Something for the w/end

(by peter)

I always know it’s going to be a good meal when Susie starts prepping at least half a week beforehand.

This time, it was the slow-cooked duck, orange and cinnamon pappardelle that was on her mind.

After much mental limbering up, the duck was duly purchased, cooked in slow fashion, then shredded, blended with the rest of the sauce and left to develop rich and unctuous flavours over time in cold storage.

This gave us proper breathing space to deliberate over the wines.

As it turned out, our preparations on the aperitif front went straight out of the window when our fabulous guests arrived clutching a bottle of perfectly chilled Salon Blanc de Blancs Brut Le Mesnil 1997 (12%, £195, Corney & Barrow).

Salon 1997 it was.

Quite delicious it was, too. Elegantly yeasty and toasty, with subtle buttery and red apple tones. On the palate, outstanding finesse and harmony. Lovely purity of focus and structure. Rounded, lingering and layered. It’s definitely a Chardonnay style, one maybe for the purists. Also not the most impressive or full-on vintage, singing in more of a minor than major key. (Drinking well now, though it would develop well over another 3-5 years.) Even so, it made for a quite brilliant aperitif and a wonderful start to the evening.

Next up was Casa Marin Cipreses Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (14.5%), to go with the steamed asparagus wrapped in Parma ham and served with warm hollandaise.

Cipreses is usually Mariluz Marin’s most challenging, complex and satisfying Sauvignon Blanc. In this case, it didn’t disappoint, showing smoky pea pod and vibrant grapefruit flavours, with lovely depth and foodie elegance. Cipreses is a wine that is slowly maturing in style, from its wild and often shocking character in the early vintages, to a more sedate and easier drinking (yet no less complex) style of late.

It’s a welcome development if you’re a wine drinker as much as a wine taster. This was one we’d bought from Majestic for about a tenner and it’s a fantastic buy.

When the duck finally made an appearance, it was served up with Passopisciaro IGT Sicilia 2005, Franchetti (£13.5%, £26.99, Corney & Barrow) and an old house favourite, Albino Rocca’s Barbaresco Brich Ronchi 1999 (14%, J&B). The former was soft and heady, with an inviting floral note and soft red fruit (it’s made on the slopes of Mount Etna from the Nerello Mascalese variety by a man of questionable sanity/great inspiration whose vines are often overcome by lava, apparently). The latter was much firmer by contrast, with chalky tannin and leathery, gamey, dried fruit flavours.

Both went down very well with the sensational duck.

Cheese was munched to the strains of tawny port, while the rhubarb crème brûlée was partnered by the supple and engaging Victoria 2 Moscatel 2006, Malaga, Jorge Ordóñez (not an ideal match but both wine and food were very enjoyable in their own right).

No doubt Susie – in Ribera del Duero as I write – is already mentally preparing her next gastronomic feast.

I wonder which wines go best with slow-roast suckling pig…