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Wednesday, 20 July 2011

A Networking Lunch - and a Loire Sauvignon

Normally in a client-service business it is the client-facing staff who get to go to all the smart lunches, dinners and receptions.

Occasionally, however, one of our various advisors puts together a networking event and those of us whose role involves business administration are invited along.

The topics discussed over lunch may seem arcane and dull to anyone outside of my discipline so I will not repeat them here, save to say that perhaps the most interesting area we covered was on social media.

Much more important was the quality of the food and wine and the social interaction.

I found myself sitting next to someone who, if he were still in the role he occupied a few years ago, would be my right-hand man and whose name still appears as a contact on our monthly telephone bill.

A few places down was the deputy MD of another agency which now has several of our ex-employees on its books and opposite a professional advisor who has done some work for us over the years.

I knew none of these people before I arrived, but it just goes to show what a small world we move in.

On arrival we were greeted with a glass of something crisp, white and aromatic - a Pouilly-Fumé Sauvignon from the Loire.

Restrained and limpid with balanced, rounded acidity and a lightly herbaceous finish, it was well-made and as immediately pleasing as a pair of sensible walking shoes.

It also proved to be an inspired choice given the menu: we began with a beautifully-presented starter of roasted beetroot and ricotta with green leaves and an orange-zest dressing.

Sweet beetroot and creamy white cheese is a surprisingly wonderful combination, and the herbaceous green leaves and botanical notes of the dressing matched with the aromatic Sauvignon perfectly.

Our main of roasted chicken breast with herbs, garlic roasted potatoes, chicory, blue cheese and walnuts was a little less adventurous but beautifully cooked; it called out for a white with good acidity and the Sauvignon was more than up to the task here.

Finally, the cheese plate again called for a white with the body to stand up to the cheeses (semi-soft white, hard yellow and blue) and the acidity to cut through both the richness and saltiness.

To image-conscious chi-chi restaurant go-ers, it may have seemed a rather conservative, old-school meal, but to me it was spot-on: classic, well-made and well-matched.

With the starter simply arranged, the main roasted and a simple cheese board, this would make a very easy but elegant dinner party menu; just before the guests arrive, assemble the starters, put the main in the oven and take the cheese out of the fridge to breathe. Dress the starters immediately before serving and there is little more to do but chew the fat on whatever topics take your fancy with colleagues or friends.

The success of a classic meal like this rests on the quality of the ingredients (and I include the wine in this category), so, as always, go for the best you can afford.

One of the most impressive Loire Sauvignons I have had recently was a Domaine Rablais Touraine from Cambridge Wine Merchants which was a contender for my June Wine of the Month (reviewed here).

The appellation is based on the opposite side of the Loire and the wine is a little more steely than the Pouilly-Fumé I had at this dinner but opens out beautifully with some air, so it is best served from a decanter rather than straight from the bottle.

Sauvignon Touraine 2010 Domaine de la Rablais from £7.21 (case) or £8.99 (single bottle) available at Cambridge Wine Merchants.


Cambridge Wine Merchants - http://www.cambridgewine.com/

Main image credit: http://www.fyple.co.uk/category/arts-entertainment/event-planning/12/

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