Two years ago, Rich and I went on holiday to the southwest coast of France and while we were there, we hopped on a wine tasting tour around Bordeaux and the Saint Emilion region. We left the UK as wine novices, and returned as complete wine
snobs bores, who actually knew (and, I’m ashamed to say, even maybe cared a little!) about previously foreign wine concepts like tannins, vintage and clarity.
Now, I am very happy to report that this snobbishness has worn off a bit over time (i.e. we’ve totally forgotten what we were taught in France). However, one fact remains. We both agree that Bordeaux wine is the dog’s whatsits.
So when we heard there was a Bordeaux tasting evening taking place in the private dining room in one of our favourite restaurants, La Mer at The Ritz Carlton on a Friday evening, we quickly signed ourselves up.
We were about 50 minutes late to arrive at the hotel for various work and traffic-related reasons, so we hot-footed it up to the 23rd floor and poured into the room to find a small group of people waiting patiently around the large, grand dining table in the middle of the room. Several apologies and introductions later, and we ready to begin.
The experienced sommeliers poured us each two glasses of white wine; a Sauvignon Blanc and a Sauvignon-Semillon blend, and we took some time studying the colour and smell before we were allowed to taste. Both were light and refreshing, and as a red wine drinker, I was pleasantly surprised. We scribbled some notes on our little wine tasting sheets, and I think I wrote something along the lines of ‘quite nice for a white wine’ under one of these. Very technical and informative I’m sure you’ll agree!
After each tasting session, waiters came in with a pairing dish to complement the wine (our sommelier was very careful to point out that food ALWAYS complements the wine, not the other way around – of course!).
First, delicate scallop carpaccio with grapefruit and sea foam to pair with the Sauvignon Blanc
And steamed Asparagus with grated frozen smoked salmon (very novel!) to match the blend.
As each dish was placed in front of us, La Mer’s new Canadian chef came out to describe it, how it was put together and why it would go perfectly with the wine in front of us. A really nice, personal touch and one that really helped us to appreciate the beautiful food (and the wine!) all the more.
He has been working in Doha for the Ritz Carlton for three months now, and has brought his extensive experience and experimental cooking style to La Mer to shake things up a little – and we were acting as guinea pigs for a few of his new creations that night. We were more than happy to oblige.
Paired with fois gras, croissant, kumquat and red berry jam. Sounds like a strange concoction, but the mix of sweet and savoury, coupled with the sweet wine worked perfectly.
Then came my favourite dish of the night. We had moved onto the reds, and a wine that Rich and I had bought before, a tangy Saint Emilion, and the waiters started to bring out little porcelain dishes with lids on. And what a treat awaited us inside!
The most perfectly cooked, round and plump egg yolk ravioli.
The waiters came around and poured a rich jus over each of our dishes.
And then we tucked into the yummy, runny, eggy, mushroomy goodness.
We were quite a few glasses down by this point. This wasn’t the ‘dribble of wine in the bottom of the glass, swill it around in your mouth and spit it into a bucket’ kind of a tasting. Oh no. It was more, drink the big glass of wine in front of you. If you like it, someone will come round and top you up until all the bottles have gone. Which was much more up our street.
As a result, inevitably, we’d got chatting to most of the people round the table by the time the second red made its rounds. And they were absolutely lovely. All of them had been in Doha for six years or more, so they had lots of helpful tips and expat experiences to share with us relative newbies.
It was around the point that the lamb was brought out that things started to get a little blurry.
And by the time my second glass of red was poured, we were all pretty merry.
I did remember to capture a snap of my favourite wine of the night however, the Chateau Saint Remy. Doha people, all of these wines can be found in the QDC and this one is particularly recommended – it’s full bodied and interesting, and tastes great with red meat.
Something similar to this duck maybe…
I don’t think I’ll ever taste anything quite like this duck (cooked three ways) again. Tender duck breast sitting on duck ragu, with crispy pieces of duck crackling…Enough to send anybody quackers (went there).
I was intrigued when they brought out the next wine, in the strangest looking decanter I had ever seen.
And it was in a special decanter for a reason. This was far and away everybody in the room’s favourite wine – and as soon as it had passed their lips, they all got busy taking snaps to remind them what to stock up on on their next visit to QDC.
Rich loved it too, and paid particular attention when the sommelier came round to explain the colour.
No pictures of the bottle this time I’m afraid (I was too busy taking photos of everyone enjoying the wine), but it is called Chateau Malescasse, Cru Bourgeois. Try it, it’ll make you as happy as this:
Then we were brought the most tender steak I’ve ever had, coupled with the best onion ring I’ll ever taste, on a bed of caramelised shallots, and somehow the wine tasted even better.
The night ended with a sweet dessert wine…
A tasting sheet filled with scribbles…
And the most unusual pudding I have ever tasted – fois grois ice cream sandwiched between two biscuits.
Don’t judge it until you go to La Mer and try it (we’re assured it will be on the set menu in due course). You are likely to be very pleasantly surprised!
We took some time to thank the waiting staff
All of whom had been meticulous, attentive, knowledgeable and kind.
And said a final cheers to great food, great wine and excellent company.
If you’re a little bored-o (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) in Doha and fancy trying something new, then check out the La Mer monthly wine tastings from around the world (see TimeOut Doha for dates and times).