loire_valley_mapIn between teaching on our WSET® Wine Courses this month, I’ve been busy dreaming up themes and ideas for our forthcoming programme of Gourmet Dinners and Food & Wine Matching events. I suppose being forced to open several bottles from each region with one’s students (we do spit, actually!!) constantly refreshes the memory as to what wonders there are out there to be sipped and studied. The region closest to home that has really made me sit up and be impressed, has been the amazingly diverse Loire valley here in France.

It perfectly wends its way westwards from the very
heartland of central France, giving us elegant Sancerre’s through a dazzling array of fizz’s, white’s, red’s
and pink wines, from searingly bone dry to lusciously and intensely sweet and honeyed. I know my students were all taken aback and seriously stupefied to discover the versatility and variety of Loire wines.

So I’ve opted to take this as my theme for our 1st dinner on the 12th March. Numbers are limited as we will be having a cosy indoor evening with a log fire blazing rather than our more extensive Summer events out on the Terrace overlooking the Med! We shall no doubt kick off with one of the many top notch sparkling wines from the region – made in the same way as Champagne (i.e. Traditional Method) a delicately creamy Saumur will be offered to whet the appetite whilst I entertain with some facts and figures about our chosen region. I’m hoping to track down some Smoked Eel for a pre-dinner nibble I
have in mind….. We shall then glide through a starter of Oysters with Spinach & Beurre Blanc alongside a perky, yeasty and intensely savoury Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur lie. You cannot think of the Loire without marvelling at the array of amazing goat’s cheeses so I shall conjure up a voluptuous Twice-baked Goat’s Cheese Soufflé with a Carrot and Sweet Vouvray wine sauce. The archetypal partner with high acid goat’s cheese is a wine similarly high in acidity (the mouth watering tingly sensation you
experience with some particularly crisp wines gives an indication that there is plenty of refreshing acidity). So we shall travel along to the far East of this great wine country and tackle a really excellent Sauvignon Blanc – a Pouilly Fumé from the producer Laporte – we tried the Les Duchesses PF on the Advanced course last week and it knocked many a pricier wine into a cocked hat, as they say!

The centre piece of the evening is probably going to be my take on Coq au Vin with a Loire twist – think tasty Guinea Fowl with a deep Red Wine Sauce – I’ll be introducing the much under valued but immensely subtle red wines of the region here: I’ve long been a fan of the silky, raspberry fruited Chinon’s and St Nicholas de Bourgeuil wines made from Cabernet Franc. But I’m still toying between that and another Fish course to illustrate how certain lightish red wines can work with fish….hmmm, Loire Perch in a Chinon Sauce, perhaps? The finale will be a delicious Pear Tarte Tatin, which if I can lay my paws on the pear species, Belles Angevines (from Anjou) will be absolutely authentic of the Loire – apparently the buttery squidgy caramelised pastry pud, the Tatin is believed to originate from the
area. Also, orchard fruits are text book collaborators in the food & wine matching world for the honeyed apple character of the great sweet wines for the Loire. Here Chenin Blanc comes into its own and I shall be unearthing either a Coteaux du Layon, a Montlouis or a Bonnezaux to meet the challenge.

And so with drooling lips I ask you to check out our Forthcoming Events page for more details and how to book for this fine Dinner experience –at 60€ per person all inclusive, this is a real must!
Look forward to seeing you in March!

Helen Brotherton