The Wine Club is a new website which aims to bring together like-minded wine-lovers, and at the same time offer a place for consumers to enjoy the expert advice of a sommelier when it’s time to replenish the fridge or cellar, or send a special gift to the wine buff in your life. It’s absolutely free to sign up and ‘network’ with like-minded wine lovers, buy cases of wine and find out about wine-related events in the capital. It’s also a great way to enhance your wine knowledge, trying different wines from different regions to suit your pocket. I meet Danny Kaljee, the brains behind the venture, in the private dining room at Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental and he looks familiar. I remember him from when he headed-up the dining room at The Savoy Grill, in the days when the service was impeccable and it was one of the must-go places to eat. Danny is now General Manager of Searcy’s Club at the Gherkin and he’s also founder member of The Wine Club. I’m here as their guest at a media dinner to find out more about the Club. The three ambassador sommeliers are João Pires from the 2-starred Michelin Restaurant Dinner, Laure Patry from Pollen Street Social and Mikael Hannequin from Searcy’s Club. Each has chosen a range of wines from cash to credit card buys and you can pick up a case of wine from £50 right up to £500, so there’s wine for just about every palate and budget. Each week the sommeliers will recommend wines, host Facebook and Twitter Q&A sessions, and update their pages on the site.
The menu for the evening, was rolled in a long, lidded box and as my eyes wandered down the list, I couldn’t wait for service to begin. João had selected wines to match our dishes for the evening and it began with Earl Grey cured salmon with a lemon salad, gentleman’s relish, wood sorrel and smoked roe. With that, we drank 2012 Soave Classico Tamellini, Veneto, Italy. It was a classic dry wine with juicy apples and lots of citrus fruits there was a touch of toasted oak and cut straight through the fish. It’s available through the website at a reasonable £78 for 6 bottles. Up next was the Meat Fruit – once a Medieval centrepiece, playing on food tom-foolery – it was apparently ‘hilarious’ to disguise one food as another. A ‘mandarin’ comes on a wooden board with a slice of toasted brioche. Cut into it and you reveal a chicken liver and foie gras parfait. These beautiful bright orange domes, taste as good as they look and if I wasn’t in polite company would have licked the smears I couldn’t scrape up with a knife. These babies take three days to make, nothing funny about that. Spiced Pigeon cooked two ways, had enjoyed a sous vide bath with artichokes and had also been stewed in a spiced sauce with rocket, thyme and onion, and finished off with a hop-rich ale. The wine for this dish was a beautifully rich burgundy 2007 Morey-Saint-Denis Vielles Vignes, Domaine Lignier. A lovely earthy, jammy wine with hints of spice which worked well with the pigeon. The Tipsy Cake (c1810) is the restaurant’s signature dish and needs to be ordered at the start of the meal for gradual basting – no problem for a sweet-toothed gal. A small, cast-iron pan arrives with a hot, creamy, vanilla and rum filled brioche, no words can begin to describe how delicious this dessert is – no words. On the side is a spit-roasted pineapple which has been caramelised on the restaurant feature rotisserie. Sweet, followed by sharp, crunchy followed by marshmallow soft you have to order this just to experience the mouth party that goes on with each bit. A 2007 Castelnau de Suduiraut with honey and orange marmalade notes was a perfect dessert wine partner.
The Club’s website has over 150 bottles of wine on offer, as well as decanters and some very nice glassware. The Wine Club is open to all and members can sign up for free. A premium membership is on the cards for next year which will offer exclusive benefits, premium events and large discounts on fine wine.
One of their first boutique events is on 1 December at The Gherkin, a great chance to find out a bit more about the membership and try some of the wines before you buy. Tickets available on the website for £25.