Christine Austin prepares to move upmarket with a Caviar and Champagne experience at York Festival of Food and Drink

How often have you tasted caviar? I’m not talking about the odd few tiny sprinkles of black dots that sometimes appear on top of up-market canapés. The caviar I am referring to comes in half-kilo cans of glistening beads, packed with flavour and mystique.

Let’s be honest, caviar is one of those foods than we are all more familiar with on the cinema screen than on the plate. Its price is so stratospheric that actually getting to taste it requires a healthy bank account and the right surroundings.   James Bond may order Beluga and champagne like we might order cheese on toast, but until I attended a rather exclusive champagne and caviar dinner I hadn’t tasted it properly either.

For a start you don’t need toast, chopped onions or hard-boiled eggs, all you need is a mother-of-pearl spoon and a nice clean hand. You make a fist and then spoon the caviar on to it with your special spoon. Metallic spoons might give a taint to these precious flavours, so a mother-of-pearl spoon does the job perfectly. Then you take a small mouthful of caviar, totally without any accompaniment, and savour its glorious bead-popping, fishy flavours then since champagne is the natural partner for caviar, you can follow it with a sip of champagne and experience the whole taste sensation.   It is the lifestyle of a millionaire.

Exclusive, expensive and fabulous caviar

It was at this dinner that the idea came to me to bring this fabulous caviar and champagne experience to York so on Saturday 30 September, at King’s Manor, as part of the York Festival of Food and Drink, there will be the chance to experience three types of caviar and three champagnes. As at the dinner I attended, the caviars will be supplied by WG White, the oldest caviar merchant in the UK. They source their caviars in complete compliance with the conservation legislation that surrounds the rare sturgeon fish. The three caviars will be tasted alongside three champagnes from Champagne Devaux, a house established in 1846 who are producers of excellent quality champagnes. The caviar will be introduced by Laureline Perraudeau, brand ambassador and caviar expert, while the Devaux champagnes will be introduced by Christina Larsson, brand ambassador for Champagne Devaux.

This will be a fabulous evening. It starts at 8pm, and you should definitely not arrive ravenously hungry. Although you will taste at least double your tickets’ worth in caviar, this is not a knife and fork experience. The champagne will be generously poured and the evening will round off with canapés – sprinkled with caviar if there is any left. Tickets cost £30 and are selling fast. This event will probably never be repeated so this might be your only chance to compare these fabulous, luxurious, exclusive caviars and match them to gorgeous champagne.

If you don’t manage to get a ticket to Caviar and Champagne then there are plenty of other events to tempt your tastebuds.

Tonight Karen Hardwick will introduce the wines from two contrasting Chilean producers. Lapostolle produces world-class wines in the Colchagua Valley and is run by the very stylish and dynamic Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle. The wines are Chilean with a French accent and are recognised for their intense, elegant flavours. Karen will contrast these wines with those from Morandé, one of the pioneers of Chilean viticulture and winemaking. A buffet will round off the evening. Tickets cost £40.

Tomorrow Laura Young will inject some fun into wine tasting by running a ‘Call my Bluff’ session when wines are tasted while three experts describe and ‘identify’ them. Naturally only one is correct and the fun is in deciding who is telling the truth. There will be 6 wines, cheese and meat platters and lots of fun to be had. You can arrive on your own and join in with others to form a team so that no-one is left to guess on their own. This will be held in the tent in St Samson’s Square and tickets cost £15.

On Tuesday 26 September wine tutor Peter McKenna will be at York Cocoa House to introduce 6 wines from California and Oregon. He has tracked down some fascinating wines, including the gorgeous Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley in Oregon. Tickets £20.



Domaine Drouhin in Oregon

Sake is now becoming the new trend in drinking and York Festival is lucky to have Marie Cheong-Thong, a sake master and regular visitor to Japan to explain the differences between Ginjo and Daiginjo. There will be a range of sakes to taste and a few snacks to show how it pairs with food. This event will be held on Friday 29 September at Melton’s Restaurant, tickets cost £20.

As well as these ticketed events there are plenty of opportunities to excite your tastebuds. Cut and Chase in Goodramgate will hold regular Cocktail masterclasses so you can learn how to make a stylish, tasty cocktail just like they do in your favourite bar.

English wines will be open for tasting in the tent in St. Samson’s Square on Tuesday 26 September when The Wine Chapter introduces a range of Blighty’s best wines including red, white, sparkling and sweet.   Tickets cost £37.

Everyone loves chocolate and a great many people love gin, so The Curious Gin Company and York Cocoa House will team up on Wednesday 27 September to match 5 gins with savoury and sweet tastes on a plate. (£40). There is gin on show again in the tent on Thursday 28th when The Botanist pours a range of gins and cocktails – £15.

Italian cheese and wine will be lined up for tasting at Love Cheese in Gillygate on Friday 29 September, while York Brewery will open their doors during the week for tours and tastings.

As well as ticketed events there will be music from late afternoon through the evening in the large marquee in Parliament Street where you can sit down with a drink and enjoy freshly cooked food from the food stalls.

All Festival details are on the website or you can ring 01904 635149 and if you want to attend any ticketed events it is well worth booking as soon as you can.

About The Author

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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