Sheffield expert's top wine tasting tips
Wine tasting has long been seen as a complex hobby, the preserve of only the super-posh.
But there’s no need to spit out every mouthful, buy stacks of glasses or learn reams of information - as one Sheffield expert showed Ellen Beardmore.
Chris Hague’s favourite drink is champagne.
‘I love drinking it with friends’, he says while pouring out a glass of J Lemoine brut in the stylish surroundings of Marco’s restaurant on West Bar.
The refreshing demi sec champagne is grown in clay, made from three grapes and a far less dry alternative to prosecco - which could be crucial given the booming sales and dwindling stocks of the latter drink.
With Chris’ help, and a sharing antipasta plate, we deduce that it goes best with salty cheese or olives, and has a buttery, almost creamy taste.
Welcome to the new era of wine tasting and food matching.
Restaurant supervisor Chris, who has worked at Fischer’s Baslow Hall, Marco by Milano and Inox Dine in Sheffield, as well as a stint in London, knows his stuff.
Years of training and effort - he once spent weeks eating spoonfuls of random ingredients, such as jam, to hone his palate - have paid off.
And it means that he can offer guests a bespoke service.
Those who dare to stray from their usual pinot grigio can have every course matched with a particular drink: and we took full advantage on our visit.
Chris said: “There are two types of wine pairing, natural matches which enhance the food and those that clash.
“I prefer to go more natural.”
That natural leaning showed in our second option.
A light Enrico Serafino Gavi is matched with tiny arancini that are almost as delicate. It is incredibly floral, with the aroma of lemons and limes highlighting coriander and cooling the chilli in the avocado.
There’s a long finish with lots going on, Chris tells us.
On to the steak, a perfectly medium rare whopper to share, doused in Cajun spices, bourbon and - surprisingly - currants. It’s divine, and enhanced by a spicy, peppery shiraz called Short Mile Bay.
Celebrity restaurant owner Marco Pierre White loves a merlot - but its a wine we often write off as stuffy. opting for pinot noir instead.
Chris promised to change our minds over dessert.
The Passori Rosso is as Italian as the fiery chef, and as rich and smooth.
There’s piles of plum and fruit in there. Unsurprisingly it compliments our trio of chocolate desserts - especially a sticky, decadent tart - to perfection.
Before leaving we ask Chris for his top wine tasting tip.
“Try as much as you can”, he saus.
“Find out what you like and train your palate.”
We’ll drink to that.