The other Friday, I took part in another one of Wine With Hannah's Sip Learn Laugh (SLL) Club events, having attended two previously. These are brilliant, fun, informative wine and food pairing evenings led by Hannah. She presents the wines and pairings and provides context when needed with so much energy that you are guaranteed to have a fantastic time!
Hannah ensures that her events are suitable for people with all levels of wine knowledge. While I already have a solid foundation when it comes to wine and wine production, I can attend these events and learn something new or refresh my knowledge. Hannah also creates shopping lists tailored to the country you live in meaning that you won’t find it too difficult locating the wines and the food to go with them. So, if you're looking for a relaxed wine and food event, look no further.
Onto the Bordeaux SLL event
We started on the right bank of the Garonne River with a Saint-Émilion. The Merlot-dominant blend was bursting with fruit flavours. The nose was full of cherries with blueberries, plums and hints of vanilla making an appearance.
The equally fruity palate also contained black pepper and clove flavours. It was supple and smooth, with delicate tannins and a fresh acidity that balanced the wine.
Hannah paired this wine with salt and black pepper crisps, which was perhaps my favourite pairing of the night. The pepper and salt on the crisps suppressed the acidity, making the wine more fragrant and enhancing the blueberry flavours within it.
The second pairing for the Saint-Émilion was Manchego cheese and raspberries. Being the cheese lover that I am, I also bought Ossau-Iraty and Comté, the two substitutes suggested by Hannah in case I couldn't find Manchego. Honestly, I would have never thought to combine raspberries with hard cheese, but it really worked. The raspberry was not too sweet, meaning it did not overpower the wine, and its tartness complemented the flavours.
Then it was time to cross over the river and find a Left Bank wine.
We landed in the Haut-Medoc, where Cabernet Sauvignon flourishes on the gravelly soil and takes up a larger proportion of the blends than it does on the other side of the river.
Blackcurrants and blackberries dominated the nose and also took centre stage on the palate. They were joined by hints of mint, black pepper, and cloves along with herbaceous flavours. It was evident straight away that this wine had plenty of tannins, but the oak ageing had softened them as well as adding smoky flavours.
Now for the pairing - mushrooms cooked in salted butter.
The umami in the mushrooms, coupled with the fat and salt in the butter, smoothed the bountiful tannins. They also brought out a leathery flavour and augmented the blueberry and spices found in the wine.
But wait, there was also a next-level Hannah pairing.
Yes, the mushrooms went well with the wine, but how about adding some dehydrated garlic to them?
This pairing was fabulous! The garlic caused the wine to become sweeter, more floral, highlighting the violet flavours that had been hiding in the background up until now. The addition made this Haut-Medoc richer, more flavourful. The pairing can, of course, be replicated in cooking with something like a Beef Wellington or perhaps pasta with truffle butter and parmesan (I haven’t tried these pairings yet so I can’t confirm if they work but they are ideas I had).
So, what can I get out of Hannah's SLL event?
The answer is a lot.
I get to hear wines, wine-making processes, and wine regions described in a different way from how I first learnt about them. These events refresh everything in my mind and aid my work as a wine translator. For example, at the time of the Bordeaux SLL event, I was translating wine descriptions for wines from all over the Bordeaux region, from the most famous appellations to the smallest ones. It was a very happy accident but meant that everything was a lot more vivid in my mind afterwards.
These events also appeal to another interest of mine. I get to learn about food pairing which, incidentally, is one of the things that led me to specialise in wine translation. I am fascinated by how wine and food interact and why some wines go better with certain dishes than others. And as someone who likes to cook, I like using my knowledge of wines to find a pairing that works for me.