A proper ‘class’ time at Fazenda

Last month, YBnews content editor, Rosie Kenyon, was lucky enough to experience all on offer at Fazenda Liverpool’s March wine masterclass. Here’s what she had to say about it.

My first ever time at Fazenda Liverpool and I was lucky enough to take part in a wine masterclass. Well done me.

From the moment I walked in the door, I was very happy to be greeted by a warm and welcoming bunch. They grabbed me in from the relatively cold evening outside and were quick to tell me about all that was ahead. We were led across to the far end of the restaurant, where a group of us would gather to hear about a range different wines, the history of its makers and how and where they are developed and I was keen to hear about just how it is good wine-makers stand out from a growing crowd.

On the walk to our seats, we passed by the restaurants mouth-watering salad bar, where, to my delight, we would be able to help ourselves throughout the evening. I don’t like to use the word salad bar, though, for fear that it does not do the ‘salad-bar-but-loads-better’ thing any justice. This salad bar was host to a range of cured meats, cheeses, olives, Argentinian stews, roasted vegetables and even sushi! You see, salad bar not so much.

Once in our seats, one of the directors of Fazenda spoke to us. He was proud and passionate as he told us about his ambitions for the restaurants and how he believed events like the wine masterclasses were important in increasing people’s enjoyment of wine with the food they serve; and how the events can bring people together.

He also explained the concept of the Fazenda experience – you are each given a disc, one side is green and the other is red. When you want to tuck in to the delicious range of meats, make sure the green side is showing; and when you fancy a break or are full up, show the red. The red side of my disc saw a lot of the table.

He then introduced the wine connoisseur, who had made the trip from Argentina especially to tell about the wines we were set to taste, all produced on a family-owned and operated vineyard in Bodega Catena Zapata. The company was founded in 1902 and the family are now widely credited for putting Argentina and high altitude Malbecs on the world map. I am nodding attentively.

We were given a run-down of the history of each wine we tasted, and the thinking behind the pairing of the respective wine with our food. We began with two Chardonnays to match the white, skewered meat that was first circulated. Tasty grilled chicken thighs, spicy pork sausages and gammon with pineapple served by skilled waiters, as well as starters of coconut breaded prawns and Argentinean cheese bread (chipas).

We were poured two glasses of Chardonnay; a light Tupungato (my personal favourite) and another, slightly stronger-bodied and creamier Chardonnay called Catena Alta (my girlfriends favourite, of course). Both were delicious (despite my usual preference for red wine) with the Tupungato boasting an aromatic and fresh taste and the Catena Alta offering apricot, almond and warm smoky notes.

For the next flight of wine, we moved on to red to pair with the cuts of red meat that began deliciously emerging from the kitchen. First we were poured a Cabernet Franc named San Carlos, followed by a Malbec named Vista Flores, both 2012. This was the first time I had tried Cabernet Franc, but it will not be the last! It was sweet and spicy, with flavours of red berries and vague eucalyptus fragrance. The Malbec was smooth and sweet, but less so that the first, with notes of blackberry and toasty oak – scrumptious!

The meat too was mouth-wateringly good, of the highest quality and showcasing a range of cuts; some of which I hadn’t before tried. There was rump, rib-eye, sirloin and mint marinaded lamb to name but a few… The strips of meat were delicate in portion, which was welcome given the first course we had already eaten and the range of meats still to follow. After all, one must find room to try them all.

And then came the final flight in the form of a Cabernet Sauvignon and another Malbec, both by the name of Catena Alta and from the year 2011. These wines were some of the best I have ever had the privilege to taste, and try as I did, I could not pick a favourite between the two. The Cabernet Sauvignon had rich flavours of vanilla and cassis, and benefited from 24 months of ageing in French oak barrels. The Malbec was full bodied with flavours of blackcurrant and plum, with delicate peppery notes. It too had been aged for a considerable amount of time, spending 18 months in the barrel.

And then, the best of the best was rolled out from the kitchen; we had picanha (a typical Brazilian cut – the cap of rump), Filet Mignon, alcatra (rump served with garlic) and chicken hearts – a first for me. I was dubious at first… but happily reassured by our wonderful host, who told me that the hearts tasted like delicious little sausages, which was not an altogether bad way of describing them. Tasty little morsels!

Throughout the evening the service was impeccable and the food and wine exquisite. The opportunity to taste an exclusive range of wines (these wines are not commercially available here), learn about the care involved in its production and how it is matched with food, is one I would recommend again and again. At the end of the night, in a ‘happy’ mood, I exclaimed, “I’m just so happy this place exists!!” …Now, I’m calmer, more pragmatic and in a less (wine-induced) emotional state, and I stick by it.

As a personal trainer and someone who studies nutrition, I have a vested interest in food, and this was one of the best dining experiences I have ever had. Ten minutes from my house in Liverpool’s city centre, I had a little night out in Brazil, being served the tastiest of treats by people who, by the end of the evening, seemed more like friends. The food, the drink and the people combine at Fazenda to make this place very special indeed.

For more information on Fazenda and the monthly masterclasses, visit http://fazenda.co.uk/liverpool/

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