IT’S an age-old conundrum faced by all hotels – how do you go about breathing fresh life into your wine list? Sir Malcolm Colquhoun, chairman of Luss Estates, hit on the idea of inviting wine writer and consultant Matthew Jukes to develop a new wine list for the Loch Lomond Arms Hotel.
“I’d read Matthew’s columns and always enjoyed them,” explains Sir Malcolm, who – as the chief of the Clan Colquhoun – recently featured in Scots Heritage Magazine, one of Scottish Field’s sister titles. Jukes worked with the hotel to select the wines and write the accompanying tasting notes, with prices ranging from £16 for a bottle of the new house white through to £132 for the crème-de-la-crème of the reds, a Gevrey-Chambertin.
Jukes will be introducing his wine list to diners during a series of four seasonal dinners over the course of the year, with the first having taken place at the end of January. Head chef Allan McLaughlin, assisted by sous chef David Hetherington, created a six-course meal for the occasion, with Jukes picking wines to match with each dish.
The evening opened with a reception that featured the hotel’s new house Champagne, a non-vintage brut sparkler by A Fourtin (£8.50 per small glass, £42 per bottle). Jukes described it as being less acidic than the previous house Champagne, with its combination of 95 per cent Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes making it really approachable, encouraging guests to enjoy a second glass. The green apple and pear flavours were refreshing and there was certainly enough acidity to make it an excellent match for food too.
Kicking off the whites was a 2013 Cave de Hunawihr Pinot Gris Reserve (£36) from Alsace in France. A classic choice when it comes to food-and-wine matching, the Pinot Gris – think of it as Italian Pinot Grigio’s more sophisticated French cousin – was off-dry, giving it an edge of sweetness that worked well alongside the chargrilled beef dripping sourdough, with melting bone marrow and mushroom ketchup. Pinot Gris’s floral and lychee aromas on the nose led into apple and pear flavours on the palate, working especially well with the onions and radishes in the dish.
For its “intermediate” course, the kitchen delivered a deconstructed pea and ham soup, with pieces of ham hock in the bowl covered by soup poured by the waiting staff, complete with a slow-poached duck egg. The soup was superb, although the duck egg was an extra layer of richness that I could have done without. The wine match was top-draw too, with Jukes opting for a 2014 Wally Sauvignon Blanc (£23) from Caves de la Loire in France. He likened the Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc to its more-expensive cousins further up-river in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume, with all its grassy and green pepper flavours accompanied by a more subtle hint of passionfruit. The sharpness of the wine’s acidity was an excellent match for the saltiness of the ham.
To round off the whites, a 2014 Enchanted Garden Riesling (£34) from Dandelion Vineyards in Australia’s Eden Valley was paired with pastrami of Argyll salmon with homemade sauerkraut, served with a walnut loaf. The bread and salmon were delicious – although the sauerkraut was a step too far for me – and the fish really sang with the dry Riesling, one of my favourites with its waxy and oily smells and its lemon and lime tastes.
Onto the reds and the opener was a superb find. Jukes selected a 2011 Massolino Barolo (£82) from Italy to pair with a roasted loin of Luss venison and the result was spectacular. Red cherry, strawberry and raspberry notes gave way to more complex flavours of mushroom, coffee and roast meat, which partnered beautifully with the sweetness of the meat.
Follow that, Jukes. But he did, with a 2014 Trinity Hill Syrah (£36) from Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand. A totally different style of red, with all the powerfully, fruity blackcurrant flavours you could want, coupled with delicious minty herb notes. It too was a great match for the food, having been paired with Barwhey Cheddar cheese and Camstradden apple jelly, which could begin to rival my love for Isle of Mull Cheddar.
To round off the meal, the kitchen served up a salt caramel custard tart, which is an interesting dish when it comes to food and wine matching. Jukes picked the classic pairing of a 1997 Cazes Ambré Rivesaltes (£32 for a half-bottle), a fortified wine from Roussillon in South-West France that’s always a winner with caramel-flavoured desserts.
As well as the wines served with dinner, I was also impressed with the house red in the bar beforehand, a 2014 Passo del Tempio Syrah (£3.10 per small glass, £17 per bottle) from Sicily. We’re more familiar with Sicily’s all-conquering Nero, but here the warmth of the Mediterranean sun has seeped into Syrah, creating a soft and juicy wine with oodles of blackcurrant and black cherry flavours.
To find out more about the Loch Lomond Arms Hotel’s wine dinners with Matthew Jukes, visit www.lochlomondarmshotel.com