Thursday, 22 August 2019

Gallo super premium wine dinner at Boisdale

Gallo super premium wine Boisdale dinner

The only thing you might know about Gallo wine is the mass market White Zinfandel, Pinot Grigio, Cab Sav and Merlot you’ve likely drunk with friends or at a barbecue. Or perhaps you know the Barefoot wine brands? That was all I knew about Gallo wines anyway. But oh my, how surprised I was to learn there’s a whole other world out there: Gallo super premium.

It turns out Gallo owns a huge number of wine brands, and even more so after a $1.7bn deal to buy 30 others from Constellation Wines earlier in 2019.

But this is about the premium end of Gallo’s offering. You may be surprised to know you won’t see a Gallo label anywhere near any of these wines. I asked Gallo’s head of fine wine for EMEA, Edouard Baijot, MW (Master of Wine) – and one of only eight French MWs! – if the company had considered labelling the wines as Gallo, but apparently it didn’t resonate from a marketing perspective.

The tasting was part of a US vs Scotland dinner at Boisdale, Mayfair: an intense battle over which country offers the best lobster and the best steak, fought out in rowdy, boys club surroundings. 

Gallo super premium wine Boisdale dinner

We started the evening with several glasses of J Vineyards & Winery Cuvée 20 Brut, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. A classic blend of champagne grapes – Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir – this sparkler tastes like the California summer. It’s bright and round and soft, with a delightful citrussy creaminess. As lovely as it is however, I think most UK consumers would baulk at paying champagne prices for a Californian fizz, not taking quality or taste or anything else into account.

Then the battle began. We were presented with two halves of a lobster: native Hebridean vs New Jersey Atlantic, pairing with Orin Swift Mannequin Chardonnay 2014, California. We weren’t allowed to confer and had to vote for our favourites. The Scottish lobster won out, but being the terrible person I am, I preferred the US lobster. It was sweeter, and meatier. The first faux pas of the evening.

The wine matched up to the meatiness of the lobster. It’s certainly a punchy white, at 15% ABV. It’s a beautiful pale gold colour, with so much going on. On the nose you get vanilla, lemon, a light oakiness, with floral notes too. Sharp-sweet lemon on the palate with some grapefruit, and a rich, long finish.

Gallo super premium Boisdale dinner

Two wines for round two, and the food battle intensified: Black Angus USDA prime vs Dry Aged Buccleuch Scottish grass-fed ribeye. As the wine was flowing, so were the strong opinions… 

Another Orin Swift wine. This time, the Abstract 2016. So. Fruity. Cherries, strawberries, raspberries, and a smoky meatiness that was the perfect match with the steak. Smooth and long.

The second red, and absolute favourite wine of the evening (well, until the impromptu second tasting anyway) was the Louis M. Martini Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon 2016. Absolutely my kind of wine. Unsubtle, big, rich, and lip-smackingly delicious. Blackcurrant, dark plum, herbs. So full-bodied, with well-structured tannins, but also balanced, with a finish that just goes on and on. Lovely now, but even lovelier in a few years. I will dream of this wine.

On the steak front, Scotland beat the US hands down, with only one vote for the US.

Gallo super premium Boisdale dinner

The conversation turned to cheese, with Ranald Macdonald, younger of Clanranald, and managing director of Boisdale declaring that Britain makes the best cheese in the world. The look from Edouard Baijot could have melted a vintage cheddar.

The wine we finished the evening with was the MacMurray Estate Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Gris 2016, Sonoma County. This wine had some incredibly rich aromas and a fruit forward character, full of baked apple and peach. This tasted great at the dinner, but will likely taste even better in a few years.

The battle was all but forgotten about at this point in the evening, but it looks like the UK won hands down.

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