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“Pop-ups” are very en vogue at the moment, but I like them. The reason? It allows passionate people with good ideas and plenty of talent the ability to try to create a business and develop a following from a safe start, without needing to risk large amounts of up-front capital. A perfect example of this was a wine tasting pop-up that I went to yesterday run by Kiki and Laura at “A Grape Night In” (see http://www.agrapenightin.co.uk/Home.html for more info). They run a series of innovative wine and food events across London, relying on finding cool locations that will allow them to use their space on a relatively ad-hoc basis. I attended their “Wine Wednesday” event yesterday at the Skybar in Bermondsey and the theme was Extreme! food and wine.

Our experience started with an Extreme! cocktail which was made from home-made Pepper Vodka, Cocoa Leaf Liqueur and a Celery and Passion Fruit juice. This was a lovely start to the evening and served to pep us up before we were shown to our table (not that we needed much pepping!).

The concept of the Extreme! was to look for food and drink pairings that are on the edge in terms of taste or location; after all, if you’re not living life on the edge – you’re taking up too much room!

Sorry about that.

We started with their Extremely Hot! pairing: 2012 Bodegas Ameztoi Txakoli from Getaria in the Basque Region of northern Spain and a Chilli Muffin, made with Scotch Bonnet Chillies, cream cheese and olive crumb. Clearly the idea was to contrast the heat of the muffin with a wine; however as someone who really likes his spice I thought that the muffin could have done with being a great deal hotter. That fact notwithstanding, the wine was very interesting though; it smelt very acidic, like an Apple sour sweet and was bone dry with a slight ting of bubbles sparkling through it. As the taste of the chillies warmed our mouths it certainly helped to cool things down. I can imagine that in the heat of Spain this would be a very popular choice of wine, however as someone who likes his white with a little fruit, sweetness and finesse, this wouldn’t be a wine that I would rush to order at a restaurant; however, I’m glad to say that I’ve tried it and it was certainly different.

My friend Blake with the Chilli Muffins

The next course we had was their Extremely Dangerous! pairing: 2012 Vigneti del Vulture Greco/Fiano blend from Basilicata in Italy and a Sharp Samosa with crocodile, sweet potato and cumin salt. The concept here is to pair a dangerous wine (the vineyard is on the side of a volcano) with a dangerous animal…! The wine had a slightly lemony, floral nose to it, reminding me of a Pinot Grigio. Again I wouldn’t say that this was a wine that I was particularly fond of, however it did work well with the spicy Samosa as the tang of the cumin salt and flavour of the sweet potato came through.

The Crocodile Somosas

Next was their Extremely Boring! pairing: a 2011 Merlot-driven Bordeaux blend from Chateau Tire Pe, ‘Le DieM’ and a Tin of Beans consisting of chipolatas, cannelloni beans and tomatoes. The concept here is to take what are considered tried and tested (and boring) combinations. I found that the wine did not smell like a Merlot-driven Bordeaux, but more like a truffley Burgundy. Importantly this was a natural wine and as such it had a slight presence of sulphur and a sharpness on the palate. As would be expected this wine did work nicely with what was essentially a French Cassoulet, which was presented attractively in a tin can and served with some very nice white bread for dipping.

Then we moved to the Extremely Mindblowing! pairing of: 2009 Iago’s ‘Chardakhi’ Chinuri from Mtskheta in Georgia with a Cheesy Ice Cream (cream, eggs and Stinking Bishop cheese). This was probably my favourite pairing of the evening as it was a truly memorable combination, but also because I loved the wine. The wine was another new grape for me, Chinuir – which is produced in the traditional Georgian way, fermented in large pots buried underground. It had a slightly orangey tint, making it look like a Muscat and had a very pleasing fungal bouquet. It was not a sweet wine, but it had enough flavour and complexity to make it a very interesting match to the Stinking Bishop flavoured ice cream.

A striking combo

As a last hurrah we allowed ourselves some fizz. We had a glass of Chateau Tour Grise ‘Ze Bulle Zero Pointe Rose’, a non-vintage sparkling Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. This was a very fun wine that was more red than a rosé and was redolent of Kirsch on the palate – a fitting way to end a very interesting and exciting evening.

This was a very well run event. Kudos must go to the girls for putting on such a varied and interesting selection. True, there are some things that I tasted that I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy again, however these kinds of evenings are great for widening your knowledge base and expanding your palate. Moreover, I went with a group of friends and we all had a tremendous amount of fun too. I, for one, will certainly be keeping a careful eye out for the future events.

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