Fine wines, food and birthday epiphany

It’s not every man who reaches the venerable age of 60 and still has some of his wits intact.

By An Occasional Tipple With Raymond Gleug
Saturday, 2nd July 2022, 8:00 am

Who has somehow managed to hang on to a wife as beautiful and generous as my own beloved spouse, the illustrious Madame G.

A wife who takes him out to the very welcoming and homely yet exceptionally elegant Old Inn at Crawfordsburn for a delightful dinner to mark that milestone birthday.

And yet, last Wednesday, all those dreams came true for your humble wine correspondent, Raymond Gleug.

More than that, an epiphany occurred too but you’ll have to read to the very end to get to that.

My Madame must have tipped off the restaurant that it was a special birthday as we were greeted with two glasses of an irrepressibly effervescent Prosecco with a delicious raspberry inside and very warm birthday wishes from our hostess, the lovely, attentive yet unintrusive Maria.

If you fancy a Prosecco yourself this weekend, I’d recommend the lipsmackingly crisp, reassuringly complex and satisfyingly savoury Valdobbiadene Allini Conegliano Superiore Prosecco (£7.99, Lidl).

Feeling brave, I decided I was big enough and old enough to risk the Steak Tartare. Raw meat may not be for everyone but this was briny, mustardy, acidic, citrussy, judiciously spiced and divine.

I followed up with sinfully succulent duck breast alongside skilfully prepared beetroot and four wonderfully plump, rich and flavoursome pine nut and basil gnocchi, all served in a sumptuous passionfruit and port jus.

Either dish would be an ideal match for today’s Wine of the Week, the bold, sleek and supple 2019 Rastras Malbec (£7.50, M&S).

This plummy, punchy Argentinian red has an opulent palate full of tangy blackberry flavours and earthy, pungent spices which are nicely balanced by firm tannins before a lingering finish with hints of oak, vanilla and lick-your lips liquorice.

My Madame stuck to the fish - cured mackerel, pickled fennel and explosively juicy grapes perched atop a creamy horseradish sauce before the star of the entire show - pan-fried lemon sole on the bone - crunchy on the outside, soft, flaky and packed with flavour on the inside - in a caper butter with samphire and pink grapefruit.

A fish that deserves something delicately scented and gloriously refreshing.

Step forward today’s final recommendation, the fabulously fresh, fragrant and exceptionally lively 2021 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc (currently £23, Sainsbury’s).

This zingy, expressive, New Zealand white bursts with sharp lime and kiwi flavours alongside elderflower and passionfruit aromatics with backnotes of almond and a clean, tingly finish.

And that’s where I must finish today with that aforementioned epiphany which occurred as my Madame and I shared an ineffably light, creamy and perfectly wobbly rhubarb and vanilla panna cotta.

At our time of life, we reflected, we deserved only the finest things - food that looks like a work of art but tastes even better and wines that excite and delight.

And to Hell with the cost, you only live once and ours is getting shorter and shorter.

Oh and by the way, yes, it’s definitely time to ask for a pay rise.

You all work extemely hard and things aren’t like they used to be, I know!

Till next week, tipplers, sante!