While many were nursing their roast dinner overindulgences and watching Downton Abbey, on Sunday 3rd November, Hotel du Vin Birmingham hosted the wonderfully charismatic Olly Smith for the first in a series of wine pairing dinners. Guests tucked into five sumptuous courses with perfectly matched wines with each course, chosen by Olly from the hotel's own wine list.
The theme for the evening was The Classics and the selected wines certainly didn't disappoint, though they did surprise some. The evening started with a reception in the hotel's central courtyard, with the Hotel du Vin house champagne served to almost 60 guests. Once seated Olly began regaling guests with amusing tales and anecdotes about the wine he had chosen and why.
The first course was a delicious Trio of Salmon served with the red herring of the evening, an English sparkling wine from the Gusbourne Estate in Kent. Olly explained that while not officially a 'classic' it is certainly one in the making; especially as the British, in particular Christopher Merret, were actually the inventors of the sparkling wine. Not wanting to insult the hotel's French sommelier, Francois, guests politely sipped the fruity fizz and let Olly continue. The second course was a perfectly cooked Pave of Roast Cod with muscle, leek and shellfish veloute served with a Chassagne-Montrachet Burgundy, a nutty, creamy and zingy white burgundy.
After the fish course Olly entertained guests with a tale about the next wine choice, a bustling Ramon Bilbao Rioja Reserva 2006, which was undoubtedly a wonderful accompaniment to the Lamb Rump with dauphinoise potatoes.
Feeling the extent of the three courses, belts were loosened discreetly in order to make room for a substantial Crème Brûlée and a glass of the Sauternes Carmes de Rieussac dessert wine. Comments were made around the tables regarding dessert wines and how not many guests would usually opt for one at the end of a meal. Olly was quick to defend the tipple and explained that when choosing, the wine should always be sweeter than the dessert and, upon tasting, many guests agreed and many were persuaded.
Finally, as if everyone wasn't full enough, came a deep Krohn tawny port, a fortified wine from Portugal, and a selection of cheeses.
Olly's humorous stories continued through each course and he even revealed that before his big break and win on "Wine Idol", the 2004 series to find the "Jamie Oliver of the Wine World", he actually wrote for kid's TV favourites Pingu and Charlie & Lola. Who knew!
The evening came to a close with a few guest questions for Olly, his astounding knowledge of wines and pairings, and some great insights and tips on the best wines to choose. Olly then said his goodbyes to all of the guests and we waved goodbye as he hopped into a car to Heathrow where he was due to fly to the USA to film his new TV show.
Now we have just enough time to hone our wine knowledge before Olly's next event in Bristol on March 16th, 2014.