Cigalon Dinner with Loire Valley Wines:
I have a soft spot for the Loire Valley. It’s probably the first place where I tasted wine – on a family camping holiday in my childhood. With limited funds, my parents made the brave and, at the time unusual, decision that we would camp rather than stay in a hotel in order to have more cash to spend on food and going out. My father never quite came to terms with the compromise, though my mother seemed to have a masochistic delight in the canvas tent which was our home for a couple of weeks each summer. We’d drive to Harwich, take the ferry across to Ostend or Le Havre and spend the night in a hotel before driving to whatever destination they’d picked for us that year. The Loire Valley was particularly memorable, not just because of the fairytale châteaux and fabulous food, but because as we drove into Angers the car was stopped and we were all handed small plastic cups of what I suspect was Crémant de Loire.
So, dinner at Cigalon, part of London Wine Week and an invitation to taste a paired menu of Loire Valley wines and French dishes seemed like a perfect invitation. I wasn’t disappointed, we started the evening with a delicious Maison Langlois Château Crémant de Loire which took me right back to my childhood. I love the light citrusy Crémant de Loire as an aperitif, rather better than Prosecco with a delicate, chalky base and fine bubbles. A blend of Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc it was a great opener, though I am not convinced it was a perfect pairing with bread and a robust black olive tapenade.
In fact, I had a little left when the starter of roasted hake, fennel and oyster sabayon was served. Paired with Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie, Terre de Pierre 2014 Domaine Pierre Luneau-Papin, a delicate minerally wine which brought out the notes in the light fennel and oyster sabayon and worked very well with the Hake. I was left wishing this had been the main course.
Next on the menu, a grilled duck breast served with celeriac, cherries and almonds. At which point I rapidly changed my mind. My duck was perfectly cooked for me, though I know some of my companions found the meat a little blue. And, the rich cherry sauce with light fresh almonds and celeriac puree made a wonderful contrast in texture and flavour. The paired wine here was Saumur-Champigny, Terres Chaudes, 2013, Domaine des Roches Neuves, Thierry Germain a Cabernet Franc wine with a fruity perfumed nose with blackcurrant and cherry. A pure, rich mouthful with soft tannins which made an excellent pairing with the duck.
Pear and Bleu d’Auvergne Tart sounded challenging on paper but turned out to be delicious. It worked well with more wine from Maison Langlois Château, Coteaux du Layon, Prestige, 2012, a light, sweet Chenin grape-based dessert wine made by over-ripening the grapes on the vines to create a high sugar content and concentrated taste of honeysuckle, peach and quince.
This set menu was only available during London Wine Week, but, I’ve discovered that Cigalon frequently has wine dinners with something of a French touch to pair with their Provencal food. Well worth keeping an eye open for future events, I dined as a guest of Loire Valley Wines on this occasion, but the menu with matched wines was priced at just £29.50 per person.
With many thanks to Cigalon and Loire Valley Wines for a wonderful evening.
115 Chancery Lane,
London WC2A 1PP