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Posted by portugalpress on May 16, 2017

The Resident daily digest

Vila Vita Parc’s Michelin star-studded food and wine fair kicked off last night with perhaps the most eagerly-awaited dinner for wine lovers of the six-day event. It’s not often that we get the chance to drink a fine wine from an Imperial bottle. Also known as a Methuselah in Champagne terms, this is the rare six-litre format.

The great wine producers of Bordeaux produce these bottles in very limited quantities, often only to order from wine brokers, with perhaps 20 or so bottles for the Château to sell themselves. And so, to be served a meal with not one but seven different Imperial bottles of fine Bordeaux, was something of a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those of who were there last night.

The setting was the terrace of Vila Vita’s recently refurbished Atlântico Restaurant, our host was René Gabriel, one of the world’s leading authorities on Bordeaux wine, and our chefs included one of the grand daddies of haute cuisine, Eckart Witzigmann, awarded Chef of the Century in 1994 by Gault et Millau. To put this into perspective, this award has only ever been given to three other chefs in the world.

Witzigmann cooked alongside six other chefs last night, including both of the Algarve’s two-star Michelin chefs, Dieter Koschina and Hans Neuner.

Our first wine was a white Bordeaux, 2010 Château Smith Haut Lafitte and we had our first taste of the entertaining wine talk of René Gabriel. He told us how the wine had lemon and peaches on the nose, the result of a blend of 90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Pinot Gris and 5% Semillon – or as he put it, 100% enjoyment!

This was served initially with what was probably the most visually stunning dish of the evening; violet prawn with yuzu, kimchi, daikon radish, set on a sea-blue plate in an assertive nod to Vila Vita’s Ocean Restaurant, from Hans Neuner.

The same wine paired with what some guests considered to be the best dish of the evening; sea urchin, scallop and ponzu with a generous topping of imperial caviar, from Stefan Peroutka, from the Venetian/Palazzo Hotel in Las Vegas.

Taste buds singing, it was time to move on to dishes that could pair with the red Bordeaux wines and Hans Neuner was back again, this time with a dish of sole with chicory, morels and celery, a rich and velvety sauce rising to the challenge of our first red, a 1999 Château Monbousquet, Grand Cru Classé from the right bank near St. Emillion, made predominantly from Merlot, softened with age and the magic of the Imperial bottle - a relatively light and elegant wine by Bordeaux standards, pairing perfectly with this somewhat “meaty” fish dish.

Next came Dieter Koschina with Wagyu beef, beetroot and caviar; a bite-sized cone of tartar topped with caviar and an immaculately-presented dish with a small fillet of the beef and beetroot set amongst other root vegetables in a light broth sauce with a touch more caviar. The wine for this course was a slightly richer right bank Bordeaux, a blend of 80% Merlot with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon – 2005 Château Le Gay.

The two following meat courses were served with two different wines, allowing us to sample each with the dishes and decide on our own favourite pairings. Whilst the food and wines so far had been light and subtle, now was the time for full-on rich dishes to pair with the star wines of the evening, as we moved from 3rd growth to 2nd and finally the grand 1st growth wines from the left bank - the pinnacle of Bordeaux wine.

Two-star Michelin chef Silvio Nickol, from Palais Coburg in Vienna, presented us with glazed pig cheek, onion and smoked bell pepper, the slight sweetness of the sauce proving an excellent match for 2008 Château Palmer from Margaux, the youngest red of the evening, full and juicy with firm tannins.

This wine was a total contrast to what was the favourite wine for some of us, a 1996 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou – smooth and rich in the mouth with hints of truffle on the nose, elegantly showing its age at 21 years young.

And finally it was time for the great man himself, Eckart Witzigmann alongside 1995 Château Cos d’Estournel and 2001 Château Mouton Rothschild. His dish, the other contender for best plate of the evening amongst the guests I spoke to, was a luxurious combination of Maibock (deer) served with celery, blueberries and foie gras. Dishes came to the table followed by the sauces served up by none other than Hans Neuner and Dieter Koschina, making their way around the tables to spoon the precious sauces, one of veal jus, silkily infused with foie, another of white pepper – both outstanding.

Both wines showed the power and finesse of great Bordeaux, the 1995 Château Cos d’Estournel having the edge over the Mouton Rothschild in the opinion of most, the Mouton having probably not yet reached its prime.

Time for something sweet, and staying in Bordeaux, we were served a 2007 Château Climens, a first growth Barsac from Sauternes, pairing with a pre-dessert of Madeira banana with passion fruit and gianduja chocolate from pastry Chef Márcio Baltazar of Vila Vila’s Ocean Restaurant, and finally a brown butter tart from Chef Olivier Dubreuil of the Venetian Las Vegas.

The evening was a fitting start to the fair, setting the bar extremely high for the next five days, culminating in the grand kitchen party on Saturday.




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