Richard Lockstone holds the keys to one of the Quayside’s most bountiful wine cellars. And here he is ready to share some priceless treats as the New Zealand vs Australia Wine Dinner gets underway in a private dining room at Malmaison, Newcastle.
It’s a Friday night and the evening begins, as every Friday should, with a TGIF glass of fizz.
Fittingly, tonight’s is from Marlborough, a devastatingly delicious Huia blanc de blanc, a classic chardonnay traditionally made with loads of tasty flavour – refreshing and moreish.
The monthly Malmaison wine dinners are hosted by the genial sommelier Richard Lockstone, who more than knows his stuff. The sociable dinners are hosted round a communal table with six courses of food and an embarrassment of great wines to sample – exactly what you want from a wine dinner.
Richard clearly has great fun sourcing new wines – those to trial for the Malmaison wines lists, as well as showcasing the hotel’s own wine selection.
He enjoys his subject enormously, imparting his wine wit and wisdom to guests, some of whom are regulars and others joining the dinners for social occasions or because they’ve a passion for wines from a particular wine region.
The next event is on Friday 12 October, a ‘Call my Bluff’ session for those who like a wine-tasting challenge. It’s always one of the most popular and great fun, says Richard.
But back to our Oz vs NZ. To join starters of chargrilled king prawn and avocado salsa we’re brought two wines blind – asked to try them with and without food, decide which we prefer and then learn more from Richard. Both are Riesling. Prophet’s Rock form Central Otago New Zealand and Australia’s fabulously-named Rieslingfreak No5 from the Clare Valley. It’s fascinating and entertaining to drink them side by side and enjoy and experience the difference – something you’d rarely get the chance to do.
We move to a dish of warm roasted radish, duck and orange salad. The food is way more impressive than you might expect given the £59pp cost of the dinner. Succulent slices of pink duck which make for a mighty and memorable salad. Alongside, we drink an Ara Resolute pinot noir 2012 from Marlborough NZ.
Always a favourite grape, this wine is paired beautifully with our salad thanks to it lush juicy flavours and soft, mellow texture.
After a passionfruit sorbet, we move to a battle of the reds which see us try Bordeaux-style reds alongside a dish of rack of lamb with parsnip mash and redcurrant jus.
The wines are made from grape blends traditionally grown by French winemakers in the famed Bordeaux region – then given that cheeky southern hemisphere wit and sunshine treatment to create really bold and memorable reds.
Western Australia brings us Fraser Gallop Estate cabernet merlot – and from NZ we’re tasting the epic-sounding Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Te Kahu red from Hawke’s Bay. By this stage of the evening that’s a mouthful in every sense.
With every sip there’s informed chat from Richard about the wines, and their makers.
There’s no scrimping on quantity and glasses are generously filled. Richard is also using us as (grateful) guinea pigs for some new wines he’s sampling for the wine list. It’s all very sociable and enjoyable as you sit alongside your new best wine friends.
A dessert of exotic fruit pavlova is served with a chilled and luscious dessert wine, Patricia Noble Riesling. From a lesser-known vineyard, this wine is 11 years old. Rich and bursting with fruit, it is an example of why a wine-tasting event like this takes you out of your comfort zone, giving you the chance to try extravagant wines you’d never normally try or buy.
We move to cheese and share a platter with the Battle of Bosworth Graciano, which sounds like it’s from anywhere but Australia.
Graciano comes from Spain and is mainly grown in Rioja. It likes the heat and is a soft but not oaked red that’s perfect with the cheese.
The evening has been informative, entertaining and convivial – which is what wine is all about. The quality of food was impressive and paired imaginatively with the wines – which were great quality and variety.
When it comes to value for money – these wine dinners are frankly off the scale. Get yourself booked in and have some fun.
‘CALL MY BLUFF’ WINE DINNER
Friday 12th October, 7pm
The return of last year’s hugely successful ‘Call My Bluff’ wine dinner. This fun evening combines a great five course menu with some fantastic wines, pairing one wine per course; but with two possible descriptions. Can you work out which is the truth?
£59 includes arrival drink, canapés and dinner paired with wine
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