To York Wine Club’s tutored tasting at the Dawnay Arms in Newton on Ouse promising summer whites from France and undiscovered reds from Valdepenas in Spain.
This is as far removed from a serious sniff and spit as you can get. It begins with a jolly coach trip from central York, to save on the driving, so you know you’re in for a plentiful tasting .
Forty or so of us convened in the rear dining room of this handsome pub, sitting round convivial big tables ready to listen to Jim and Terry do their thing. Bottles are given to groups to help themselves. First wine up, Terry suggests to one table how much to pour for the tasting – more than a generous slurp – but then promises that any left over will be offered with the dinner. He’s true to his word.
The three whites were all from Chateau La Bastide, Corbieres AOC, in France’s wild Languedoc region, and the star of the tasting was the Blanc 2011, made from the increasing fashionable Vermentino, Rousanne and Bourboulenc. Fragrant, with a grapefruit flavoured streak of acidity, and a touch of spritz it was summer in a glass and, at £6.75 a bottle, a steal in the Wine Club’s next set of offers. It was a perfect match with the smoked fish risotto starter, cutting through its richness.
Oaked reds from the Lopez Old Vine range were introduced in a vertical tasting by Jim. My table felt the oak was too forward and tannins too stringent in the younger wine – the problem with tasting some reds without food. But pairing the Gran Reserva 2006 (£7.75) with the pork loin on a bed of savoy cabbage with pancetta and fondant potato, it came into its own. It would kiss a spiced leg of lamb and more than stand in for a more expensive rioja.
Jim and Terry are passionate and knowledgeable ambassadors for the wines they source. But they get that wine drinking, for most of us, needs to be delicious, value for money and a whole lot of fun. So much so that their next gig, at J Baker in York, is already sold out. I’m told the Christmas tasting is knockout – get in early. I will.