Earlier this week, Côtes du Rhône teamed up with Disappearing Dining Club to host a delectable six-course tasting menu with Rhône Valley wine pairings at DDC’s newest brick and mortar premises, Studio DDC in Hoxton. Never the types to pass up the opportunity to learn more about wine, we slogged through the rain to get to the pop-up event and proceeded with the gruelling task of sampling some of the region’s more unusual wines.
Studio DDC lies in one of the Hoxton’s railway arches. As we enter, we are handed refreshing white wine and sweet lemon cocktails, which we happily sip on as we peruse the venue’s interior. Familiar bare brick and effortlessly versatile, this seems like the perfect home for one of Disappearing Dining Club’s famous meals. A corner sofa, oil drum “tables” and the occasional hefty industrial-style stool sit at the front of the space, with a timber-topped bar at the other end. In between are two long tables festooned with decorative greenery and lined with unfussy folding chairs.
The first part of the evening is an accessible wine tasting by the gregarious and passionate Amelia Singer, who jovially takes us on a verbal tour of Côtes du Rhône, teaching us about the difference between the North and South, and explaining what how she likes to “give personalities to wines” including those of French film stars.
After a slightly lengthy but not at all unwelcome introduction, we are granted our first wine – La Vigne du Roy, Côtes du Rhône, 2014 (or, as Amelia suggests, Audrey Tatou in Amelie due to its quirky charm). It is a zippy and oily 100% Rousanne that has both herbal and peach qualities whilst oddly reminding us of the caramel top of a crème brûlée. Next up is Rive Droite, Rive Gauche, Côtes du Rhône, 2015, which turns out to be a surprisingly creamy Grenache Blanc Blend, delivering pear, melon and pineapple flavours with a hint of cinnamon and brown sugar, ending in a dry finish. Unusual to say the least – we had no idea whites could be so thick on the tongue.
Onto the rosés. Now, we at Sated must admit that we are quick to dismiss the usual pub-bought rosé as sickly sweet “adult Ribena” or something closer akin to nail polish remover than wine. However, knowing that you can’t judge an entire distinction by what is spilt on you in crowded rooftop bars, we do our level best to approach the next two glasses with open minds. The first is a coral pink Arc du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Rosé, 2016; dry and tart, try and we might, we are not fans. The next however surprises us. Léon Perigal, Côtes du Rhône Rosé, 2015 is delicately pale in colour yet intensely fruity on the nose, and the taste is unexpectedly full, earthy and almost smoky.
Onto the reds! Gabriel Meffre, Côtes du Rhône, 2016 is an organic Grenache-Syrah blend with a good deal of dryness but also a bizarre crème fraiche element. Not all texture, a good deal of cherry comes through from this one. Our last taste is of 80% Grenache, 20% Syrah blend Mistral, Domaine Coulange, Côtes du Rhône, 2015: characterful and heady with ripe berries and a lengthy finish, this is definitely our preferred red.
Suitably tipsy – despite sacrilegiously pouring most of our tasters into the circulating spittoon in an attempt to keep our wits about us – we find our placeholders and seat ourselves at the banqueting tables, ready for some food! Each course has been curated to pair with the wines we sampled in our tasting and we wait with excitement to see how the wines will change in conjunction with the dishes.
A yellow gazpacho shot with crumbles of goat’s cheese and garnished with a slice of grilled asparagus begins the proceedings. The freshness of the tomato and yellow pepper is met by the creamy saltiness of the cheese, which in turn lends itself to the oiliness of the wine. The asparagus is bitter, playing on the herbal qualities of the Rousanne. Salmon ceviche with smoked beetroot, cucumber and horseradish served in a champagne saucer, continues our transition into the realm of solids and is beautifully balanced. The fish is light and gently citric whilst the beetroot provides a teasing sweetness allayed by the coriander dressing. Matchstick vegetable crisps add a layer of textural curiosity.
Next up, is a thin round of steak tartare, topped with sorrel, crunchy wisps of potato and a succulent prawn. We would never normally consider pairing a rosé with steak tartare but this dish has certainly found a match in the strong character of Léon Perdigal 2015. The pepper of the tartare and the meatiness of the prawn converse freely with this surprisingly robust rosé, coming to a rounded and satisfying conclusion that is a delight to witness.
Rive Droite, Rive Gauche 2015 places perfectly alongside sea bream served with baked fennel and saffron aioli. The creaminess of the aioli brings out that of the wine, creating a viscous dynamic that supports the gentle flavours of the fish and fennel. A hidden slice of chorizo adds a smack of taste without being abrasive. All in all, this is a subtle and sophisticated pairing that we would be happy to have again and again.
Our last savoury course is the much-anticipated roast lamb rump with crushed Nicoise potatoes, tomato vinaigrette, served with the first red of the tasting. The meat sits atop creamy potatoes and is stunningly tender and a lovely juicy pink. A light vinaigrette and al dente runner beans complete the dish. Sadly, we did not rate the pairing, but this may be because we were not enamoured by the wine itself. It may open up in time but we did not yet the chance to find out as our glasses were whisked away in preparation for our last course – and what a finale! Our dessert comprised bites of chocolate brownie, with blocks of ice cream and drizzles of rich salted caramel sauce. Combined with the characterful Mistral 2015, the result is truly moreish.
As our plates were cleared and we lay back in our chairs, draining our glasses and amiably chatting away with those on our sharing table, we appreciated the immense sociability of Disappearing Dining Club events and marvelled at Amelia’s ability to make what could’ve been a stuffy and unapproachable tasting so fun. We left DDC’s new venue entirely sated, excited to hear what they next come up with, and full of new-found appreciation for Rhône Valley wines.