A dinner, 3 Geniuses and a plentiful table

niepoortleitaria-4The classic Demijohn from Niepoort

It’s always nice to receive invitations and realize the work you do is somehow important to people, but there are several types of invitations, some don’t make any sense, some we don’t like, others we are forced to decline due to unavailability, and others are special, invitations without press releases, without misspelled names; personal invites, with short messages, but full of content. And these invitations we don’t forget, we’re anxious from the moment we receive them, and the next day memories take over our thoughts.

To assure those special moments, nothing like wine related companies, and like Niepoort in particular there are certainly few (really, really few).

That said, nothing like revealing the content of the invite, which in a small, but amazing, space like Feeling Grape, gathers 3 great geniuses, Dirk Niepoort, about whom everything was already said – although every time I share a moment with Dirk I feel that much can be written or read about his work, but there’s nothing like hearing him, especially while drinking him –  Philippe Pacalet, the Burgundy genius, coming back to Porto (see 1st article) to show us his unique wines that with the vigneron touch and a subtle hand expresses, like nobody else, the several Terroirs the Gods created in that so special corner and last, but not least, Vítor Claro, the cook who also produces wine, but is not limited to sign them, he creates, studies and gets his hands dirty in the action.

The night, or afternoon to be honest, started nicely with the classic Old White Port, a wine with around 70 years in bottle and as many others before bottled, a unique experience everytime we taste it, with its dry side revealing as the perfect appetizer, with the complexity of the age and an ending that calls for food.

Followed some samples of future launches by Niepoort, some talking time (and some training of my rusty French) and the attentive ear of a good student while some wise words where being said, both about wine or life.

niepoortpacalet16À Conde da Guarda” Codfish
A mythical dish from Aviz, transformed by Vítor to its style, and which has become throughout the years his biggest signature, and nowadays there’s no foodie who doesn’t recognize the two quenelles he subtly puts in the dish. A perfect combo of codfish, puree and butter, crossing with the freshness and the umami of a “simple” tomato tartar. Two elements that complement each other perfectly and couldn’t be a better visiting card for Vítor Matos cuisine, good produce, lots of flavor, elegance and subtlety so elegant it’s almost annoying.

So there would be no remaining doubts about what this dinner would bring us, the Codfish was harmonized with the Chablis 1er cru Beauroy 2013 from Pacalet , a wine and a year that according to him, expresses well his terroir, with amazing minerality and a complexity that made it the perfect companion to the loyal friend.

niepoortpacalet16-2 Tuna and Oyster Tartar
Another fresh dish, and once again with an acutely subtlety that transforms it into a flavor bomb, elegant, without strange clothings, there’s the tuna – a rich Bonito from Azores – the oysters, and the Waldorf salad sauce, same as celery, apple and cucumber. Flawless, with the hand in the right measure and lots of freshness!

To harmonize, Dirk and Philippe brought the Chassagne-Montrachet 2013obviously another 100% Chardonnay, with a very different expression from the Chablis, more structured, with more exotic flavors, and a mineral and saline side that make it very gastronomical.

niepoortpacalet16-4Oriental Squid
A dish served in two moments that made me bungee jump from Earth to Heaven. A thin raw giant squid tagliatelle, marinated in sesame and soy sauce, with fresh cucumber, chives and olive oil. Simple, very simple, fresh, irreverent, delicate and honestly unique.

For the second moment, a broth, made with the same squid, its ink and coriander. A thin soup, elegant and comforting after several cold dishes. One of those broths we all would like to have when getting home.

Accompanying one of the great dishes of the evening was one of the best wines tasted, the Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Argillas 2012 , elegant, complex, with red and black fruit, saline notes and a minerality giving it a reare life and contagious energy to those who drink it.

niepoortpacalet16-6Maronesa Veal Loin
The delicate maronesa loin, perfectly cooked, sided by fresh foie gras and its tasty sauce, balanced in a bolder way by the basil and chives, contrasting and balancing the foie with their vegetable side and freshness. An unctuous dish, intense and at the same time stupidly delicate.

Harmonizing with the meat was the Chambolle – Musigny 1er Cru 2012, one of Pacalet’s classics, an elegant wine, easy to understand and impossible not to like. With a lot of dark fruit and spices, resulting in a complex and profound wine, more consensual than the  Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Argillas.

niepoortpacalet16-8Paulo Silva aka the pan master 

niepoortpacalet16-9Sea Bass and tomato sauce  
After a switch of dishes and wines, orchestrated as usual by Dirk Niepoort, the pan arrives at the table, with an impressive sea bass pasta, with another impressive fish and tomato broth, succulent chips of sea bass of generous size and the pasta perfectly cooked, giving comfort and substance to the dish. One of those dishes that sends us to our grandma’s kitchen, with the pan, the sharing and the comfort, and a taste that takes us to the stars – either the red guide ones or the space kind.

To finish the main courses, the great Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2013, probably the main white of Philippe Pacalet’s portfolio, complex, profound, focused, with great acidity and minerality. A unique wine!

In the end we gave the Chef some slack to join the guests while tasting an excellent Queijo da Serra and of course the Port wines from Niepoort.

Starting with a Niepoort Vintage from 77 in a liter bottle, a wine still with an edge, with fruit notes and an almost medicinal side, reminding cough drops, with subtle tanins and lots of power. A wine that can still be stored!

And to the grand finale, and because Dirk does not go by less, one of the rare Niepoort Garrafeira 1931, the first garrafeira of the house, which is nowadays the only producer of this Port wine category that ages in Demijohn’s and that IVDP (Port and Douro Wines Institute) insists in not authorizing as denomination. But what matters is the wine, that more than notes is a story, with almost a century, and lots of emotions. The wine is full of aromas that get confused and merge, giving it an enviable complexity, keping an also special freshness. Well, here the important was to savor the moment, a great dinner, 3 great gentlemen and a lot of wine.

niepoortpacalet16-10The heritage and the genius 

Final Remarks 
Philippe Pacalet is a special person, the passion, the care he gives to his different wines and the subtlety he treats them with so each one of them expresses, the best way possible, the terroir they’re inserted in; just using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to create more than two dozen wines, quite different from each other. And so he was the perfect pair to the cuisine of Vitor Claro.

Nowadays is clear that every cook speaks about the product, its origin and importance, but it is Claro who lives that search and expression of product, without surgeries or make up. A cuisine of technical rigor, in which the flavors are enhanced without being faked or exaggerated, and subtlety and delicacy of the combinations are impressive.

It was a dinner when at certain time, more than the great wines, the cuisine moved me, for the taste, simplicity and elegance, reflecting quite well the identity of its creator.

Now that Vítor’s restaurant, also known as Claro, was renewed, the team was strengthned and the media started giving it some attention, many ask if Claro deserves a star, but here the question is different, do the stars deserve Claro?

You can find all the wines of Philippe Pacalet here.

Versão Portuguesa 

Photos: Flavors & Senses

Disclaimer
We were at the presentation of Philippe Pacalet’s wines by invitation of Niepoort, whereas this not alter our work, being the opinion and the text of the exclusive responsibility of the author.

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