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Sunday, 25 November 2012

Didsbury Wine Club's November Gathering - Cheese and Wine at The Albert Club

There are many, many things that have failed to stand the test of time. That net-lined puffball skirt, for instance, that I spotted on a member of Bananarama c. 1986 and cried and cried for - fortunately my mother knew better, and refused to buy me something so clearly, hideously temporal. But then again, there are some things that simply do not date; take the cheese and wine party, for example. In my head this thrilling food and drink combo is most clearly associated with the 1970s: I suspect I may be thinking of an episode of The Good Life, in which Margot is perhaps wearing some kind of long, satiny dress and handing round pieces of cheese on sticks before Tom and Barbara probably come in wearing dungarees and smelling of pigs.

This may then explain why I was so ridiculously excited to find that this month's outing for the Didsbury Wine Club was to be - *Margot-inspired gasp* - a cheese and wine night. If you've not come across this laudable club before, it is essentially a group of nice, sociable people with a permanent, insatiable sort of thirst, who gather together on a regular basis under the friendly tutelage of Omar, David and Kate (who is new to the team, and has come all the way from California just to have wine with us) to try a range of wines in various locations across Didsbury. This month it was the turn of The Albert Club on Old Lansdowne Road, previously best known to me as the host of a splendid annual beer festival but now forever etched into my memory as the place I went to a cheese and wine party, on a dance floor, behind a curtain.

Anyway, this is what we had, with all wines - as ever - available from West Didsbury's Reserve Wines:

1- Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2011: I am definitely more of a red wine person, but this is lovely - as well as the familiar Sauvignon notes of melon and pineapple, this has a deeper, richer, more complex flavour. I comment to Mr Liz that I feel it is vaguely reminiscent of a good Chardonnay, BEFORE being told that 10% of the wine is oak aged in barrels - this time (this ONE time), my *knowledgeable wine face* actually turns out to be a *knowledgeable, accurate, TRIUMPHANT wine face*.

2- Chateau Lucas, Lussac St. Emilion 2008: the grapes for this French wine - a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon - receive constant sun, and it shows in the rich warmth and creamy finish of this highly suppable offering. Even better, it is offered alongside a large platter of a perkily firm cheese that has been bathed twice in Spanish red wine, a custom I plan to adopt myself prior to particularly special occasions.

3- Tabali Reserve Pinot Noir 2011: I love Pinot Noir, and this is no disappointment - this Chilean wine is made by a company that believes in old-school values, hand-picking all the grapes and oak-ageing 20% of them, and has a sultry, smoky taste. The cool night-time climate in the Chilean valleys means that the fruit takes longer to ripen, leading to thicker skins and a drier finish, and the poor soil quality results in a light, mineral flavour. There is no cheese with this wine, but David explains that we are using it as a palate cleanser due to its light, dry qualities; I consider this a reasonable answer, and reluctantly withdraw the angry, cheeseless tantrum that had been brewing. I also briefly consider that it may be some form of punishment implemented by Omar as retribution for the fact that when he asks us to try cheese two with and without the cheese, it transpires that everyone has in fact already eaten all their cheese, the very second it appeared.

4- Pulenta Estate, La Flor Malbec 2011: oh my - the high altitude of Mendoza in Argentina leads to big, fat, juicy grapes, which in turn leads to big, fat, juicy, wine-stained faces, for this is delicious, particularly as it is served with one of my favourite cheeses - Burt's Blue from Altrincham. This is my new favourite combination-for-life, and added to the fact that the cheesy platters also contain fresh figs, there is a serious chance that I may weep tears of sheer food joy.

5- Juan Gil 4 Meses 2011: last up is a real big-hitter - an Old World wine made from 100% Monastrell grape, but in a New World style that results in a wine clocking in at 15% ABV but remaining seriously drinkable. This is another great pairing, partnered with an 18-month-matured French Comté that perfectly complements the hefty swagger of the wine.

Amongst all this quaffing and scoffing, there is time for a quick cheesy joke competition (which is won by a lady who tells a great joke about the best cheese for hiding a horse), and much informal chat and erudition from the wine team. All in all, the night is pretty much perfect, and offers ludicrous value at £15 a head for frankly vast quantities of excellent food and drink and really lovely company. Obviously, for this to have been done properly, the cheese sticks should really have been served poking becomingly from an orange dressed up in tin foil to resemble a hedgehog, but you can't have everything - I shall offer this expert feedback so that this small glitch may be corrected next time...

- Find out more about the Didsbury Wine Club (and their new sister club in Chorlton) by visiting their website here - and don't forget to nake the point about the cheesy hedgehog. All cheeses were supplied by The Cheese Hamlet in Didsbury Village.

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