Thursday saw a special evening: a celebration of one of Spain’s greatest wine regions at one of Manchester’s best restaurants. Our own Sophia Luckett was the host for the evening, guiding our guests through the wines of Priorat, and the food was especially prepared by Manchester House’s award-winning chef, Aiden Byrne. This winning combination made it a night to remember.
The initial tasting took place in the twelfth-floor bar, with nighttime views over Manchester. We started with two fascinating whites, followed by two groups of three reds, split according to the later food pairings. All eight wines came from three of our favourite Priorat producers, Mas la Mola, Scala Dei, and Alvaro Palacios.
The two whites were both full-bodied and rich. Mas la Mola Blanco 2011 (£20) is a blend of Macabeo and Garnacha Blanca, which has seen lees stirring, meaning it has plenty of yeasty, bready flavours, with a salty finish. We were particuarly excited to taste the Blanc de Scala Dei 2011 (N/A), because this was just one of six hundred bottles produced and it’s unfortunately not available in the UK. A blend of Garnacha Blanca and Viognier, this is a full, oaky number, smoky and creamy, with orange peel, marmalade, and pineapple.
The food and wine pairings concentrated on the reds. The simpler, younger wines – as simple and young as Priorat goes – were served with the two starters and the maturer, more complex wines with the two main dishes. Scala Dei Negre 2011 (£17.50) is full of jammy fruits, as well as minty and chocolate overtones. We sell Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat 2012 (£20) by the bottle, but we tasted the 2008 Magnum (£40), meaning that there are developed flavours of dried fruits and tobacco. The final wine of the trio, Mas la Mola L’Expressio del Priorat 2012 (£20), was everyone’s favourite, described as being like the winemaker himself – “funky, gorgeous, arrogant”.
It was quite difficult pairing these three fruity wines with starter dishes, but Aiden’s culinary imagination created two dishes that subtly changed the structure of the wines, bringing out more of their complexity. I never would have thought of pairing Priorat with hazelnut risotto or foie gras, but the roasted quail, the smokiness of the foie gras, and the sheer deliciousness of the dish complemented the tannins and fruitiness of the wines. Again, a fennel-based dish may seem a strange choice, but it added a herby character to the wines.
The second trio began with Mas la Mola La Vinyeta Vella 2005 (£40), which is almost Rioja like with oxidised flavours, and lots of smoke, toast, and pepper from the oak. Alvaro Palacios Les Terrasses Velles Vinyes 2011 (£30) has developed red and black fruits turning into dried fruits, with balanced tannins. My favourite wine of the night was Scala Dei Cartoixa 2007 (£35), a mature wine yet full of juicy blackcurrant fruits, with vanilla and coconut from the American oak.
The smoky, toasty oakiness of these wines, together with their tannins, made them the perfect accompaniment for the two meat dishes we had. Like the wines, both dishes were quite smoky, particularly the venison, and the wines had to be oaky to stand up to the foods’ strong flavours. This showed Priorat as a great food pairing for full-flavoured food, with enough body and character to accompany complex, intense dishes.
We also had a little surprise at the end to accompany our dessert. As Priorat doesn’t do sweet wines, we were served Solera Gran Reserva NV from nearby Empordà; an amber-coloured sherry-style sweet wine, it has a lovely acidity which balances the sweetness, with a nutty yeastiness and dried fruits that went particuarly well with the date and pecan sponge.
There’s no doubt we’ll be back at Manchester House in the near future for the fantastic food and the great atmosphere, and we’ll be bringing hangingditch wines along.
to buy any of these wines, just visit us at the shop or give us a call on 0161 832 8222
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