Wine & Food Matching

Continuing from yesterday’s blog, matching foods from South East Asia with suitable wines.

Firstly the Torrontes was a hit with everyone as an aperitif and 1st wine, tangy and fruity and easy to drink.  Got everyone’s vote pre-food.

However, once the food was served, everyone moved on to the Riesling as a better match – however the overall stand out winner was the Gewurztraminer, which had been bottom of the list pre-food.   Just goes to show, you can’t judge wine without food!

A small minority preferred the merlot with the chicken dish.    Everyone loved the Nivole Moscato d’Asti with the Tropical Sundae – this really is a lovely dessert wine produced by Michele Chiarlo.    

As usual, several questions about wines in general, and the subject of Rosé came up.    More people are getting to know Rosé wines, especially as suppliers like Majestic have 30-odd varieties in stock to choose from.   In my day everyone was drinking Mateus Rosé from Portugal, but nowadays there are so many available, different grapes, different countries, dry, sweet, that there’s something for everyone.  Think we’ll have to do an event based purely around Rosé wines and what dishes would match best.

Incidentally, we were told that this group wouldn’t be drinking much and to bring along lots of soft drinks and juices as an alternative.    Of course, not one wine bottle was left standing……gallons of juice left and only one can of Coke used, and that was for one of our chefs!

 Happy & Healthy Drinking!

Cooking South East Asian menu

Another day, another cooking event.   This time the subject is south east Asia – for a very lively group from team building specialists Cinnamon-Active.     Lots of tasty recipes and some interesting challenges for wine matching.    We’ll see tonight whether my choices have worked.


Nyonya Shrimp Curry with fresh Pineapple and tomatoes with Nyonya Sambal

Grilled Coconut Chicken with Lemon Basil

Sautéed Cabbage with Ginger and Crispy Indian Yellow Lentils

Stir-fried Waterspinach, Nyonya Style

Celebration Yellow Rice

Tropical Sundae



Premier Cru Champagne

Beers and soft drinks

Michel Torino Reserve Torrontes, Argentina

Riesling, Head over Heels Forgotten, Australia

Gewurztraminer, Leon Beyer Alsace

Chardonnay Baron de Rothschild, France

Merlot Las Montanas, Chile

Nivole Moscato d’Asti


French Cooking Day – yum!

Got a great Cooking Day planned for tomorrow (Saturday 26th Sept) – still got a couple of places available should you want to come.  French chefs in attendance and the Chateau Harry team present.   Looking forward to it!

One-day wine and food course Saturday 26 Sept 2009

Theme: Journey along the Loire

at Waterstones LG Kitchen and Lecture Room, Piccadilly, London W1

Moules Marinière

Trout Quenelles with Parsley Sauce

Shrimps in butter and brandy

Saddle of lamb stuffed with asparagus, goat’s cheese, watercress, and fondant potatoes

Le Gâteau Fromage Blanc with Fruit and Red Wine


Premier Cru Champagne

Sauvignon Blanc Baron Philippe de Rothschild 2007 France

Viognier 2008 Baron Philippe de Rothschild France

Chardonnay 2007 Baron Philippe de Rothschild France

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Baron Philippe de Rothschild France

Merlot 2008 Las Montanas Chile

Nivole Moscato d’Asti, Italy

10.00 am        Guests arrive, Tea and Coffee

10.30 am        Health and Safety briefing, then guests split into groups to cook menu (according to ability)

  2.00 pm        Food served.   Harmonising wines and food together

  4.00 pm       End

 Health & Safety Rules

¨      No nail varnish or
jewellery (watches can be worn on aprons)

¨      Hardwearing shoes please – no trainers (hot liquids & knives)

¨      Hair to be tied back

¨      Aprons will be provided as part of the course.


New Students and Competition for Readers

A great bunch of new students at last night’s class, all chatty, lively individuals with a common interest in the noble grape!

Loads of questions of course, always is on the first night.     Most people wanted to know how best to harmonise wines and foods.   I explained that you should never make a hasty judgement about wine.   Something that may taste terribly dry on the palate may alter considerably once you have tasted it with food.  I illustrated this point with the lemon test.    The students tasted a glass of Soave 2008 from North East Italy – it appeared dry and acidic.    Students then sucked a piece of lemon, and then tasted the Soave again.    The wine now tasted sweet!  Proves my point – never judge a wine without food!

Another bunch of questions about longevity of a wine, when to drink and when to lay down for ageing.  

Most wines sold in the supermarkets and stores are meant to be drunk ‘young’ and are not capable of ageing.    Only those wines made with good quality grapes with sufficient tannin will last longer.   We compared 3 young reds last night – a Merlot, a Shiraz and a Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Cab Sav was the one with the highest tannin level and would therefore age better than the others.

Now, what is tannin?      Well, according to the wonderful Oxford Companion to Wine (which all wine drinkers should have on their shelves) tannins in wine come mostly from the grapes and to a much lesser extent, from the wood in which it was aged.   The tannins in grapes are predominantly in the skins and seeds of each berry and also the stems i.e. the more skins, seeds and stems are involved in the wine-marking process, the higher the possible resultant level of tannins.   The tannins present in a white wine can range from colourless through light yellow to amber.   

You can recognise tannin when you drink a cup of over-steeped tea, or in a young red wine and in whites made with excessive skin contact.   They produce the taste sensation of bitterness and the ‘drying’ sensation of astringency by interaction with the proteins on the tongue and insides of the cheek.

Readers of my blog have a chance to buy some great wine books at 40% discount.    Go to the publisher’s website (Octopus Books) add the books to your basket and enter ‘Academy 1’

Hugh Johnson’s Wine Companion

Renowned and respected throughout the world, Hugh Johnson’s Wine Companion has been fully updated and revised and is now available in a brand new sixth edition.

Concise World Atlas of Wine

“Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson are the Bordeaux and Burgundy of wine writers…” The Times

Now for the first time, the world’s definitive wine reference, The World Atlas of Wine, is available in an innovative concise paperback format.   It is as comprehensive and authoritative as the hard back, while being more portable and user-friendly.

Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2010

In his latest and 33rd annual wine round up for Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2010, Hugh sends out a call to all wine lovers, be they enthusiast or connoisseur, to defend our great wine heritage, to explore, share and enjoy wine and rally against all the European governments, including our own, who seem so intent on demonising the tradition of drinking a glass with dinner!

Competition:  All Chateau Harry blog fans have a chance to win all 3 books.    Tweet Harry before 30 September and you’ll be entered into a draw, winner to receive all 3 books free of charge (worth £70).



Evening Classes beginning next week

I am very much looking forward to the new term which starts next week at SFX College in Clapham South.   I’m teaching Know Your Wine, a 5-week course, aimed at beginners who want to learn about the basics of wine tasting:

Week 1: Evaluation of Wine
Week 2: Sparkling Wines & Champagne
Week 3: White Wines from around the world
Week 4: Red Wines from around the world
Week 5: Major Grape Varietie

It takes place on Tuesday nights 7.30 – 9.30 and the first course begins on Tuesday 22nd September, with another course starting on 3 November.  You’ll learn how to taste wine together with food as a substantial supper will be served each evening. The course will help you determine which wines suit your palate best, what you should be buying for quaffing or for drinking with food. You’ll also learn how to talk about wines in a relaxed and informal way.   The cost is £175 per person for everything.    Guests can come along for £40 per evening.

Here are some comments from 3 past students which illustrate the course much better than I can:

Whether selecting a wine to enjoy at home or for a business lunch, I now have the confidence to make the best possible choice. The format of the course allows for group discussions enabling you to learn from your fellow pupils as well as from Harry, this leads to an appreciation that everyone’s palates are unique, but that there are solid rules you can follow to find brilliant wines. Most importantly the course is not at all elitist; it is accessible, informative, and most importantly great fun! I can now say I ‘Know my Wine’.

The class is a great opportunity to learn about different grape varieties, match wine with different foods (it actually does taste different with food!) and generally explore the wonderful world of the vine whilst picking up some interesting tit-bits from Harry’s extensive experience of wine tasting. All this in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere that gives everyone the opportunity to taste reds, whites and champagne and compare and discuss just how they differ and more importantly why.

 Harry gets his audience thinking about their own interpretation of the wines and champagnes. This is either done as a whole group or in break-out seminars. The method of learning really inspired me to go off and learn more about the subject, I even ventured to a British vineyard after the first session!  And finally, the food.  Really good quality ingredients which have been carefully selected to complement the wines. It was fascinating to experience the transformation of wines with certain foods – I will certainly be impressing my friends with some quaffing and cooking soirees!  Overall a brilliant 5 weeks, culminating in a 9-wine, 4-course food extravaganza on the last week! Informative, entertaining, sociable and great value for money. I would recommend it to any beginner

If you want to join one of the courses, then please email  for more details.

Viognier rules OK!

Another corporate cooking event on Saturday night, this time for a very civilised group on a stag weekend.  Really talented individuals who produced an extremely tasty menu.    Star among the wines was the Yarden Viognier from the Golan Heights Winery.   Unusually deep in colour and with a huge aroma of violets and fruit and a very long, lingering taste.    Very full bodied for a Viognier.  I’ll have to get some more in, as it’s an ideal accompaniment for food.

Arancini with Meat and Vegetable Fillings

Confit of Duck Legs with black grapes

Chocolate Almond Tart


Premier Cru Champagne

Selection of Bottled Beer & soft drinks

Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Baron Philippe de Rothschild France

Yarden Viognier 2007, Israel

Michel Torino Malbec 2008, Argentina

The Black Shiraz, Berton Vineyards 2007, Australia

Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Spain



Cooking for The Retail Trust

What a lovely evening.    We were working with charity The Retail Trust and solicitors Bond Pearce to provide a team based cooking event.   Venue was Waterstones in Piccadilly, we had 46 taking part in the ‘Retail Ready Steady Cook” competition.   Our team of chefs were on hand to make sure all the teams worked well.  I was in charge of the wine tasting part, matching the wines to the food cooked.


Herb Risotto with Pan-fried Vegetables

Halibut with Roman Baby Gem and Garden Peas

Pistachio Crème Brulée


 Premier Cru Champagne

Selection of Bottled Beer & soft drinks

Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Baron Philippe de Rothschild France

Chenin Blanc 2008 Western Cape Copperfield, South Africa

Viognier 2008 Baron Philippe de Rothschild, France

Chardonnay 2007 Baron Philippe de Rothschild, France

Merlot 2008 Las Montanas, Valle Central, Chile

Nivole Moscato d’Asti 2008 Italy

Interesting to see how people react to being given unfamiliar tasks to perform.   In the general panic to get things done in the time limit instructions don’t get read properly either.   There’s an awful lot of role reversal as well, where the usually confident, slightly bombastic figures lose control and the quiet, methodical members of the team come up trumps.    Perhaps I should write a book on how cookery can be used as a psychometric test!

Lots of good questions on the wine side.   I’m always being asked ‘what is your favourite wine’?    My reply is invariably “whatever is in my glass at the time”!  Seriously though, as long as it has clarity of colour, good aroma, and balance of taste, I don’t care if it’s from France, Australia, Oregon or Outer Mongolia.    Price is irrelevant too.     If the wine is good why spend a small fortune?    Just remember to keep an eye on supermarket so-called ‘bargains’.    Almost £3 goes on tax and duty, so if a wine is being offered at £3.99 – the wine part is only 99p-worth.

Happy and Healthy Drinking.   Harry.


Chateau Harry’s Bon Mots

I’m starting my own blog!    At my evening classes, my students are always asking interesting questions and coming up with great descriptions of the wines we are tasting, so the easiest way to get all that ‘out there’ is to write up my experiences.    At the moment I’m preparing for the start of term (week of 21 September), so deciding which wines would be suitable for the classes.      Tonight I’m ‘performing’ at one of our corporate cooking events at Waterstones in Piccadilly and really looking forward to it.        Best regards, Harry.