G.D. Vajra Dinner at Ely Wine Bar With Giuseppe Vaira
Last month my wife and I were invited to a wine dinner at Ely Wine Bar, my favourite venue in Dublin and one which I often mention on Frankly Wines and on Twitter. It was jointly hosted with importers Liberty Wines and the wines were presented by third generation family member Giuseppe Vaira.
Magical food was prepared by Ryan Stringer and this team, with Ely Wine Director Ian Brosnan the man with the bottles.
Just to whet your appetite here is the menu:
Background to G.D. Vajra
The owner and winemaker is Aldo Vaira who established the firm in 1972, naming it after his father Giuseppe Domenico. The family had been growing grapes since the 1920s but made the jump to producing wine. Since then they have gradually expanded their holdings in the area around Barolo to 60 hectares.
Winemaking is traditional, in that the grapes are not left on the vine until very ripe and oak is used judiciously, but there is no overt woodiness and no faults, just fruit that speaks for itself and its birthplace.
G.D. Vajra “Pétracine” Langhe Riesling 2012 (12.5%, 3.8 g/L RS)
Italian Riesling? Unexpected or downright unusual, but the proof of the pudding is on the palate. Lemon and lime with perhaps a touch of stone fruit on the nose. Very zesty, with lemon and apple flavours. It does fall off a little after the amazing attack, but then mellows out for a very long finish. There’s a tiny touch of sweetness in there, but it definitely falls into the “dry” category. Would compare well to many Alsace Rieslings (which is high praise from me!)
Crispy pig tail, black pudding, caramelised onion, carrot & pine shoot oil
The pig tail was tasty but it was the combination of the black pudding, the caramelised onion and carrot which ruled the dish. Beautifully presented it was appealing to both the eye and the palate. It also worked well with the crisp wines accompanying it.
G.D. Vajra Dolcetto d’Alba DOCG 2015 (13.0% – available by the glass at Ely Place)
Dolcetto is often looked down upon, especially by outsiders, but it’s what the locals often choose to drink themselves. Although the name alludes to sweetness, it’s nearly always a dry red wine with some tannin and moderate acidity as a frame for red cherry and red berry fruit. Fabulous aromas of violets mean you will be nosing the glass for an age before tasting – though once you have tasted you will want more!
G.D. Vajra Barbera d’Alba DOC 2013 (13.5%)
Unlike wines made under the Barbera d’Asti DOC regulations (which allow up to 15% of other local grapes, this Barbera d’Alba is a 100% varietal. (Also see the new Nizza DOCG within Asti which is always 100% Barbera.) This is a more powerful wine than the Dolcetto, blended from the fruit of six different vineyards. The key notes for me were chocolate, berries and earthiness – a great match with the starter!
Organic Burren lamb belly, potato, samphire & lamb jus
Occasionally ordering lamb belly can lead to a disappointingly greasy result. This dish offered anything but, with tender rolled pink lamb belly. The samphire (a first for us) added saltiness to both the potatoes and the lamb and really brought balance to the plate. The jus was sweeter than expected and would have been enjoyed more if there was a little more on the plate, because it was that good.
G.D. Vajra “Albe” Barolo DOCG 2011 (14.5% – available at Ely Place)
The Albe is Vajra’s entry level Barolo with grapes sourced from several vineyards. The nose is predominantly red fruit and floral, with pine resin / eucalyptus in the background – definitely fruits of the forest! Although it spent several years in barrel before release, it’s not at all woody; tannins are present but not overbearing. For such a relatively young wine, this is a minor miracle (from my limited experience of quality Barolo!)
G.D. Vajra “Ravera” Barolo DOCG 2011 (14.5% – available at Ely CHQ)
Ravera is a “Cru” or designated vineyard in the south west of Barolo, with a free-draining mix of clay and loose sand. Although vines were first planted in 2001, the wines were labelled as Langhe Nebbiolo until 2008. After 3 weeks of fermentation, the wine spent 42 months in Slavonian (Croatian) oak barrels.
The star of the show! A full on black fruit experience on both the nose and palate – lovely juicy blueberries and blackberries, with a mineral edginess. So well put together – rich yet delicate; poised…once the wine touches your lips you can’t wait for it to sate your taste buds.
Considering the young age of the wine and time spent in barrel this is a remarkably approachable wine already. It seems Vajra have mastered the art of complex wines that don’t need a decade and a half to be ready!
Custard & rhubarb tart, poached rhubarb, lemon meringue
The rhubarb and custard tart was smooth in texture and had plenty of zing. The delicious, slightly chewy meringue added texture and the coulis of rhubarb cut through any over-sweetness. Dessert offered texture and tang and was a winner.
G.D. Vajra Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2015 (5.5%, 143 g/L RS)
Sometimes the icing on the cake can be a little bit too much – but not in this case! Moscato d’Asti is naturally sparkling from the CO2 produced by the fermentation process. This is stopped early – by bringing the temperature down to stop the yeast from functioning – so that only some of the sugar has turned to alcohol. Sort of like the opposite to Holsten Pils, if you remember those Griff Rhys-Jones adverts. The result is an avalanche of fruit – apricot, peach, mango, pear, passionfruit… it just goes on and on. The dessert it accompanied was an inspired choice, as the acidity in the rhubarb and the Moscato were a match then the sweetness of the meringue was equalled by the residual sugar in the wine.
Thanks to my wife Jess who wrote the food sections above!
Great food, great wine, great company – this was an evening to remember!