear flavours - delicious with shellfish and the salty sea vegetables. Want to know a secret? I've since discovered that Bodegas Martin Codax are the producers behind the Tesco Finest* Albarino, which you can pick up at Tesco for £7.49. It's a different blend, but the character is very much the same.

With the razor clams served with diced vegetables, chorizo and lemon confit, came one of my favourite wines from Western Australia - Plantagenet Riesling, 2013. Dry and crisp, this unoaked beauty is clean, elegant and full of citrussy zing. The clams had a sort of creamy consistency so the acidity of the wine really cut through to release the flavour of the lemon and spice of the chorizo. A stunning wine. If you fancy giving it a go, you can pick up the 2012 vintage from The Wine Society for £13.50.

Big in flavour, the rolled pig's head with hand-dived scallop arrived with the Etna Rosso Tenuta delle Terre Nerre, 2012. At 14.5% it hits you - bam! - in the face in the best way possible. Full-bodied with bright, ripe flavours of cherries, strawberries and herby thyme , it's tannic and everything you need for the rich flavours of the dish. Wine Direct has it on offer at the moment for £11.95 and I would highly recommend you try.

I'll skip a couple of courses....you get the gist - the food was amazing and so were the wines. All credit to their sommelier, indeed excellent choices (though suprised I had actually tasted half the before!). Where I want to jump to is the dessert...

Pumpkin, chocolate and rum tiramisu with creme fraiche ice cream - yes, already heaven, but it got better! Out came possibly the most delicious wine of the evening - a deep amber, sticky glass of deliciousness - the Dandelion Vineyards Legacy of the Barossa 30 Year Old Pedro Ximinez (available at The Drink Shop, £13.95 for a 37.5cl bottle). Sweet aromas of figs, raisins, maple syrup and nuts, this just got better on the palate - rich flavours of dried apricots, figs, toffee and candied orange peel. With the smooth pumpkin and the rich chocolate, this found the middle ground and made all the flavours sing. Better still, it's from South Australia, my homeland...I think I am in love - sorry other half, you've lost me now!

The morale of the story? My advice? If a matched wine package is available, go for it, especially in a restaurant of this calibre. You're bound to be surprised, it takes away the stresses of decision, the wine guys have done all the work and quite franky, I think it's bloomin' good value. Michelin star status proven, Kitchin - you had me at the first course.

Dining picture taken from isante_magazine's photostream under the Creative Commons License on Flickr.

Pig's head and scallop image from theCSSdiv's photostream under the Creative Commons License on Flickr.

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