The Olive Branch at Clipsham is an idyllic looking pub and restaurant in the gorgeous county of Rutland. I've been there before for dinner and loved it (but strangely enough, not blogged it). Recently, I was invited to attend a trial wine tasting masterclass with owner and wine expert of over 30 years, Pedro Torres. I joined Matt from the Great Food Club and we even managed to secure lifts each way! What a perfect Saturday afternoon!
The theme of the class was 'Grenache'. Over the course of a leisurely few hours we tried 6 wines, covering white, red and even dessert wine. Grenache is a very common grape which grows best in hot dry climates and usually the best wines made with it come from Spain and the South of France, places like Rioja, Priorat & the Rhone. However, as we learned, they are now grown elsewhere, most notably the USA and Australia.
Throughout the experience, Pedro taught us everything we needed to know, from how the grapes are grown and harvested through to what we should (in theory) be tasting with each wine. All done in an informal fashion, whilst feeding us deliciously paired canapés. Perfection!
My wine of the day was the Birichino Grenache Vielles Vignes pictured below. A surprise choice for me as it's actually Californian and I don't usually go for American wines. This wine was 100% grenache which we were told is quite unusual and made using old vines in the traditional Italian method (where grapes are sun dried before being processed). The Birichino website calls it a 'Brilliant red with a bright rim. Spice- and mineral-accented raspberry and cherry scents show very good clarity and a sexy floral topknot'. I would definitely agree with that! In fact, I loved it so much I brought a bottle home. We are saving it for something special.
Although the masterclass was all about the wine, the paired nibbles were a delight and well worth mentioning here. We tried numerous canapés including goats cheese and red onion marmalade tarts, a deliciously salty brandade and beetroot and chorizo bites. The food was excellent and perfectly paired to the wines on the day. My personal favourite was the shallot and cropwell bishop tart satin which paired perfectly with the Vinferno Bonny Doon (another Californian!) pudding wine - almost malty in taste with hints of apricot and honey, it was perfect twitch the salty blue cheese. Yum!
I would recommend this place ANYWAY as a great place for a special dinner. They are in the Great Food Club too so if you're a member, don't forget to flash your card!
*I was invited to attend the wine masterclass and did not pay for my place. All opinions are my own however, as you would expect!*