I know next to nothing about wine, but I want to so bad. So when someone offers to tell me things about wine in an informal and non-judgy environment, without expecting me to gracefully spit after swishing, I can't turn it down. Enter the Forgotten Grapes Supper Club, thrown by two sweet dudes in a cozy conservatory in London's deep southern limits.
The concept is simple. James and Felix – a new doctor who also loves to cook and an actually-does-it-for-his-real-job sommelier, respectively – choose a lesser-known wine region to focus on and serve up five courses of matching regional foods to match. Most recently, the guys put on a night centered around France's northern Alsace region, during which our group sipped mostly on whites (and one red) and ate wonderful, hearty French/German (Alsatian!) dishes like tarte flambée, spaetzle-and-muenster mac 'n' cheese, and Riesling-braised ham hock with sauerkraut and potato rösti.
Wine wise, we started with a sparkling white and moved on to taste a Pinot Gris, a lone red Pinot Noir, a Riesling, and more. The idea that I don't have to choose my own wine off a menu to match my meal is a complete relief, and Felix's tasting notes (brief and succinct – no dissertations on terroir here) before each course actually forced me to focus on my palate and look for the right notes. Plus, the knowledge you'll gain at Forgotten Grapes is about some niche wine-growing areas, so when you drop bombs on someone who knows their wine, you'll just sound that much savvier. Still, I'd suggest proceeding with caution on that one. While Alsace may be recognizable to many, past dinners have focused on Georgian and Lebanese wine regions, for example, and James and Felix have proven repeatedly that they know what's up.
At FG's Alsatian night, the 12 guests around the table – a mix of friends and real-life members of the public who found the club on GrubClub.com – shared 12 bottles of wine, so the £35 per person fee (food coma included) is definitely a good value.
To keep up with Forgotten Grapes' schedge, visit their site and follow them on Twitter. A meal with these guys is not only a great way to learn about wine and foreign foods, it's a unique way to meet friendly London locals and get away from the city center traps and High Street chains.