Having indulged in SprEHd’s cheese and charcuterie grazing box, Peter Ranscombe turns his attention to its sweet incarnation.
PERHAPS the only drawback of the current format for the food feature in the printed Scottish Field magazine is that chefs are recommending fewer recipes for desserts.
While it’s exciting to have a different “star ingredient” each month, it does mean that my Wine to Dine column has featured fewer pudding wines over the past couple of years.
That’s why the launch of SprEHd’s sweet grazing boxes seemed like the ideal opportunity to pair some of its constituent parts with wines, thanks to a wee bit of help from Vino, the chain of bottles shops in Edinburgh.
Both SprEHd and Vino use the Shoply app and website for one-hour delivery within Edinburgh.
After reviewing SprEHd’s savoury cheese and charcuterie grazing box on the main Scottish Field website, I was excited to put its sweet version through its paces on the drinks blog.
While traditional dessert wines – in which the fermentation that turns the grape juice’s sugars into alcohol is stopped early to leave behind some sweetness – are a great match for sugary treats, I’ve opted for some slightly different bottles here.
Port is underrated – and white port even more so.
I’ve waxed lyrical about the delights of dry white port – especially as a mixer with tonic – and sweet white port can be equally as exciting, as demonstrated by the Krohn Lagrima White Port (£19.65, Vino Wines).
On the nose, it smells really old-fashioned, with caramel, biscuit, peach, and red apple.
Yet, on the palate, it springs to life, with a gorgeously rounded texture that’s not too heavy at all.
There’s even a delicious wee nutty note on the finish.
In terms of matching it to SprEHd’s box, Flower & White’s lemon meringue brought out even fresher fruit notes in the port, while the drink also sang alongside the Marshmallow Lady’s creations.
What surprised me most though was how well the white port performed against the House of Edinburgh chocolate chip shortbread, smoothing out some of the rougher sugar notes in the biscuit.
You don’t have to go the whole hog with the sweetness of fortified wines like port though – an off-dry table wine like the Bombo Leguero Blanc is a great option because it can match both savoury and sweet dishes.
It’s made in Mendoza from a blend of torrontes – Argentina’s flagship white grape –palomino and pedro ximenez, a pair of grapes more readily seen as blending components in sherry.
On its own, the wine oozed peach and lemon sherbet notes, with that citrus flavour emphasised when paired with the marshmallows.
Dipping the marshmallow into the delicious Edinburgh Honey and then returning to the wine demonstrated that the liquid had enough acidity to cut through the honey.
It looks like the Bombo is out of stock at Vino at the moment, so go for the Estampado White Blend (£10), which is made in the same place from the same grapes.
Switching colour, the 2017 Cline Cellars Ancient Vines Mourvedre (£24.95) is a big step-up in quality but is worth every single penny.
It’s made in California’s Contra Costa County, inland from San Francisco, from grapes harvested from vines that are more than 100 years old.
Mourvedre is perhaps best known as a blending grape in France’s Rhone Valley – and turns up alongside shiraz and grenache in Australia as “mataro” and in Spain as “monastrell” in Spain.
Cline Cellar’s wine reminds me of old vine zinfandel from Northern California, with a similar intensity to its fruit.
Here though, those flavours centred around darker black cherry and blueberry, with lots of vanilla too.
That combination of flavours and the concentration of the fruit helped the wine to stand up to both Mackie’s milk and dark chocolate, and it also brought out the butteriness in the shortbread.
Dipping those marshmallows into a tub of chocolate sauce brought our redder fruit notes in the wine, while the reverse was true when the marshmallows were immersed into the Scottish berry coulis, which highlighted a previously hidden chocolate and mocha note in the liquid.
The best part of a grazing box is the ability to mix and match flavours – and the same is true when there’s wine involved too, whether it’s a traditional dessert wine, a sweet fortified wine, or an oaky vanilla-laced or off-dry table wine.
Read more of Peter’s wine, beer and spirits reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.