For a little while last year a group of us had a sort of regular evening meet-up going, where the main emphasis was on cheese. Cheese of the molten variety, accompanied by all manner of dippable delights and several bottles of easily gluggable wine. As it happened, it often took place on a Tuesday, and was thus known as Fon-Tuesday™. For various reasons (the extreme scarcity of fondue lighting gel in shops these days being one) this regular dipfest eventually fizzled out. So last week, thanks to our host Corinne, we were delighted to hail the glorious return of the cast iron pot of cheese (albeit it on a Friday this time, but we won’t get picky). It really is the most sociable way to eat, all of us clambering over each other, spearing the contents of various pots and bowls, dribbling lava-hot cheese over each other’s wrists. Joy! Now I don’t mean to brag, but I think we’d given slightly more thought and attention to our raw materials than most fondue attendees. We had the usual suspects – bread, broccoli, cauliflower – but then some tasty alternatives such as spicy Peppadew peppers, pork meatballs, chorizo, cornichons, salami, pineapple chunks (for that retro feel) and grapes. I discovered that a hot pepper stuffed with a grape and wrapped in chorizo made a particularly tasty cheese magnet.
And what to drink? The big red vs white debate was had, and on this occasion we plumped for the latter. So, on a rare visit to Tesco, we picked up a few bottles including some lovely and very classic Marlborough Sauvignon which had the acidity to cut through the cheese gloop perfectly, and Tesco Finest Tingleup Riesling which was a stunner. Not only did it have the necessary limey acidity, but also a beautiful minerality and the rubbery petrol like aromas normally found in far pricier examples of the variety. It was absolutely delicious and an excellent match for the fondue. At £7.99 a bottle, I find it hard to believe you could find a better Riesling. Normally my instincts tell me to veer away from ‘Finest’ or ‘Taste the Difference’ or ‘The Best’ type products, but perhaps I need to review my reaction. After all, it’s the same as those infuriating people who will never order the house wine – if it’s so bad, the restaurant wouldn’t put their name to it. I guess I don’t like feeling I’m being told what to buy – I already KNOW what is the best, you don’t have to TELL me! I have a guilty suspicion this attitude is magnified when I enter the drinks aisle. Supermarkets are funny places though, their selection is often so toweringly enormous you really can’t rely on prior research and knowledge to tell you what each and every single bottle will taste like. I like Chilean Cabernet, well my local supermarket has fifteen of them! So which is going to be the one that knocks my socks off? A bit of subtle guidance should be gratefully received. So raise your glasses, here’s to the ‘Finest’ things in life!