Japanese Food and English Sparkling Wine Pairings – Chisou, Knightsbridge:
I am a big fan of good English sparkling wines. For those who like to be sniffy about our ability to produce a great wine, I’ll concede I haven’t yet tasted a great English red. But, with the same chalk ridge that provides the Champagne region with its terroir emerging our side of the Channel at the White Cliffs of Dover and then continuing through Kent, Hampshire and Sussex, given the right summer weather we have much the same potential to produce a great sparkling wine as our cousins across the water.
Of course, potential and realisation are two very different things and it took an American couple, making their home in Sussex to first champion the production of Nyetimber some 27 years ago. Stuart and Sandy Moss moved from Chicago to champion the concept of a really good quality English sparkling wine. The current head wine-maker, Cherie Spriggs,is half Canadian and half British while the CEO and current owner of Nyetimber Eric Heerema is Dutch. So, perhaps this top English Sparking wine owes something to its cosmopolitan heritage.
The aim is to produce a sparkling wine that rivals the best in the world – including champagne of course and the intention is to product a wine of grande marque standard from 100% estate grown grapes.
Of course, I’ve already tasted Nyetimber, but this particular evening offered the opportunity to experience four different cuvees paired with fine Japanese food. To my left, a Sake specialist curious to see how the sparkling wines would work and across the table two French wine specialists. A challenge.
We started with Nyetimber Rose 2009, paired with a horenso salad with yuzu and soy dressing and sweet crispy carrot. Pink fizz can be a poor relation, but not so this vibrant fruity glass, produced from a year when we had fine, dry weather in August and September and no first frost until after harvest at the end of October. It worked well with the mildly peppery horenzo, complementing the food with spicy fruity notes.
Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2009 was paired with what on the menu were called ‘Pacific amaebi head crispies with matchajio’. That’s prawn (or shrimp) heads with matcha salt to you and me and I was a little hesitant. But, these were deliciously salty and crunchy. And, I went back for more of both the amaebi head and the fizz, a lovely light melon and lemon wine, that benefited from the same weather conditions as the rose we’d just tried.
The immaculate and refined scallop carpaccio was perhaps my favourite dish – very delicate and light with just a touch of citrussy ponzu and yuzukosho. The paired Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 2007 was my favourite of the fizz too, a minerally wine with citrus and apple notes.
Our final dish was sea eel kabayaki with a sweet cinnamon sugar. This rich and slightly sticky morsel of fish worked beautifully with the Nyetimber demi-sec NV – unusual because it is 100% chardonnay and perhaps the least ‘champagne like’ of the selection.
Once the serious tasting had finished we enjoyed a few more glasses of fizz before heading off for the night. It was a perfectly balanced introduction to the Nyetimber wines which are served at Chisou in place of champagne. And, I for one can see why – they worked brilliantly with the food pairings and left me with no desire for champagne that night. At some point I hope to return and try more of the food. And, I’ll be ordering some Nyetimber to go with it.
31 Beauchamp Place
London SW3 1NU