Last Updated on November 23, 2021
Monthly Tasting Box from Ramekins & Wine
When one of my colleagues who was set to review the Monthly Tasting Box from Ramekins & Wine was too unwell to do so, I didn’t hesitate to step in. My kitchen was mid-refurbishment and I’d decamped upstairs with nothing much more than the use of an oven and a few bits of crockery and cutlery. So, the idea of 6 ramekins of food to pair with 6 125ml measures of English wine seemed very appealing. This unique tasting box arrived – cute little bottles of wine all numbered – and their partnering ramekins of food. Oh and a little bag of 12 crostinis. Dear owner of Ramekins & Wine, please remember the frail will of your customers. More crostinis, please! I managed to eat half of mine while the pots were heating up.
I love trying English wines and, as the name of this collection suggested, there were 6 iconic tasters. I’ve tried wines from all of the vineyards before, though generally sparkling rather than still and white rather than red or rose. So, this was a real gustatory adventure. The accompanying food was superb. No short-cut cheese and charcuterie pairings, each ramekin was closer to a restaurant dish, albeit in miniature. There was still more than I could eat or drink in one sitting – I had three for one meal and another three the next day (substituting Peter’s Yard crackers for the crostinis!)
The selection started with Bolney Estate Pinot Gris 2018, paired with a dish of English garden pea, roasted lemon and whipped feta. Bolney is a vineyard I remember from my student days at Sussex University. Not that we visited, but in those early days of English winemaking, the idea of vineyards on the Sussex Downs was really unusual. This Pinot Gris was fresh and vibrant with notes of apple, pear and lemon – delicious with the fresh lemony peas and the rich, creamy whipped feta.
Hattingley Valley is a vineyard I’ve visited and I’ve tried a whole range of their still and sparkling wines. Their still white, a chardonnay, was paired with celeriac and apple crema and 36-month vintage cheddar. Somehow the ramekin of food was so much more than a simple cheese pairing – and warming it up as instructed brought out all the flavours and aromas to complement the wine perfectly.
Wine number 3, the second chardonnay in the collection, came from Chapel Down. Kit’s Coty Chardonnay 2017 is well-aged and oaked for 9 months. The end result is richer than the Hattingley Valley 2020 and worked very well with a dish of roast chicken, anchovy pesto and chicken skin crumb that I’d really like the recipe for! Chapel Down is one of the best known English wineries and this is a great example of their still wines. When available it retails for around £30 so it’s something of a premium still wine.
Gusbourne is another vineyard I’ve visited. The 2020 Mill Hill Vineyard Rose was paired with a rich caramelised pancetta with black olive and heritage tomato and was perfect to cut through the brininess of the olives and complement the pancetta.
The final savoury ramekin was potted confit duck let with foraged brambles and butter. I’d have liked a chunk of bread to dip in the buttery sauce. Having finished all the crostini, I was left with crackers which didn’t really quite hit the spot. However, the wine, a pinot noir, did. Denbies is another vineyard I’ve visited and, 10 years ago was not truly sold on their wines. But, they’ve been improving their wines steadily since then and the Litmus range, the brand that we were sent here is a premium wine produced at Denbies using English grapes brought in from around the country. Had this been a blind tasting it would have been hard to spot that it was an English wine. An excellent pairing with the richness of the duck softening the acidity of the wine.
And to round things off, something truly rare. Botrytis is a fungus that attacks grapes. In the right conditions, it creates what is sometimes called ‘noble rot’ where the furry, mould-covered and shrivelled grapes can be used to make a sweet wine. Our sample came from Balfour Hush Heath, another vineyard I’ve visited, though the late harvest 2017 hadn’t been released then. Our pairing with set lemon and elderflower cream together with caramelised filo was utterly delicious and a great way to end the Ramekin and Wines selection.
If you’d like to try for yourself, the Ramekins & Wine monthly tasting box is available to order online for £50. The company offers a range of other food and wine pairing events including a supper club and hospitality for weddings and corporate events. Also available online are gift vouchers and a personal wine consultancy service, more details here: https://www.ramekinsandwine.co.uk/shop