Longer days, warmer nights, and golden hours of sunlight that make everyone look significantly more attractive — anyone who tells you their favourite season isn’t summer should get their Vitamin D levels checked out. It’s also the season that brings us some of the best excuses to bring people together over a delicious meal and bottle, or three, of wine.
But, if your approach to pairing can be summarised with the well-versed commandment: “red with meat, and white with fish”, then allow us to expand your gastronomical horizons with a pairing menu of Michelin-starred matches that we were lucky enough to sample.
In a celebration of the first five vintages of Quintus, Domaine Clarence Dillon commissioned The Clove Club’s Head Chef, Isaac McHale to devise a tasting menu that would best complement the delicate — undeniably French — flavours from the Right Bank.
McHale began proceedings with a dish of raw Orkney scallop, hazelnut, clementine, and generous shavings of Périgord truffle (actually even better than it sounds), which made a lovely partner to the Clarendelle Blanc 2016, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle.
Second course was morels stuffed with wood pigeon sausage, snails and wild garlic — all perfectly paired with Le Dragon de Quintus 2011, the first vintage of the estate’s second wine. The background coffee notes of this vintage, as well as its just-right-age sat perfectly with the woodier flavours of this incredible, earthy dish.
It feels unfairly dismissive to describe any of McHale’s creations as the ‘main’ course of the day, but his combination of Welsh Speckled Face lamb, chickpea, bagna càuda and Swiss chard was particularly show-stopping. Succulent, tender and rich — it was a dish designed as the perfect companion for the Château Quintus 2012, with its deep and concentrated fruit.
And, although we aren’t in the habit of picking favourites, the Quintus 2015 (which came served with a selection of British farmhouse cheeses) was a standout bottle in the day. This is precisely the rare breed of red wine that acts almost like a magic potion — turning strangers’ conversation into that of old friends, and ruddying the cheeks of even the most seasoned oenophile.
Dessert, for those who could manage it, consisted of loquat sorbet (don’t worry, we hadn’t heard of it, either), loquat kernel cream and puffed amaranth — a dessert we can truly say we had tasted nothing like before. The saltiness of this remarkable dish made for a punchy match with the Clarendelle Amberwine 2015 — a wine so distinctive, it could easily be drunk in place of a sweet dessert.
Rounding off the dinner came a plate of bon bons — an ode to Dr. Henderson, designed as “a cure for any over-indulgence.” After a meal of this magnitude, we were in need of a sackful.
Looking for more incredible menus? We visited Xier to experience their ten-course tasting menu…